The final stop of Season 11 for Bellator is finally upon us, as Bellator 131 takes place in San Diego, California for the biggest event of the season.
Light Heavyweight: Tito Ortiz vs. Stephan Bonnar
Whether it’s 100% synthetic or not, the build up to Tito Ortiz vs Stephan Bonnar has been interesting for Bellator, and arguably their most publicised fight since the Eddie Alvarez vs Michael Chandler rematch.
These two UFC veterans clash in the main event of season 11’s most significant event, but with them falling to the end of their in-ring careers, many wonder if these two; once prolific fighters, can still put on a real show.
It was announced during Bellator 123 that these two Hall of Famers will clash at ‘131’ and immediately they looked to build the fight’s significance. Pushing, shoving, security, unmaskings, bad microphone work, these are all the things we saw in the span of a five minute announcement.
The fight itself is intriguing. Ortiz is coming off the biggest win of his ‘second-wind’ career over Alexander Shlemenko, whereas Bonnar hasn’t fought in over a year, after being man handled by the GOAT Anderson Silva at UFC 153. These two men don’t have much left in the gas tank so I expect them to go all out from the first bell.
Prediction: Tito Ortiz
Lightweight World Title: Will Brooks (IC) vs. Michael Chandler
After a late pull out from Alvarez in the promoted rubber match against Chandler, Will Brooks made the late replacement and by doing so shocked the Bellator fan base, when he came out on top over poster boy Chandler as the new interim champion.
Obviously with Alvarez moving to the UFC, Brooks never got the chance to legitimise his interim belt, but instead was preceded with an equally enormous task. There was a lot of people who struggled to come to terms with Brooks’s win over Chandler, and the split decision was questioned.
Despite the questionable result, Chandler also cited an injury during the fight, and this time has noted that he is fully fit, and the outcome will reflect that statement.
Both guys will look to utilise their wrestling, but ultimately this fight will likely end on the feet, with a big knockout.
Prediction: Michael Chandler
Light Heavyweight: Muhammed Lawal vs. Joe Vedepo
It just seems that ‘King Mo’ can’t catch a break in Bellator. He was originally scheduled to face Tom DeBlass; after the fight was scheduled for earlier this year, but a cut during training saw DeBlass withdraw and replaced by Joe Vedepo.
The 31 year-old Iowa fight is now on a three fight Bellator streak, most recently finishing Davin Clark by TKO at Bellator 129. The freestyle wrestler presents an exciting challenge for Lawal, who himself has a collegiate level wrestling ability, and a win here for Lawal arguably puts his next in line, after McGeary for a title shot.
Prediction: Muhammed Lawal
Middleweight: Melvin Manhoef vs. Joe Schilling
This is a rare fight where rankings and records have little to no scope on the result of the match. Although Manhoef is the more established and gritted MMA fighter, Joe Schilling comes into this fight with nothing to lose, and that’s dangerous.
Schilling is one of kickboxing’s best middleweights. His extremely high level of muay thai is risky for any opponent, and if he can work the clinch on Manhoef this could be his biggest area of success. Whereas we are unsure of how the Californian based fighter can handle himself on the ground, but this is an area I wouldn’t expect Manhoef to work.
Manhoef put on a clinic against Doug Marshall at Bellator 125, and proved despite being 38 years-old, he is still most than capable of getting it done.
Prediction: Joe Schilling
Featherweight: Mike Richman vs. Nam Phan
Mike Richman snapped a two fight losing streak at Bellator 126 with a first round knockout win over Ed West, and now he faces one of the sport’s true veterans, in Nam Phan who has competed in the UFC, Strikeforce and WEC.
Since being released from the UFC, Phan is now on a two fight winning streak, and with the bottom tier of the featherweight division open for business, a few wins could send the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt up the ladder.
Expect this one to be a war, with two guys who prefer to finish fights than go the distance.
Prediction: Mike Richman