Thank you Bellator Fighting Championships for giving us two title fights at Bellator 97. The event takes place Wednesday, July 31st at the Santa Ana Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. As I mentioned above, there are two belts on the line when welterweight champ Ben Askren defends against Andrey Koreshkov and lightweight king Michael Chandler meets challenger David Rickels. This is the first time we’ve ventured to do a B.S. Predictions column for a Bellator event, so we will not be held responsible if anyone actually takes our predictions seriously. But seriously, I have a good feeling about this, enjoy the fights everyone!
Jared Downing (9-2 MMA, 0-0 Bellator) vs. Patricio Freire (17-2 MMA, 5-2 Bellator)
Freire is coming off a loss to current Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran and was originally scheduled to face Rob Emerson at Bellator 97. However, Emerson was injured and is now being replaced by Jared Downing. One can’t help but think this is a pretty easy fight for Freire, who is already scheduled to face Bellator newcomer and UFC veteran Diego Nunes in September. Downing is 9-2 as a pro and will have his hands full with “Pitbull”. I’m thinking Patricio submits him late in the first round, and then he’ll set his sights completely on Nunes.
Prediction: Patricio Freire via 1st round submission
Ryan Martinez (10-2 MMA, 3-1 Bellator) vs. Vitaly Minakov (11-0 MMA, 3-0 Bellator)
I’ll admit I became a fan of Ryan Martinez after his last two knockout victories over Richard Hale and Travis Wiuff, the latter coming only eighteen seconds into the first round. But, this fight is intriguing, because Minakov is 11-0 and he thumped Ron Sparks in the semifinals of Bellator’s Summer Series Heavyweight Tournament. Someone is going down and my gut tells me it’s going to be Ryan Martinez. My prediction, Vitaly Minakov finds a groove very early and knocks out Ryan Martinez with a vicious flurry.
Prediction: Vitaly Minakov via 1st round KO
Muhammed Lawal (10-2 1NC MMA, 2-1 Bellator) vs. Jacob Noe (12-2 1NC MMA, 3-1 Bellator)
It was a big deal when “King Mo” signed with Bellator, but a loss to Emanuel Newton in the Season 8 Light Heavyweight Tournament Quarterfinal stopped the hype train. If he were to lose to Jacob Noe on Wednesday night, some people might begin to question whether the acquisition of Lawal was a good investment for Bellator. If Noe can get the fight to the ground he might find some success. However, it’s more likely that Lawal will catch his opponent on the feet and get a TKO victory.
Prediction: Muhammed Lawal via 1st round TKO
Ben Askren (11-0 MMA, 8-0 Bellator) vs. Andrey Koreshkov (13-0 MMA, 5-0 Bellator)
This is the first of two title fights on the night and it has the potential to be an incredible matchup. It’s not extremely common to see two undefeated fighters square off inside the cage, and for a title no less. At Bellator 97 someone is going to suffer their first career defeat. Who’s it going to be? I can’t bet against Askren, despite being known for less than exciting fights, he is still the champion. And, my guess is he likes being champ too much to do anything foolish in this one. Askren will win doing what he does best, outwrestling his opponents.
Prediction: Ben Askren via Unanimous Decision
Michael Chandler (11-0 MMA, 8-0 Bellator) vs. David Rickels (14-1 MMA, 8-1 Bellator)
Both of these men are talented fighters and this should be one of the most exciting fights of the night. Chandler has faced the tougher opponents, but Rickels is no slouch. I’m pretty sure this fight will not go the entire 5 rounds, these guys can finish fights. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen from Chandler, I’m going to predict he submits Rickels in the 3rd round to retain his Bellator lightweight title.
Prediction: Michael Chandler via 3rd round submission
Profightingfans.com Staff Writer