Bellator 131: Ortiz vs Bonnar – Main Card Preview
Bellator 131 makes its San Diego debut as they head to the Valley View Casino Center with a PPV-worthy (by its standards) card. The main event features an intriguing but peculiar match between two MMA icons, Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar. Notable for the pre-fight antics Bonnar pulled off, this fight has a lot to live up to. The Bellator Lightweight Championship is again on the line when interim champ “Ill” Will Brooks rematches Michael Chandler. The two fought to a very close split decision, which Brooks won. Both fighters have a lot to prove and a lot to fight for. And rounding out the event are a couple of fights tailored to appease anyone fan’s thirst for violence as Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal returns to face Joe Vedepo, killer kickboxers Melvin Manhoef and Joe Schilling are set to make war and former US Marine, Mike Richman welcomes brawler, Nam Phan to Bellator. Best thing about this card: it’s FREE.
Tito Ortiz (-165) vs Stephan Bonnar (+145)
Light Heavyweight Bout (205 lbs)
The pre-fight and post-fight portion could actually be more entertaining than the actual fight. Both Tito and Bonnar have a genuine dislike for each other and it could bring out the best in both. However, with both fighters on the wrong side of 30 and decades of damage on their bodies, I’m not sure how good their “best” really is.
But I’ll take in good fight there’s some blood to be spilt. Tito’s wrestling and ground and pound is still a dangerous weapon and should win him this fight handily. Bonnar doesn’t have knockout power, his takedown defense is suspect and his BJJ doesn’t usually lead to submissions. Ortiz is the better fighter but Bonnar is a tough sod who’s versatile enough to make this fight closer than it should be.
Prediction: Tito Ortiz def. Stephan Bonnar via Unanimous Decision
Will Brooks (IC) (+185) vs Michael Chandler (-255)
Bellator Lightweight Championship Bout (155 lbs)
For serious MMA fans, this is the real main event. Interim champion, Will Brooks rematches Michael Chandler as a sequel to their highly competitive fight months ago. Again, “Ill Will” is the underdog despite having beaten Chandler though controversially. The American Top Team fighter is a gifted athlete with a wrestling base and he outlasted the better fighter and should improve on his performance. Having a gigantic chip on his shoulder should only help his focus.
Michael Chandler is the biggest star Bellator has bred outside Eddie Alvarez and Ben Askren. Chandler is reeling with two consecutive losses (though razor-thin decisions) and criticized himself for his lackluster showing against Brooks. Many factors can be blamed mainly the last-minute change in opponent. Now with an entire training camp focused solely on Brooks, Chandler should reinvigorate himself for a new title run.
Chandler and Brooks are similarly sized and both powerful and athletic but Chandler is more technical and game plans better. He uncharacteristically gassed and looked flat in the previous fight. Does lightning strike twice? Brooks could be better but Chandler at his best is the best.
Prediction: Michael Chandler def. Will Brooks via Unanimous Decision to win the Bellator Lightweight Championship
Muhammed Lawal (-870) vs Joe Vedepo (+530)
Light Heavyweight Bout (205 lbs)
Another King Mo squash match. To Vedepo’s credit, he’s won three fights in a row, his latest via TKO. Vedepo is a “can” with some fighting spirit. A freestyle wrestler with heavy hands and a sturdy physique coming in on short notice could prove fitful for even King Mo. But that’s about it. Lawal is better in nearly every other aspect. He’s the better wrestler, striker and the naturally bigger fighter. Barring a flash KO, it’s a customary stoppage win for Mo.
Prediction: Muhammed Lawal def. Joe Vedepo via TKO (Round 2)
Melvin Manhoef (-165) vs Joe Schilling (+130)
Middleweight Bout (185 lbs)
God bless Scott Coker for making this fight. Manhoef needs no introduction to MMA fans. A “Just Bleed” fan favourite, Manhoef goes in looking to kill the other guy. One of the all-time heaviest hitters in MMA at any weight class, he knocked out Mark Hunt (who is fighting for the Interim UFC Heavyweight title the same night!) in just 18 seconds. 27 of his 29 wins have come via T/KO. Coming off a highlight-reel KO of Doug Marshall, Manhoef proved he’s still got ‘it’.
Joe Schilling is a relative unknown to the casual MMA fanbase. Don’t let his 1-3 record fool you. His losses have come via submission where he is completely outmatched. In the striking department, Schilling is a former WBC Muay Thai Champion and Glory World Tournament Champion. An ultra-violent fighter, he’s nicknamed “Stitch ‘em Up” for his tendency to cut his opponents with his vicious elbows.
This is a coin-flip fight but the younger less-shopworn Schilling could pull off the mild upset.
Prediction: Joe Schilling def. Melvin Manhoef via KO (Round 1)
Mike Richman (-345) vs Nam Phan (+260)
Bantamweight Bout (135 lbs)
This is likely the sleeper “Fight of the Night” across all the fight cards. Mike Richman and Nam Phan are brawlers, simply put. Richman has a collection of highlight-reel KOs in the larger weight classes and him moving down could add speed and quickness to his power. Nam Phan is recent UFC cast-off having gone 2-6 with the company but making an impression for his tough brawling style.
Richman crushes fighters but Phan has been notoriously tough to break. Something has to give. Phan’s experience, ability to control the pace and more technical striking should help him out more in the end as he’ll look to eke a close and rugged decision from the Marine.
Prediction: Nam Phan def. Mike Richmand via Split Decision