Bellator starts off 2015 with a rematch four years in the making as Bellator Featherweight Champion, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire meets Daniel Straus as the show returns to Temecula, California for the sixth time. Anchoring the co-main event slot is returning Bellator veteran and former WSOF Featherweight Champion, Georgi Karakhanyan who takes on the former NCAA Division I Wrestling Champion, Bubba Jenkins in a contest that could determine the next challenger for the featherweight belt. Rounding out the card is potentially two explosive fights as hard-hitting light heavyweights, Houston Alexander and Virgil Zwicker meet to resettle the score while scrappy Fernando Gonzalez engages volatile Lithuanian striker, Marius Zaromskis.
Patricio Freire (-180) vs Daniel Straus (+140)
Bellator Featherweight Championship (145 lbs)
Freire and Straus met earlier in the Bellator 45 tournament final where Freire won a close decision. Both fighters have evolved since with Freire rounding out his overall game and Straus developing some explosive power as evidenced by his flash KO of Justin Wilcox.
Freire is the better striker but Straus may be the stronger of the two. “Pitbull” is one of the harder guys to take down due to his diminutive size and low center of gravity and if he can keep the fight standing long enough and control the action with his more varied striking arsenal, he can secure a decision not too unlike the first fight. Straus is a persistent and dogged grinder and his heavy hands can hurt the Pitbull. It’ll be a much closer fight and coin toss but the champ gets the benefit of the doubt.
Prediction: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire def. Daniel Straus via Split Decision
Bubba Jenkins (-130) vs Georgi Karakhanyan (-110)
Featherweight Bout (145 lbs)
A grappler versus striker affair as the wrestling phenom, Bubba Jenkins gets the former WSOF champ, Georgi Karakhanyan. On paper, Karakhanyan is better in more aspects especially in striking where Jenkins is still a bit green. The Armenian is also a black belt in BJJ and holds 13 submission wins with a very aggressive bottom game.
The difference maker is Jenkins’ overall defense as he is the much better and stronger athlete. If Jenkins plays a sound game and controls Karakhanyan without falling into a submission he should seal a decision—maybe an outside shot of a TKO.
Prediction: Bubba Jenkins def. Georgi Karakhanyan via Unanimous Decision
Houston Alexander (-120) vs Virgil Zwicker (-120)
Light Heavyweight Bout (205 lbs)
Alexander and Zwicker rematch from their Bellator 129 bout after an errant head-butt from Alexander led to a draw; on paper this is a “Just Bleed” fight with both heavy strikers (combined 20 knockouts out of 28 wins) having a brawler’s mentality.
Regrettably, the first fight was everything but a slugfest as Alexander controlled Zwicker with his wrestling in an otherwise dull fight. The rematch could promise a more explosive fight but it likely will be a repeat of the first.
Prediction: Houston Alexander def. Virgil Zwicker via Unanimous Decision
Marius Zaromskis (-165) vs Fernando Gonzalez (+125)
Welterweight Bout (170 lbs)
Another Scott Coker “Just Bleed” special. Zaromskis is a former DREAM Welterweight Champion with highlight reel knockouts including one over Japanese legend, Hayato Sakurai. Zaromskis fights purely offensively and his questionable fight IQ is compensated only by his creative attacks, which include wheel kicks and back flip stomps.
Fernando Gonzalez is nowhere near as flashy but packs a mean punch and has a big body to throw around. This is going to be a sloppy slugfest and the tougher Gonzalez could outlast Zaromskis in a fire fight.
Prediction: Fernando Gonzalez def. Marius Zaromskis via TKO (Round 1)
Preview Record: 2-3 (40%)
Underdogs Picked: 0/2 (0%)
Bellator Record: 0-0 (0%)
*Lines courtesy of BestFightOdds.com and 5Dimes (as of 01/16/15)