Bellator London: Mousasi vs. Rafael Lovato Jr.
Bellator returns to Europe Saturday, June 22, 2019, where Gegard Mousasi will defend his middleweight strap vs. Rafael Lovato Jr.. Beyond the headlining title bout are a variety of stars puy on display, by the promotion. Surely, Bellator’s upcoming visit to London is a treat for UK fans. Most of which rejoice in knowing the main card starts before midnight.
Gegard Mousasi is one of the most under-appreciated fighters in mixed martial arts. ‘The Dreamcatcher’ has a well-rounded skill set and has found immense success in multiple combat organizations, including the UFC, Strikeforce, Dream, Pride and K-1.
Mousasi was an amateur boxing champion, which has translated into precise shot selection. He will seek to utilize his phenomenal jab to keep Lovato Jr. at bay. Mousasi also has a solid ground game, with underrated offensive wrestling and dominant top control. This was beautifully demonstrated against current Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald where he won via TKO in the second round. Mousasi is currently riding an eight-fight win streak, with his last loss being a flash KO to the dangerous Uriah Hall at UFC Fight Night 75.
Competitive on the mat
Lovato Jr. has a perfect record of nine wins, eight of which being finishes. Lovato Jr. has striking ability, including a nicely disguised teep kick. But he will provide nothing on the feet that will worry Mousasi. His clear advantage comes on the mat due to his brilliant Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. His BJJ helped him achieve three submissions in his last four wins.
Despite his stellar record, there are doubts in relation to Lovato Jr.’s ability to compete with the top competition in the sport. Lovato Jr. is yet to defeat a fighter considered of the highest caliber. When compared the outstanding resume of the legend Gegard Mousasi.
Lovato Jr. has generally fought undersized opponents, who he has muscled into chokes as opposed to utilising slick transitions. He will not be able to out-muscle Mousasi who has competed at both light-heavyweight and heavyweight. Mousasi submitted Mark Hunt at heavyweight in the first round of the Super Hulk Grand Prix at Dream 9.
Mousasi has however shown some issues with strong grapplers in the past and has been submitted three times. This was demonstrated by a submission from Akihiro Gono. Gono was able to break Mousasi with a relentless barrage of transitions and submission attempts on the ground.
Despite this, Mousasi is still strong on the ground – especially with his overwhelming top control and offensive wrestling. Mousasi also showed he is dangerous off his back against Jacare Souza and has proven hard to keep down by various quality wrestlers such as Weidman and MacDonald. Although Lovato Jr. may be able to take Mousasi down, it is unlikely he will be able to hold him there for very long.
Coming off dominant wins against world champions such as Weidman, Carvalho and MacDonald it is hard to look past Mousasi in this bout. Mousasi is not only head and shoulders better than the current crop of Bellator middleweights, but he would likely hold the UFC belt if matchmaking was kinder to him in the worlds biggest MMA organization.
PREDICTION: Mousasi VIA Fourth-ROUND TKO
Paul Daley vs. Erick Silva
UFC veteran Erick Silva has lost five of his last seven, including an unsuccessful Bellator debut against Yaroslav Amosov at Bellator 216. Silva was once a big prospects in MMA but has since seemingly declined rapidly. During this Icarus-esque fall, Silva was knocked out by Yancy Medeiros and Nordine Taleb. Both less dangerous fighters than Daley.
Despite his recent woes, Silva has a slicker ground game than Daley. Most likely, Silva will look for a submission in London.
Daley is coming off a decision loss to bitter rival Michael ‘Venom’ Page in the welterweight Grand Prix quarterfinal at Bellator 216. The Brit has lost four of his last six outings and will be desperate to change his fortunes in front of a home crowd.
Daley possesses insane KO power, as shown by highlight knockouts of Lorenz Larkin, Brennan Ward and countless other casualties. In his last outing, Daley looked mystified by the unorthodox striking of Page. This lead to him wrestling his way to a disappointing loss. Daley has a variety of striking tools in his arsenal; a lethal left hook and flying knees to go with it. If Daley overcomes any similar mental block and strikes with bravery, as he did against Grand Prix finalist Douglas Lima, he should come out on top here.
PREDICTION: Daley VIA second-ROUND KO
James Gallagher vs. Jeremiah Labiano
James Gallagher looks to make a statement against Jeremiah Labiano. A strong performance could stake a claim for a title shot.
‘The Strabanimal’ suffered the first loss of his career to Ricky Bandejas at Bellator 204. However, Gallagher dominantly tapped Steven Graham in his most recent bout at Bellator 217. This win helped to remind people that the loud-mouthed Irishman is not all talk.
Labiano is coming off a first-round knockout of Justin Smitley at Bellator 206. ‘The Kid’ marks a step up from Gallagher’s usual calibre of opposition, and possesses solid boxing, especially in close. Labiano will also likely be the heavier man coming into the catchweight bout, having last fought at featherweight. Gallagher is a traditional bantamweight, despite his large frame.
Noad Lahat ground out Labiano at Bellator 188, suggesting issues with cardio and strength. As long as Gallagher doesn’t get over-confident with his striking, he should get the win.
This will likely be an easy win for Gallagher who will seek to add another signature Rear-Naked-Choke to his record.
PREDICTION: Gallagher VIA Second-Round Sub
Melvin Manhoef vs. Kent Kauppinen
Melvin Manhoef lives and dies by the sword. ‘No Mercy’ boasts impressive knockout victories over the likes of Mark Hunt and more recently Hisaki Kato. At one point Manhoef even had 23 wins 22 of which were by way of knockout. However, in his last outing, the Dutchman was brutally knocked out by former champion Rafael Carvalho at Bellator 176. This loss only reaffirmed what many fans already dreaded. Manhoef is simply old and vulnerable.
Kauppinen, on the other hand, is a far less decorated combat athlete. He is also a professional boxer, with an sub-par record of 5-14. However, this includes only two KO losses and he has shown great physical development from the regional circuit. This serves in stark contrast to the declining Manhoef.
Manhoef is still a great striker who is dangerous on the feet, but so is Kauppinen. The Brit has nine KO victories after eleven total wins and should be able to add to that in London. Manhoef will try to exploit Kauppinen’s inability to check leg kicks. However, it is likely the local will catch Manhoef’s ageing chin and send the fan favourite to sleep.
PREDICTION: Kauppinen VIA Round-one KO