After about a month long hiatus, Viacom’s version of MMA is back in action with Bellator 196 from Budapest, Hungary. The marquee matchup is expected to involve MMA mainstay Ben Henderson locking horns with one-time Sports Illustrated cover model Roger Huerta. Huerta makes his return to the promotion following a near eight year run in other fighting leagues. The co-main event will pit Budapest’s own undefeated Adam Borics against the 11-1 Bulgarian Teodor Nikolov.
Also on the card, five-time world kickboxing campion Denise Kielholtz looks to make her second Bellator MMA appearance as she takes on promotional newcomer Petra Castkova. SBG Ireland’s Brian Moore is set for his fourth fight under the Viacom banner as he squares off with Italy’s Giorgio Belsanti. Opening up the main card, collegiate wrestling standout Ed Ruth returns to action, but this time at 175 pound catchweight, to face off with 17-7 veteran Ion Pascu.
Bellator 196 can be seen this Friday night, on the Paramount Network at 9:00 P.M. EDT (Tape Delay).
Ben Henderson (24-8 MMA; 1-3 Bellator) vs. Roger Huerta (24-9-1 MMA; 1-2 Bellator): Lightweight
Since leaving the UFC, Benson Henderson has gone 1-3 within the Bellator promotion, with his lone win coming by way of injury TKO at Bellator 160 in 2016. To be fair, Henderson did debut against a much larger Andrey Koreshkov, and his other two promotional losses came to Michael Chandler and Patricky Freire, both by split decision. Now that Henderson is facing someone who isn’t a champion, former champion, or even title challenger this could be the bounce back fight necessary for a return to form.
It seems like just yesterday that Roger Huerta was the face of MMA, gracing the cover of Sports Illustrated, with expectations to be the future of the sport. After sustaining back-to-back UFC losses, Huerta tried his hand at Bellator, going 1-2 before joining up with ONE FC in 2012, and going 2-3. In his most recent bout, Huerta beat Hayder Hassan by disqualification at Phoenix FC in Dubai back in December. Henow rides a two-fight winning streak on his way back to the Bellator promotion. You can’t help but wonder how much Huerta has left in the tank, but to be fair, the same thing could be said about Henderson.
Adam Borics (6-0 MMA; 1-0 Bellator) vs. Teodor Nikolov (11-1 MMA; Bellator Debut): Featherweight
Hungary’s own Adam Borics kept his perfect record intact with a first round RNC of Anthony Taylor one year ago, when the promotion hosted their inaugural event in Budapest for Bellator 177. Borics showed off his Hungarian Thai Boxing experience with fluid striking combinations, but ultimately sealed the deal by taking the back from standing position to sink in a choke. Could this 24 year old be the real deal?
Teodor Nikolov is bringing an impressive 11-1 record into his Bellator debut bout, and of those 11 wins, each have come by way of finish. Eight of Nikolov’s finishes have ended by submission, with the other 3 victories involving a knockout. All 12 of Nikolov’s professional fights have ended so fast, that the Bulgarian has yet to take part in a third round. Will Nikolov burst onto the Bellator scene by dimming some of Borics’ shine?
Denise Kielholtz (1-1 MMA; 1-0 Bellator) vs. Petra Castkova (3-2 MMA; Bellator Debut): (W) Flyweight
Denise Kielholtz made her Bellator MMA debut with a sensational caveman armbar of promotional veteran Jessica Middleton in just 1:16 into the opening round. Although Kielholtz is a five-time world kickboxing champion, she is also a black belt in Judo and was even a member of the Dutch National Judo team. Her opponent, Petra Castkova, may only have five bouts under her belt, but she did rack up some worldly experience – with those tilts taking place in the Czech Republic, Poland, and even Germany. Castkova has a huge opportunity in Budapest, Hungary to steal away the hype from Kielholtz, and make a name for herself in a new promotion.
Brian Moore (10-6 MMA; 1-2 Bellator) vs. Giorgio Belsanti (7-6-1 MMA; 1-0 Bellator): Featherweight
SBG Ireland’s Brian Moore has already faced some pretty stout competition inside the Bellator promotion, giving up submissions to veteran Daniel Weichel and hot prospect A.J. McKee. In his lone Bellator win, Moore showcased some rather heavy punching combinations en route to a second round TKO over Michal Horejsi. Bellator 196 will give us another opportunity to see what Moore is capable of when he’s not competing against a world title challenger or a bluechip prospect.
Giorgio Belsanti made the most of his promotional debut by picking up a unanimous decision over Vando de Almeida in front of his home country of Italy at Bellator 176. Belsanti has the chance to extend his winning streak to three straight, and move 2-0 under the Bellator banner to escape becoming a .500 fighter.
Ed Ruth (4-0 MMA/Bellator) vs. Ion Pascu (17-7 MMA; Bellator Debut): Catchweight of 175 pounds
Three-time NCAA collegiate wrestling champion Ed Ruth has made a seamless transition into the world of MMA, by posting up a spotless 4-0 record, all of which ending before the need for a third round. In his most recent outing, Ruth knocked out UFC veteran Chris Dempsey in the second round at Bellator 186, courtesy of a sinister right cross. Since debuting at 192 pounds, Ruth has been whittling down his weight, and is now competing at a catchweight of 175 pounds. All Bellator welterweights might want to keep an eye on this guy.
Ion Pascu has mostly been cutting his teeth on the BAMMA circuit, amassing a 17-7 record, nine of which occured by knockout. Pascu is looking to extend his two-fight winning streak, but must do so against an incredible wrestler that has proven he can finish on the feet as well. Although he has his work cut out for him, Pascu is being given the opportunity to derail a hype train, and use that momentum to make a name for himself in a new promotion.
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