The Bloody Elbow team has made its picks for Bellator 228, and we are in full agreement that Patricio Freire will successfully defend his featherweight title against Juan Archuleta, and that Gegard Mousasi will get his revenge on Lyoto Machida in their rematch. If we’re right, then woo hoo! If not… the BE curse is real.
Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he’s going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.
Lyoto Machida vs. Gegard Mousasi
Mookie Alexander: Okay apparently this is the main event now. Glad this was communicated to everyone in a timely manner. We still have the possibility that we get a “Dammit, Mousasi!” performance in which he just drifts his way into a very lackluster defeat. I don’t think the Rafael Lovato Jr necessarily was that type of showing, but his debut vs. Alexander Shlemenko sure felt closer to that. Machida still has power and some speed to wreck guys like Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort, but Mousasi is way better than both of those guys and should be able to work behind his jab and outstrike Lyoto for a decision win. Gegard Mousasi by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: I feel like I’ve been through three Machida Eras at this point. There was the ‘Dragon’ who took the UFC title behind elusive footwork and crushing counters. Then there was Middleweight Lyoto, who turned himself into a busy pocket boxer to compete with Chris Weidman. And now there’s late-career Machida, who just seems to be playing an even lower output, somewhat slower version of the style that he first came up through the ranks with. It’s led to a couple stunning KOs. He’s still got fantastic timing, but it’s also led to some ugly, ugly fights, and bad losses. On the flip side, Gegard Mousasi almost feels like the same fighter he was 11 years ago in Dream. Still amazingly durable, still plagued with bouts of inactivity alongside sharp striking and competitive wrestling and grappling. Still Gegard. A busy Machida was able to out-work him the first time, but I don’t think that’s the Machida who will step in the cage Saturday. Gegard Mousasi by decision.
Staff picking Machida:
Staff picking Mousasi: Ed, Shak, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Nick, Zane, Eddie
Patricio Freire vs. Juan Archuleta
Mookie Alexander: Archuleta has been on a hell of a run, and knocking out Eduardo Dantas is a significant feather in his cap. Patricio Pitbull is on another level right now. He has the power to knock out Michael Chandler (at 155 lbs), the ground game to choke out Henry Corrales and Daniel Straus, and the overall skill set to handle Emmanuel Sanchez and Daniel Weichel in five-round decisions. Archuleta may spring a surprise or two with the way he has performed as of late, but I just cannot envision him having what it takes to pull off the upset against someone who should be considered the best fighter not in the UFC right now. Patricio Freire by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Archuleta has run up a fantastic string of dominance, but the level of competition has only just recently started to ramp up to a point that his record becomes more than pretty on paper. Freire has had some rough losses in his time with Bellator, but he’s also won the vast majority of his fights over his 9 years in the promotion, almost all of those coming against championship and title contender level competition. He just sparked Michael Chandler back in May. Archuleta is riding a hell of a hot hand, and Freire has been out-worked by some tough wrestlers before, but Archuleta has everything to prove here. Patricio Freire by decision.
Staff picking Freire: Ed, Shak, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Nick, Zane, Eddie
Staff picking Archuleta:
A.J. McKee vs. Georgi Karakhanyan
Mookie Alexander: McKee is defensively responsible, offensively potent, and can win both in exciting, aggressive fashion or in more measured fights like vs. Pat Curran. Karakhanyan is one of those “good, not quite great” fighters and a solid opening round matchup for McKee. I just don’t really see a clear path to victory for him, especially with McKee’s ability to mix up his strikes with his wrestling so effectively at this stage of his career. AJ McKee by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: Karakhanyan has a slick grappling game and a crafty kickboxing game, but the wrestling game has always eluded him. Opponents who can’t compete with him on the ground or on the feet have had a tendency to get stuck fighting off his aggression and caught out for it. But, well-rounded opponents who are comfortable taking him on everywhere have consistently been able to keep him on the defensive and out-work him. That should fit AJ McKee to a T. AJ McKee by decision.
Staff picking McKee: Ed, Shak, Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Nick, Zane, Eddie
Staff picking Karakhanyan:
Darrion Caldwell vs. Henry Corrales
Mookie Alexander: This is a dangerous fight for Caldwell. He is a great wrestler but still an awkward striker, and that Kyoji Horiguchi rematch was just obscene lay-and-pray. I don’t know how much the weight cut has had an impact on his cardio, but a move to 145 is quite appropriate at this point. Corrales packs a punch even when hurt, but I think Caldwell has a better chance of outgrappling Corrales and getting into dominant spots than he did vs. Horiguchi. The longer this stays standing, the better the chance for Corrales, otherwise it’s Darrion Caldwell by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: There’s definitely something to worry about with a wrestler going up a division to take on some bigger opposition. Especially given that Caldwell’s game has been one-note enough at times that even an (admittedly fantastic) natural flyweight was able to find the gaps and beat him twice. But, Corrales isn’t Horiguchi. Doesn’t have his speed or top shelf dynamic athleticism. If Caldwell can start fast and put Corrales on his butt early, I think he can keep momentum going all the way to a decision. And, hell, he’s actually even the taller man with the longer reach. Darrion Caldwell by decision.
Staff picking Caldwell: Ed, Dayne, Mookie, Nick, Zane
Staff picking Corrales: Shak, Stephie, Eddie
Daniel Weichel vs. Saul Rogers
Mookie Alexander: It’d be a great story for Rogers to advance relatively far in this tournament, but Weichel is too well-rounded to really be troubled by Rogers, and I’d be surprised if he troubled him with a submission. Daniel Weichel by unanimous decision.
Zane Simon: It just feels like it takes more than a really crafty sub game to beat Daniel Weichel. Daneil Weichel by decision.
Staff picking Weichel: Dayne, Mookie, Stephie, Nick, Zane, Eddie
Staff picking Rogers: Ed, Shak
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