On Saturday night, the Bellator Fighting Championships heads to Caesars Atlantic City for Bellator 44. Patricky “Pitbull” Freire and Michael Chandler face off for the lightweight tournament crown and a shot at promotional champion Eddie Alvarez. Also, middleweight champion Hector Lombard is in action against former X-1 champion Falaniko Vitale.
Lightweight Tournament Final
Patricky Freire vs. Michael Chandler
This tournament final is a perfect example of everything that Bellator does right. They took two prospects who were unknown commodities and let them develop over the course of the tournament. I do not favor either fighter against Eddie Alvarez, but I am certainly more excited to see them in a title situation that I was before this season.
In the fight, I favor Freire. We have not seen the Brazilian deal with a wrestler like Chandler. However, his dynamic striking and finishing game should be enough to lead him to victory here. Whenever Chandler closes the distance for a takedown, he will be in trouble. With a fighter like Freire, he only needs one chance.
Pick = Patricky Freire
Film Study: Patricky Freire vs. Toby Imada
Hector Lombard vs. Falaniko Vitale
Thanks to the short memory of MMA’s fickle fans, Lombard has lost a bit of his luster. He ran out of gas in his last title defense and held on for a victory. Now, everyone is forgetting he is probably the second-most accomplished fighter on the Bellator roster. This non-title fight might push that further out of the common fan’s memory. “Niko” does not really have any routes to victory in this fight, but he is still a tough veteran who is hard to finish. I fully expect Lombard to win with some dominating top game, but he might not look the greatest in the process.
Pick = Hector Lombard
Film Study: Hector Lombard vs. Jay Silva
Alexander Shlemenko vs. Brett Cooper
On paper, Cooper should win this fight. Shlemenko is not a strong wrestler and can get stuck on his back. However, I thought this for most of Shlemenko’s fights in the last Bellator middleweight tournament. He kept proving me wrong. Cooper would be smart to work for takedowns, but at some point Shlemenko will get to him with his exotic striking game and do enough to win the fight.
Pick = Alexander Shlemenko
Film Study: Alexander Shlemenko vs. Sean Salmon
Anthony Morrison vs. Bryan Goldsby
If you ever watch a fight that Goldsby is winning, it makes him look uncanny. Against Jeff Curran, he used his reach well on the feet and did everything to stay on his feet. However, his biggest issues are still his takedown defense and submission defense off of his back. I expect Morrison to get the fight to the ground and at least do enough to take the decision.
Pick = Anthony Morrison
Film Study: Bryan Goldsby vs. Jesse Riggleman (Props to Ben Saunders for uploading a fight to YouTube)