By: Chris Huntemann
The leaves are changing color, but one thing remains constant. Bellator is filling your Friday night with another night of solid, if not spectacular, fights. Bellator 144 is upon us, and with it a middleweight title fight between undefeated Brandon Halsey and Rafael Carvalho. The card also offers two exciting welterweights – Brennan Ward and Michael “Venom” Page. So what can we expect from the main card of Bellator’s latest installment?
Michael “Venom” Page (8-0) vs. Charlie Ontiveros (6-3) (Welterweight – 170 lbs.)
All signs point to Bellator wanting to make Page its next big star. The brash Brit has lethal striking to back up his trash talk, and Bellator seems to want to bring him along slowly by feeding him journeymen fighters like Na-Shon Burrell and Rudy Bears.
Page doesn’t figure to be tested much by Ontiveros, who alternated wins and losses in his last seven fights in Legacy Fighting Championship prior to this, his Bellator debut. Each of his losses were by TKO, which says to me that he has a problem with strikers – which happens to be Page’s forte. Ontiveros might be able to hang with Page for a round, but Page’s slow and steady climb up the Bellator welterweight ranks will continue here.
Prediction: Page by second-round TKO
Isao Kobayashi (17-2-4) vs. Goiti Yamauchi (18-2) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
Kobayashi was lumped with other recent Bellator signings of highly regarded prospects like Ed Ruth. Kobayashi is no prospect himself, as he brings a wealth of experience fighting mostly in Pancrase in Japan.
Yamauchi carries a two-fight win streak into this fight, including a victory over Mike Richman and a first-round submission victory in his last fight. This looks to be an evenly matched fight that I think will go the distance. Kobayashi may have the pedigree from his time in the Land of the Rising Sun, but I think Yamauchi shows him that mixed martial arts in the United States is a different animal.
Prediction: Yamauchi by unanimous decision
Dennis Olson (14-9) vs. Brennan Ward (11-3) (Welterweight – 170 lbs.)
Speaking of brash welterweights, Ward makes his Bellator return after a pretty epic knockout of Roger Carroll in his last fight at Bellator 140. Olson is coming off a pounding from Paul Daley on the same card. Olson seems to favor a ground-based approach, as most of his victories have come by way of submission. That seems to be where Ward is most vulnerable, as two of his losses have come by submission.
If Olson is able to take Ward to the ground, it could be a long night for the man they call “Irish.” Ward has been fallen by fists before, most notably by Tamda McCrory at Bellator 123 last year. But Ward, like Page, seems to be on amission to make a name for himself in Bellator’s welterweight division. I think he will do just that over a game, but ultimately overmatched, Olson.
Prediction: Ward by unanimous decision
Brandon Halsey (9-0) vs. Rafael Carvalho (11-1) (Middleweight Title – 185 lbs.)
This is actually Halsey’s second attempt at winning Bellator’s middleweight title, despite sporting an undefeated record. He was the defending champion coming into his fight against Kendall Grove at Bellator 137 in May. However, he was stripped of the belt after he came in over weight for the fight.
But because Halsey defeated Grove, he was granted another title shot against Carvalho, who hasn’t lost since making his MMA debut in 2011. Both men are dangerous strikers, since six of Carvalho’s victories have come by way of TKO. If Halsey gets Carvalho on the ground, he could unleash some dangerous ground-and-pound like the kind that did in Grove. However, Grove was able to last until the fourth round, and Carvalho is every bit as game as “Da Spyder.”
I think this fight will go the distance and be the fight of the night. I expect a brutal stand-up war, with neither guy giving an inch. But in the end, I think Halsey ekes out a close decision that will probably have many clamoring for a rematch.
Winner: Halsey by split decision
Chris Huntemann writes about mixed martial arts in the state of Maryland. He also shares his thoughts on UFC, Bellator and World Series of Fighting. Check out his blog, or follow him on Twitter: @mmamaryland.
Photo Provided by Bellator MMA