Bellator 194 is set to take place this Friday night (Feb. 16, 2018), and the promotion is bringing a solid lineup of fights to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
In the main event, the second fight of the heavyweight grand prix tournament will take place, as veterans Roy Nelson and Matt Mitrione are set to rematch each other.
The co-main event, meanwhile, will play also play host to a rematch, as lightweight contenders Patricky “Pitbull” Freire and Derek Campos will run back their 2014 contest.
Also on the main card, former light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary will return to action and take on Vadim Nemkov.
Without further ado, let’s take a deeper look into Bellator 194’s top fights:
Roy Nelson vs. Matt Mitrione
It’s been over five years since Nelson and Mitrione first squared off in a fight that ended in a TKO victory for “Big Country” and it’s safe to say that a lot has changed for both men since.
Let’s start with Mitrione, the man many consider to be the favorite to win the entire heavyweight tournament.
Since dropping a loss to Nelson in 2012, Mitrione has improved and evolved quite a bit. He’s compiled a 7-3 record following that fight, and he’s currently riding a three-fight winning streak that includes three stoppages.
Stylistically, Mitrione is primarily a striker and he typically likes to keep his fights on the feet if possible. A former professional football player, he possesses tremendous athleticism, explosive speed, and legitimate fight-ending power.
Fighting out of the southpaw position, Mitrione is the more mobile fighter in this match-up and he likes to use his improved footwork to stick-and-move. His best weapon is likely his left cross, but it’s also important to note that he, at times, has proven to be hittable, as he’s been dropped in two of his last three fights.
Nelson, meanwhile, made his Bellator debut this past September, scoring a decision victory over Javy Ayala at Bellator 183. Prior to that, he had gone just 2-5 to end his UFC tenure, although he does appear to be a bit rejuvenated as of late despite being 41-years-old.
While it may not always seem like it, Nelson is quite a well-rounded fighter. On the feet, much of Nelson’s game involves setting up his famous right hand and hunting for the knockout. He’s seen success with this plan at times, as 14 of his 23 professional victories have come by way of knockout.
And although striking is typically his preferred path to victory, Nelson actually has a solid grappling game as well and he’s reverted back to that skill set in recent years. His wrestling is underrated, although it’ll likely be difficult to land a takedown on Mitrione, who’s been working with the Purdue University wrestling team, and he holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
He hasn’t scored a submission victory since 2006, but Nelson proved in his last fight that he still has the ability to control opponents on the ground and do damage. With that being said, if this fight does indeed end up on the canvas, “Big Country” may have the advantage.
Ultimately, however, I see this fight playing out on the feet and I don’t see it lasting very long.
When it comes to powerful heavyweights trading blows, it’s incredibly difficult to predict an outcome. In this case, Mitrione’s questionable defense and his history of being tagged with big shots concerns me against a knockout artist like Nelson.
However, if he can keep his defense in check, I think it’ll be the explosive power and speed of Mitrione that gets the job done.
Prediction: Matt Mitrione def. Roy Nelson via first-round TKO