Bellator 263 predictions

Esther Lin, MMA FightingScott Coker couldn’t have booked it better himself if he’d scripted this whole thing like Vince McMahon. Twenty-two months after the start of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix, the unequivocal stars of the 16-man bracket meet in the final this Saturday at Bellator 263 as two-division champion Patricio Pitbull fights the man who would be king, undefeated Bellator born-and-bred contender A.J. McKee. Pitbull and McKee—ranked No. 3 and No. 6 respectively in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings—conquered a loaded field of some of the best at 145 pounds, filled with former champions, elite talent from the bantamweight division, top prospects, and other homegrown Bellator names all of whom could have upset the apple cart. Instead, the eventual finalists deftly navigated the potentially calamitous terrain and with each win built anticipation for a clash that will determine not just who is the greatest featherweight in Bellator history, but who will lead the promotion into the coming decade. Somehow, you get the sense that this isn’t the first time these two megawatt talents will face off, but they’ll be determined to be the first to claim bragging rights in what could be a rivalry for the ages. In other main card action, longtime featherweight contender Emmanuel Sanchez fights former UFC and Cage Warriors standout Mads Burnell, undefeated lightweight Usman Nurmagomedov fights the streaking Manny Muro, newcomer Islam Mamedov meets former champion Brent Primus in a battle of top lightweights, and Chris Gonzalez looks to improve to 7-0 when he faces Bellator vet Goiti Yamauchi in a lightweight bout. What: Bellator 263 Where: The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. When: Saturday, July 31. Preliminaries begin at 7 p.m. ET on MMA Fighting (un-aired prelims will take place after the main event). The five-fight main card airs at 10 p.m on Showtime. The main card will also be available for free on YouTube outside of the U.S. (may be geo-blocked in some regions). (Numbers in parentheses indicate standing in MMA Fighting Global Rankings) Patricio Freire (3) vs. A.J. McKee (6) Pitbull’s torch is about to be snatched. There’s no fighting the future and as much as I’m inclined to steer towards champions in these scenarios and approach undefeated fighters with a touch of skepticism, there’s no more denying A.J. McKee. He’s literally born for this, the son of journeyman Antonio McKee and the product of 20-plus years of MMA training and preparation. Bellator didn’t sign McKee, he was chosen. All 17 of his pro bouts have taken place under the Bellator banner and his homegrown story comes to a head in the grand prix finals. Pitbull can never be counted out. He hasn’t truly been defeated in in almost six years, during which time he’s established himself as being a cut above his peers. The one fighter who can claim to have had as much success in Bellator is former lightweight champion Michael Chandler, and Pitbull disposed of him in about 60 seconds. He’s seen it all, done it all, and if he beats McKee it will lend credence to the argument that the best featherweight in the world resides in Bellator, not the UFC. McKee has a considerable size advantage over Pitbull, a major factor in why I think McKee wins this one. Though Pitbull is no stranger to being the smaller fighter, even he hasn’t dealt with an opponent who has nearly a foot in reach on him. Add in how well-rounded McKee’s skill set is and you can see why this could literally be a game of inches. McKee will beat Pitbull to the punch and press his advantage for the remainder of the fight. In my eyes, this one doesn’t get past the second round. McKee will get a knockout finish, one that is definitive enough so that there is no controversy surrounding the beginning of McKee’s reign, but not enough to preclude an immediate rematch. We’ve only just begun with these two. Pick: McKee Emmanuel Sanchez vs. Mads Burnell Mads Burnell is a lethal ground fighter, but if he wants to turn this into a jiu-jitsu contest, Emmanuel Sanchez will be right there with him. The master of the Pervuian necktie faces serious adversity from Sanchez no matter where the fight goes. As improved as Burnell was from when most fans first met him as a raw grappler at UFC Rotterdam in 2017, he’s still primarily a submission fighter. That’s not a bad label to have when you’re as adept at snatching necks as Burnell is. However, I think Sanchez’s own grappling acumen is more than enough to turn this into a stalemate on the mat and that means the standup should determine the winner here. Fortunately for Sanchez, he’s grown leaps and bounds when it comes to his striking. He throws punches in bunches and loves to make a fight grimy. Burnell will have to match him in the grit department to have a chance here. Neither fighter has knockout stats to write him about (just one on each fighter’s pro record), but Sanchez is the better striker. Sanchez by decision. Pick: Sanchez Usman Nurmagomedov vs. Man

Bellator 263 predictions
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Scott Coker couldn’t have booked it better himself if he’d scripted this whole thing like Vince McMahon.

Twenty-two months after the start of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix, the unequivocal stars of the 16-man bracket meet in the final this Saturday at Bellator 263 as two-division champion Patricio Pitbull fights the man who would be king, undefeated Bellator born-and-bred contender A.J. McKee.

Pitbull and McKee—ranked No. 3 and No. 6 respectively in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings—conquered a loaded field of some of the best at 145 pounds, filled with former champions, elite talent from the bantamweight division, top prospects, and other homegrown Bellator names all of whom could have upset the apple cart. Instead, the eventual finalists deftly navigated the potentially calamitous terrain and with each win built anticipation for a clash that will determine not just who is the greatest featherweight in Bellator history, but who will lead the promotion into the coming decade.

Somehow, you get the sense that this isn’t the first time these two megawatt talents will face off, but they’ll be determined to be the first to claim bragging rights in what could be a rivalry for the ages.

In other main card action, longtime featherweight contender Emmanuel Sanchez fights former UFC and Cage Warriors standout Mads Burnell, undefeated lightweight Usman Nurmagomedov fights the streaking Manny Muro, newcomer Islam Mamedov meets former champion Brent Primus in a battle of top lightweights, and Chris Gonzalez looks to improve to 7-0 when he faces Bellator vet Goiti Yamauchi in a lightweight bout.

What: Bellator 263

Where: The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.

When: Saturday, July 31. Preliminaries begin at 7 p.m. ET on MMA Fighting (un-aired prelims will take place after the main event). The five-fight main card airs at 10 p.m on Showtime. The main card will also be available for free on YouTube outside of the U.S. (may be geo-blocked in some regions).

Watch the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix Finale!","description":"Featherweight champ Patricio Pitbull fights A.J. McKee - LIVE HERE - from Los Angeles.","label":"Watch Live Stream Here","url":"https://showtime.i7cdw9.net/DVbW1G"}'>

(Numbers in parentheses indicate standing in )

Patricio Freire (3) vs. A.J. McKee (6)

Pitbull’s torch is about to be snatched.

There’s no fighting the future and as much as I’m inclined to steer towards champions in these scenarios and approach undefeated fighters with a touch of skepticism, there’s no more denying A.J. McKee. He’s literally born for this, the son of journeyman Antonio McKee and the product of 20-plus years of MMA training and preparation. Bellator didn’t sign McKee, he was chosen. All 17 of his pro bouts have taken place under the Bellator banner and his homegrown story comes to a head in the grand prix finals.

Pitbull can never be counted out. He hasn’t truly been defeated in in almost six years, during which time he’s established himself as being a cut above his peers. The one fighter who can claim to have had as much success in Bellator is former lightweight champion Michael Chandler, and Pitbull disposed of him in about 60 seconds. He’s seen it all, done it all, and if he beats McKee it will lend credence to the argument that the best featherweight in the world resides in Bellator, not the UFC.

McKee has a considerable size advantage over Pitbull, a major factor in why I think McKee wins this one. Though Pitbull is no stranger to being the smaller fighter, even he hasn’t dealt with an opponent who has nearly a foot in reach on him. Add in how well-rounded McKee’s skill set is and you can see why this could literally be a game of inches. McKee will beat Pitbull to the punch and press his advantage for the remainder of the fight.

In my eyes, this one doesn’t get past the second round. McKee will get a knockout finish, one that is definitive enough so that there is no controversy surrounding the beginning of McKee’s reign, but not enough to preclude an immediate rematch.

We’ve only just begun with these two.

Pick: McKee

Emmanuel Sanchez vs. Mads Burnell

Mads Burnell is a lethal ground fighter, but if he wants to turn this into a jiu-jitsu contest, Emmanuel Sanchez will be right there with him. The master of the Pervuian necktie faces serious adversity from Sanchez no matter where the fight goes.

As improved as Burnell was from when most fans first met him as a raw grappler at UFC Rotterdam in 2017, he’s still primarily a submission fighter. That’s not a bad label to have when you’re as adept at snatching necks as Burnell is. However, I think Sanchez’s own grappling acumen is more than enough to turn this into a stalemate on the mat and that means the standup should determine the winner here.

Fortunately for Sanchez, he’s grown leaps and bounds when it comes to his striking. He throws punches in bunches and loves to make a fight grimy. Burnell will have to match him in the grit department to have a chance here. Neither fighter has knockout stats to write him about (just one on each fighter’s pro record), but Sanchez is the better striker.

Sanchez by decision.

Pick: Sanchez

Usman Nurmagomedov vs. Manny Muro

On paper, this is a showcase fight for Usman Nurmagomedov and that’s no disrespect to the tough Manny Muro. Nurmagomedov, 23, is just that highly touted and it’s going to be a few fights before whoever Bellator finds to face him isn’t viewed as a huge underdog.

Nurmagomedov is an outstanding technical striker with an arsenal of kicks that would make Edson Barboza blush. Once he finds Muro’s rhythm, be on the lookout for any number of spinning strikes that Nurmagomedov could utilize to set up a highlight-reel finish.

That said, Muro is the right test for him at this stage of his career. “The Dragon” is a difficult target to get a bead on. He uses a lot of movement to explore the cage, so Nurmagomedov’s cardio will have to be on point lest he tires himself out just trying to get Muro into ideal striking range. Muro has also shown flashes of impressive aggression, but he doesn’t have the speed to seriously threaten Nurmagomedov, who should see much of Muro’s offense coming from a mile away.

Muro is susceptible to getting caught, so I see Nurmagomedov taking his time picking Muro apart before finding a finish in the second.

Pick: Nurmagomedov

Islam Mamedov vs. Brent Primus

Islam Mamedov enters his Bellator debut with a ton of hype behind him and an unbeaten streak that has lasted for 12 years. A longtime training partner of Khabib Nurmagomedov, you’ll be shocked to hear that he’s a sambo expert who specializes in pounding his opponents into dust on the ground.

If he can consistently score takedowns, that’s the formula to beat Brent Primus as we saw in Primus’ first pro loss against Michael Chandler. Primus is dangerous when it comes to submissions, but he’s yet to show he can deal with effective pressure when he’s on his back. That’s what Mamedov brings to this matchup.

I also think that Mamedov’s level of competition stacks up well to that of Primus, who outside of his two bouts with Chandler hasn’t exactly faced a murderer’s row of lightweights. Add in the fact that Mamedov is five years younger than Primus and you can see why he’s favored to topple the former Bellator champion.

Mamedov by decision.

Pick: Mamedov

Chris Gonzalez vs. Goiti Yamauchi

This might be the toughest main card fight to pick outside of the main event.

Chris Gonzalez, a Team Alpha Male product, is a strong wrestler in the classic mold of the famed California camp. Whether he attempts to smother Goiti Yamauchi or use his wrestling for sprawling and brawling will shape how this fight plays out. Yamauchi could also force takedowns with his own wrestling, but as long as the fight ends up on the ground, he’ll be happy. Any mistakes made by Gonzalez in the grappling will result in Yamauchi tapping him out.

We haven’t seen enough of Gonzalez yet to determine his ceiling, so if he’s sharpened his striking and submission defense at all, then this is his fight to lose. The more experienced Yamauchi has never lost two consecutive fights, but he’s also shown flashes of inconsistency in his career and lost to opponents he should have beaten.

I’m a believer that Gonzalez will be a player at 155 pounds for Bellator going forward, so he gets the nod here.

Pick: Gonzalez

Source : MMA Fighting More   

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Video: Kyle Dake finally conquered his biggest roadblock in Jordan Burroughs and now it’s all about Olympic gold

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesEven as Kyle Dake was being celebrated as the first wrestler in history to win four NCAA championships at four different weight classes, he was always thinking about his future as an Olympic champion. The former Cornell University star has long been considered one of the best wrestlers in the sport as proven by his multiple gold medals at the coveted World Championships. But he still never had the chance to represented the United States at the Olympics. Dake fell short in 2016 when competing at 86kg, losing in the finals to eventual bronze medalist J’Den Cox. When looking ahead at the 2020 games — which were eventually pushed back to 2021 due to the global pandemic — Dake decided to take a stab at a more natural weight for him at 74kg. But that also put him on a collision course with arguably the biggest obstacle of his entire career. In order to make the Olympic team, Dake would have to go through 2012 gold medalist Jordan Burroughs, who held an impressive 7-0 record against him in freestyle competitions. Dake knew in order to fulfill his dreams to go to the Olympics he had to vanquish the boogeyman from his own division, which was no small task. This time around, Dake was not only exuding confidence after winning a pair of World Championships but he had made some necessary changes to his training and preparation that allowed him to beat Burroughs in back-to-back matches in order to punch his ticket to the Olympics. “I thought about that moment for a long time,” Dake said about his wins over Burroughs when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Pretty much everyday I was like you put yourself in this situation, how are you going to execute? How are you going to go through everything? How are you going to win this match? Obviously winning the match, there’s different situations all the time but I was like how’s it going to feel at the end? “So I put myself in that situation so many times that once I got there, it was familiar to me. Obviously, I was really excited. I was ready for that next step, that’s been the roadblock for me is just getting through and making it to the World Championships. The past few years, I was able to make Worlds but then this year making the Olympic team is something pretty special. I’m really excited for that opportunity and I’m going to make the most of it.” Despite past setbacks, Dake knew he had what it took to beat Burroughs but he just had to put that together during the matches, which is where he came up short in previous meetings. As he approached the Olympic trials, Dake had a distinct feeling that his matches with Burroughs this time around were going to end differently. “I think a lot of it was confidence in my training,” Dake explained. “Confidence in everything that I do day to day. I’m never second guessing myself. I’ve done that enough. I’ve put in the time, put in the work to get where I’m at. So I’ve figured out the best diet. Figured out the best training regimen. Figured out the best way handle practice, set up practice, how to peak, how to manage my weight. “All of those things, I just have 100 percent confidence in and I just go out there with a clear mind and put it on the line. If I win, I win, if I lose, I lose, there’s nothing I would change about how I got here. I’m going to go do my best and that’s it.” While the Olympics were the end goal, Dake couldn’t help but take a little bit of time to celebrate his wins over Burroughs, especially given the magnitude of those particular victories. “It’s really important to stop and smell the roses with everything,” Dake said. “Being able to go out and accomplish what I did, I took a little time to relish that and be a part of that and feel it and try not to get too far ahead of myself. “Obviously, the goal is the Olympic gold medal but he was a big roadblock. He’s one of my biggest competitors. There’s only a handful of guys that I feel that I really need to focus on in order to wrestle to the best of my ability and really just prepare for.” Now, as he approaches the Olympic games in Tokyo, Dake is considered one of the favorites in the field but he definitely has a tough road ahead of him. Two-time World Champion Zaurbek Sidakov will be looming large over the division after he took home gold at 74kg in both 2018 and 2019, which included a pair of wins over Burroughs. 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Frank Chamizo is also looking to make waves this year as one of the most consistent competitors in the field. That said, Dake is once again more than ready for whatever challenges get thrown his way as he seeks to return home to his wife and two daughters with a gold medal around his neck. “I’m very confident,” Dake said about his chance to win. “I take confidence in my training, confidence in my training partners and everything that I do. I believe that I have the best team, the best support behind me to push me to get to that goal. “There’s going to be a lot of people that I’m going to have to go

Video: Kyle Dake finally conquered his biggest roadblock in Jordan Burroughs and now it’s all about Olympic gold
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Even as Kyle Dake was being celebrated as the first wrestler in history to win four NCAA championships at four different weight classes, he was always thinking about his future as an Olympic champion.

The former Cornell University star has long been considered one of the best wrestlers in the sport as proven by his multiple gold medals at the coveted World Championships. But he still never had the chance to represented the United States at the Olympics.

Dake fell short in 2016 when competing at 86kg, losing in the finals to eventual bronze medalist J’Den Cox. When looking ahead at the 2020 games — which were eventually pushed back to 2021 due to the global pandemic — Dake decided to take a stab at a more natural weight for him at 74kg. But that also put him on a collision course with arguably the biggest obstacle of his entire career.

In order to make the Olympic team, Dake would have to go through 2012 gold medalist Jordan Burroughs, who held an impressive 7-0 record against him in freestyle competitions. Dake knew in order to fulfill his dreams to go to the Olympics he had to vanquish the boogeyman from his own division, which was no small task.

This time around, Dake was not only exuding confidence after winning a pair of World Championships but he had made some necessary changes to his training and preparation that allowed him to beat Burroughs in back-to-back matches in order to punch his ticket to the Olympics.

“I thought about that moment for a long time,” Dake said about his wins over Burroughs when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Pretty much everyday I was like you put yourself in this situation, how are you going to execute? How are you going to go through everything? How are you going to win this match? Obviously winning the match, there’s different situations all the time but I was like how’s it going to feel at the end?

“So I put myself in that situation so many times that once I got there, it was familiar to me. Obviously, I was really excited. I was ready for that next step, that’s been the roadblock for me is just getting through and making it to the World Championships. The past few years, I was able to make Worlds but then this year making the Olympic team is something pretty special. I’m really excited for that opportunity and I’m going to make the most of it.”

Despite past setbacks, Dake knew he had what it took to beat Burroughs but he just had to put that together during the matches, which is where he came up short in previous meetings.

As he approached the Olympic trials, Dake had a distinct feeling that his matches with Burroughs this time around were going to end differently.

“I think a lot of it was confidence in my training,” Dake explained. “Confidence in everything that I do day to day. I’m never second guessing myself. I’ve done that enough. I’ve put in the time, put in the work to get where I’m at. So I’ve figured out the best diet. Figured out the best training regimen. Figured out the best way handle practice, set up practice, how to peak, how to manage my weight.

“All of those things, I just have 100 percent confidence in and I just go out there with a clear mind and put it on the line. If I win, I win, if I lose, I lose, there’s nothing I would change about how I got here. I’m going to go do my best and that’s it.”

While the Olympics were the end goal, Dake couldn’t help but take a little bit of time to celebrate his wins over Burroughs, especially given the magnitude of those particular victories.

“It’s really important to stop and smell the roses with everything,” Dake said. “Being able to go out and accomplish what I did, I took a little time to relish that and be a part of that and feel it and try not to get too far ahead of myself.

“Obviously, the goal is the Olympic gold medal but he was a big roadblock. He’s one of my biggest competitors. There’s only a handful of guys that I feel that I really need to focus on in order to wrestle to the best of my ability and really just prepare for.”

Now, as he approaches the Olympic games in Tokyo, Dake is considered one of the favorites in the field but he definitely has a tough road ahead of him.

Two-time World Champion Zaurbek Sidakov will be looming large over the division after he took home gold at 74kg in both 2018 and 2019, which included a pair of wins over Burroughs. 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Frank Chamizo is also looking to make waves this year as one of the most consistent competitors in the field.

That said, Dake is once again more than ready for whatever challenges get thrown his way as he seeks to return home to his wife and two daughters with a gold medal around his neck.

“I’m very confident,” Dake said about his chance to win. “I take confidence in my training, confidence in my training partners and everything that I do. I believe that I have the best team, the best support behind me to push me to get to that goal.

“There’s going to be a lot of people that I’m going to have to go through. I think it’s going to be a 16 or 17 man bracket. I’m probably going to have three matches in one [day], one match on day two and that’s where I’m at. I’m ready to get it going. I’m confident with where I’m at right now.”

Like so many wrestlers with a dream of becoming an Olympic champion, it’s tough for Dake to put into words what it would mean for him to win a gold medal. It’s something he’s visualized for years.

Because he’s faced so many trials and tribulations to get here, Dake is taking nothing for granted. But he knows with absolute certainty that he’s got what it takes to get the job done.

“That’s been a lifelong goal for a long time to be an Olympic champion,” Dake said. “I’ve been a World Champion a couple of times, be an Olympic champion and go get it done. You have to have a whole season of nearly perfection so you can go out and achieve that goal. I’ve been on that path for a long time.

“In 2016, I was pretty disappointed with how everything ended. I was second on the Olympic team, I didn’t make it, didn’t punch the ticket but obviously this year I was able to do it. I’m just thankful for the opportunity to go out there. I’m going to make the most of it.”

Source : MMA Fighting More   

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