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Bellator 131: Ortiz vs. Bonnar staff picks and predictions

See who the Bloody Elbow staff is picking for the main card bouts on tomorrow night's Bellator 131: Ortiz vs. Bonnar event in San Diego, CA.

Bellator

Tito Ortiz vs. Stephan Bonnar

Mookie Alexander: Wild scenes for this one. Bonnar comes out and looks dominant against Tito, whose brittle body betrays him once more. Stephan's lack of finishing abilities drags this on for two more rounds when suddenly -- GASP! - Justin McCully switches sides! That traitor! McCully comes in with a steel chair and starts bashing Bonnar in the face until he is snoring. The referee, which we'll pretend is Cecil Peoples, is away in his own world playing Farmvile on his handheld, and when McCully scurries out of the cage like a field mouse, Peoples notices Tito doing the "grave digger" routine near Bonnar's unconscious body. He has no choice but to award the TKO. Tito Ortiz by Justin McCully-assisted TKO, round 3.

Phil Mackenzie: Uhm. Tito went on a terrible skid in the UFC, but every fight was to a higher caliber of opponent than Bonnar is, and Bonnar already showed that he's more than capable of losing to old and completely shot wrestlers when he fought Mark Coleman. Getting handily outgrappled by an arthritic-kneed Krzyzstof Soszynski in their first meeting also wasn't great. All that being said, I am unconvinced that Tito isn't an absolute shell of himself. He has one good round in him (if that) and Bonnar is at least difficult to put away. Stephan Bonnar by TKO, round 3.

Fraser Coffeen: Honestly, there's only one way I see this playing out: Ortiz looks good at first, but after an "accidental" low blow, Bonnar takes over. He puts a serious beating on Ortiz, who shows great heart and stays in it, Ortiz makes a comeback to the delight of fans, hits an "accidental" low blow of his own, and the ref calls for the bell. The fans are irate and Coker has no choice: Bonnar vs. Ortiz II - NO DQ!!! Stephan Bonnar by DQ, round 3

Zane Simon: Really, this is a "which guy has a little left in the tank" match. Tito was certainly the much, much, much better fighter in his prime, but we're talking close to more than a decade ago now. Stephan Bonnar was looking more or less like his old self as recently as 2010. And, he has the potential to have been doing some shame-free "rehab" during his brief retirement (I mean the guy was hardly clean when he was active). So, all told, I'm expecting him to have just a few more miles on his tread right now. Tito's win over Shlemenko did little to make me feel like he's "back." Especially after we saw Shlemenko get insta-tapped his next time out. Stephan Bonnar via TKO, Round 2.

Tim Burke: How in the blue hell is Tito the favorite? Because of a worked win over Shlemenko? At their peaks Tito was a way better fighter, but he's completely shot and Bonnar isn't. Tito can't sub him, it's highly unlikely he knocks him out, and his knees are shot so it's unlikely he can even get a takedown. Bonnar's going to beat the crap out of him. Fraser's scenario sounds pretty awesome though. We need a Jenna run-in! Stephan Bonnar by TKO, round 2.

Staff picking Ortiz: Mookie, Karim
Staff picking Bonnar: Phil, Fraser, Zane, Stephie, Rainer, Tim

Will Brooks vs. Michael Chandler

Mookie Alexander: This is Bellator and Bellator is Latin for "I didn't see that coming". Chandler is the better fighter and he looked bad against Brooks, but part of it has to be the fact that Will Brooks has matured pretty damn fast. This guy was destroyed by Saad Awad in 2013 and now he probably is a top 15 lightweight. I personally don't remember giving the first fight to Brooks, but if he can continue to outwrestle Chandler and get his back over and over and over again, this is his fight to lose. It's nothing against Chandler, I have come around on Will Brooks as someone who develops at a rapid pace and is secretly a bad match-up for Chandler even with a full camp. Will Brooks by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Chandler is a fighter in the Velasquez or Faber mold: someone who mitigates risk by crushing the opponent's offense with pure pressure and aggression. However, this is mentally and physically extremely difficult to maintain: it necessitates absolute confidence in your own dominance, and if someone can keep you on the back foot then you're in trouble. The questions are, was Chandler's disappointing performance due to the following: physical injury; a lack of motivation at not fighting Alvarez; real cracks in his mentality caused by the Alvarez loss... or is Brooks just that good, and how much has he improved in the interim? Should be a great fight. Michael Chandler by unanimous decision.

Zane Simon: Honestly, both these fighters are talented, both are yet to hit their prime, and both are young enough to still have a lot to prove in their MMA career. I just think Chandler is a little further along the curve than Brooks right now. I realize I'm saying this straight off Brooks beating Chandler, but... Chandler looked injured for that bout. That sucks for Brooks, because he fought great, but Chandler just looked bad. Assuming that he puts on a better showing this time, Chandler is a more active, pressuring fighter, with a more "complete" MMA game right now. Michael Chandler by Decision.

Tim Burke: I'm doing PBP for the UFC show but I'm going to try my damndest to watch this fight. It's the best fight of the weekend. Everyone is still overlooking Brooks despite his win, which is probably good for him because it alleviates some of the pressure. Did Chandler look great that night? No, he did not. Does he have the ability to beat Brooks on any given night? Yes, he does. But he's not going to do it on Saturday night. Brooks shocks the world again. Will Brooks by decision.

Staff picking Brooks: Stephie, Rainer, Tim, Mookie
Staff picking Chandler: Phil, Fraser, Zane, Karim

Muhammed Lawal vs. Joe Vedepo

Mookie Alexander: Get real. King Mo by TKO, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Even if King Mo has looked diminished since the staph infection and the PED bust, he's still shown every ability to smash this level of competition. Muhammed Lawal by TKO, round 1.

Zane Simon: This is going to be like all the other short notice middleweights Lawal has faced in Bellator. He's no longer a top fighter, but he's still a legit LHW. That means a paddlin' for Joe Vedepo. Muhammed Lawal by TKO, round 1.

Tim Burke: Who cares? Not me. Mo by decision.

Staff picking Lawal: Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Stephie, Zane, Rainer, Karim, Tim
Staff picking Vedepo:

Melvin Manhoef vs. Joe Schilling

Mookie Alexander: I picked Schilling at first but who am I kidding? This doesn't count in the standings or anything so WAR MELVIN MANHOEF. Melvin Manhoef by beheading, round 1.

Phil Mackenzie: Manhoef is far removed from his prime, but this seems similar to the Cro Cop / Pat Barry contest of a while ago. Manhoef is simply more comfortable in MMA, and transition spaces between clinch, striking and the ground and favour him too much. If Schilling blows him away, I would not be surprised, but Melvin Manhoef by TKO, round 2.

Fraser Coffeen: No big surprise, but this is the one I am most interested in. Yes, this is an MMA fight, but Manhoef is not going to get in there and outwrestle Schilling or anything, so I'm fine to analyze it like a kickboxing fight. And there, it's a bit tough. Manhoef clearly has the experience edge and the power, but it's been a long time since he beat anyone at Schilling's level in kickboxing. In fact, it's been over 5 years since he even won in kickboxing. He certainly could end Schilling's night early, but I like Schilling to get inside and win the clinch game (in fact, this is an area where the switch to MMA helps him, as Glory does not allow as much clinching - an area of strength for the Muay Thai based Schilling), wearing down Manhoef. Joe Schilling, KO, round 2

Zane Simon: I realize this will be entirely a standup war, but let's not pretend that Kickboxing and MMA striking are exactly the same. Schilling would almost certainly dust Manhoef with a set of 14 oz gloves on, but Manhoef has a lot more experience and better understanding of how MMA striking works. I mean, Tyrone Spong nearly got beat by Angel DeAnda. It's just a skill he's better at, and until I see Schilling compete and win regularly in MMA, I'm not going to trust that he can shut down Manhoef's heavy offense with little gloves and without a ring to work in. Melvin Manhoef by KO, Round 1.

Tim Burke: Schilling is a monster. What he did to Simon Marcus earlier this year shocked and surprised me, especially since Marcus already held two wins over him. Manhoef is still a threat but I think Schilling puts him to sleep quick. Oh, and random fact - one of Schilling's three MMA losses was to Tony Ferguson. Weird. Joe Schilling by KO, round 1

Staff picking Manhoef: Phil, Stephie, Zane, Rainer, Mookie
Staff picking Schilling: Fraser, Karim, Tim

Mike Richman vs. Nam Phan

Mookie Alexander: When Phan takes a beating, he takes a BEATING, and sometimes it's self-inflicted (see: TUF 12 shower "incident"). He consistently gets pummeled without getting knocked out, and that run will end soon enough. Until then, Richman wins on speed and Phan's poor defense. Mike Richman by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Fun matchup between two boxing specialists. Richman has shown problems staying consistent and winning decisions, but he's just much faster and hits way harder than Phan. Richman might feasibly allow Phan back into the match, but Phan tends to lose such one-sided shutouts of late that it's difficult to see a sliver of light for him. Mike Richman by unanimous decision.

Fraser Coffeen: I really like Mike Richman, and while he's struggled to always show his best in his most recent Bellator outings, he's still a dynamic fighter who is very tough to handle. Mike Richman by decision

Zane Simon: I guess Phan still has a chin. Mike Richman by decision.

Tim Burke: Fact - "Nam Phan" means "I get the shit beaten out of me on the regular" in Vietnamese. Head kick drops him, fists finish him off. Mike Richman by TKO, round 1

Staff picking Richman: Phil, Mookie, Fraser, Stephie, Zane, Rainer, Karim, Tim
Staff picking Phan: