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Bellator 189: Budd vs. Blencowe fight card preview

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Here’s the deal for Friday’s Bellator 189 card, including Julia Budd looking to defend her featherweight belt for the 1st time as she faces Arlene Blencowe in the main event.

Bellator 189 is upon us Friday night in Oklahoma, and the top of the billing will witness featherweight queen Julia Budd look to defend her crown for the 1st time, as she faces off with Arlene Blencowe, in a high stakes rematch of a Bellator 162 bout from October of 2016. Also on the card, the co-main event will see collegiate wrestling standout Chris Honeycutt lock horns with Jiu-Jitsu guru Rafael Lovato Jr., and Chidi Njokuani will be competing at middleweight for the 1st time in his career, as he takes on dangerous striker Hisaki Kato. Tune in to the Bellator 189 main card on Spike TV, Friday night at 9:00 P.M. ET with the prelims streaming online at 8:00 P.M. ET.

Main Card: 9:00 PM ET on Spike TV

Julia Budd (10-2 MMA; 4-0 Bellator) vs. Arlene Blencowe (10-6 MMA; 5-2 Bellator): (W) Featherweight Title

Julia Budd is set to make her first title defense since winning Bellator’s inaugural featherweight belt with a 4th round TKO of Marloes Coenen at Bellator 174, back in March of this year. Budd’s first defense will be a rematch from a bout that took place in October of 2016, where she picked up a majority decision over Arlene Blencowe. In their first bout, despite being the better athlete and better wrestler, Budd spent a lot of time moving backwards, which could be the reason for the funky scorecards (29-29, 30-27, 29-27). Confidence seems to be the Achilles’ heel for Budd, as it almost seems as if she is unaware of how imposing she can be. However, the lack of confidence was nowhere to be seen when she captured the 145-pound title, and if the same mental game shows up for Blencowe, then we might witness the dawn of the Julia Budd beast mode era.

Since their initial meeting, Arlene Blencowe has racked up 3-straight wins with 2 KO’s outside of the promotion, and then a recent split decision over Sinead Kavanagh at Bellator 182 back in August. To be fair, the level of competition that Blencowe has recently faced was rather green, but considering how funky their 1st meeting was, a rematch with Budd is well warranted. Blencowe found success against Budd in the 1st bout whenever she would pressure forward behind her strikes, but fell into trouble when Budd would finally decide to go for a takedown. With only being a little over a year removed from Julia Budd vs. Arlene Blencowe 1, it’s tough to say if either fighter will show up drastically different from the first go round.

Chris Honeycutt (10-1-1 MMA; 6-1-1 Bellator) vs. Rafael Lovato Jr. (6-0 MMA; 2-0 Bellator): Middleweight

Chris Honeycutt is still trying to find his footing on the feet, but what he lacks in the standup, he more than makes up for with his wrestling prowess and top pressure. In his last outing, Honeycutt was spotted putting Kevin Casey on his back, and then following up with fight ending ground strikes from the full mount. The win over Casey was the 4th straight win for Honeycutt, and a win over a submission ace like Rafael Lovato Jr would solidify his position as one of Bellator’s most dangerous ground fighters.

At 34 years of age and with a 6-0 professional record, Rafael Lovato Jr has gotten a late start to MMA, but has finished each of his opponent’s inside of the distance. In his promotional debut, Lovato Jr dusted Chris Hackmann in a swift :13 standing TKO, and then followed up with a two-minute RNC submission of Mike Rhodes at Bellator 181. With Honeycutt having the edge in wrestling, and Lovato Jr owning the advantage in the submissions, will this bout end up as a kickboxing match with little gloves?

Chidi Njokuani (17-5 MMA; 4-1 Bellator) vs. Hisaki Kato (8-2 MMA; 3-1 Bellator): Middleweight

Chidi Njokuani was on a mean 7-fight winning streak, four of those bouts in Bellator, before running into former welterweight champ Andre Koreshkov at Bellator 182. Koreshkov took it to Njokuani, taking him out with ground strikes before the end of the opening round. Looking to return to his winning ways, Njokuani is facing someone in Hisaki Kato that might give him a slower tempo than did Koreshkov, which is a much more preferred pace for the lanky striker. Njokuani has shown that he has fight-ending power in both his punches and his kicks, but his most lethal strikes might actually be found in his ground and pound. It should also be noted that this is Njokuani’s first fight at 185 pounds, for what it’s worth.

Hisaki Kato has pieced together three straight wins since his devastating KO loss to Melvin Manhoef at Bellator 146, including a recent decision win over grappling guru Ralek Gracie at Bellator 170 this past January. Kato showed ample patience as he slowly picked at Gracie, and even survived a late full mount from the Jiu-Jitsu ace, en route to his unanimous nod. Having knocked out dangerous strikers such as A.J. Matthews and Joe Schilling twice, Kato possesses all of the show stopping techniques to wow the fans, but will it be effective against an opponent in Njokuani, who is willing to sit back and wait for his shots?

Adam Piccolotti (9-1 MMA; 5-1 Bellator) vs. David Rickels (18-4 MMA; 12-4-2 Bellator): Catchweight of 160 pounds

Adam Piccolotti is looking to bounce back into the win column, after suffering his first career loss at the hands of Goiti Yamauchi at Bellator 183 this past September. Piccolotti is known for his ground game, but showed off that he is more than willing to keep it standing, as he did against Brandon Girtz in his last win. In facing such a brute like Dave Rickels, who has never been submitted and only losses to guys that can knock him out, Piccolotti is going to have to compile some venom if he hopes to get past “The Caveman.” This bout is a sound test for Piccolotti to gauge exactly where he sits in the division.

David Rickels is one tough customer that has been around the Bellator block a time or two, as he heads into his 19th promotional bout. More often than not, if Rickels is fighting, then somebody is going to sleep, for better or worse. Consistency has plagued “The Caveman” as of late, as Rickels has failed to string together back-to-back wins since the 1st quarter of 2013, alternating wins, losses, and no contests. According to recent history, there are only two things that beat Rickels; Athletic thumpers and David Rickels himself. Since Piccolotti doesn’t fit that mold, will this be another W for “The Caveman?”

Preliminary notables:

Sam Sicilia vs. Marcos Galvao: Featherweight

Alexis Dufresne vs. Amber Leibrock: (W) Featherweight