Viacom’s version of MMA is bringing a middleweight title fight to Torino, Italy this Saturday, as Bellator 176’s marquee matchup will witness the defending champion, Rafael Carvalho, re-matching the challenger, Melvin Manhoef. The co-main event for the evening will involve the undefeated Russian kickboxer, Anastasia Yankova, taking on the 5-1 Greek native, Elina Kallionidou. You can catch Bellator 176, LIVE! on Spike TV, this Saturday at 3:00 P.M. ET.
Main Card: 9:00 PM ET on Spike TV
Rafael Carvalho (13-1 MMA; 4-0 Bellator) vs. Melvin Manhoef (30-13-1 MMA; 2-2-1 Bellator) 2: Middleweight Title
The first time Carvalho and Manhoef locked horns was at Bellator 155, back in May of 2016, and to say that the middleweight title fight left a little something to be desired, would be a bit of an understatement. What was expected to be a battle between a Muay Thai striker and a KO artist, ended up resembling a glorified staring contest. The bout was 5 rounds of tentativeness, which drew plenty of boo’s from the crowd, and even seemed to frustrate referee Big John McCarthy. Carvalho walked away with the split decision victory, but it’s tough to call a real winner in that fight.
The rematch was initially scheduled for Bellator 168 in December of 2016, but Carvalho had to withdraw due to injury. Now, almost a full year removed from the initial match, Carvalho and Manhoef will run it back, to hopefully better represent Bellator MMA’s middleweight championship. Make no mistake about this, with 38 KO’s between the 2 of them, Carvalho vs. Manhoef still has the potential to produce an abundance of fireworks, but will they pull the trigger this second time around?
Anastasia Yankova (4-0 MMA; 2-0 Bellator) vs. Elina Kallionidou (5-1 MMA; 0-1 Bellator): Catchweight of 130 pounds
Anastasia Yankova has a ton of hype behind her, even after a razor-close split decision win over Veta Arteaga in her previous fight at Bellator 161, back in November. Yankova dished out a decent amount of damage to her opponent, but she also absorbed ample punishment from Arteaga, as well. Will Yankova come into this bout with a chip on her shoulder, and look to prove that the hype is in fact real?
Elina Kallionidou showed tremendous amounts of heart against Sinead Kavanagh, in Dublin no less, in her promotional debut at Bellator 169, back in December. Kallionidou spent a solid chunk of time being smushed up against the fence, by the more physically imposing Kavanagh, but managed to hang tough for long enough to hear the toll of the final bell. Will Kallionidou show up in Italy with more than just toughness, and give the undefeated Yankova a run for her money?
Djamil Chan (13-3 MMA; 1-1 Bellator) vs. Valeriu Mircea (13-4 MMA; 0-1 Bellator): Lightweight
Djamil Chan bursted onto the Bellator scene with a scary first round KO of Richard Patishnock, at Bellator 153 in April of 2016. In his sophomore showing at Bellator 161, Chan went toe to toe with hard-hitting veteran Derek Campos, but ended up on the wrong end of a unanimous decision. Some heavy handedness was on display, as Chan dropped Campos with a right uppercut to left hook combo in the first round; you better believe Chan will be looking to land some leather on Mircea, early and often.
Valeriu Mircea is a fighting machine as he competed a whopping 9 times in 2016, finishing 7-2 on the year. Those 2 loses were to UFC veteran Cody McKenzie, and the more recent first round submission loss to Goiti Yamauchi, in his promotional debut at Bellator 168. Mircea was able to floor Yamauchi within the first 30 seconds of the fight, but his opponent was able to recover, and cinch up a Triangle Choke for the win. After showing that he is a dangerous threat to Bellator’s top talent, will Mircea make the most of his second showing, and pick up his first win for the Viacom promotion?
Mihail Nica (5-0 MMA; Bellator Debut) vs. Samba Coulibaly (11-4 MMA; Bellator Debut): Lightweight
Mihail Nica will be putting his undefeated 5-0 record on the line in his Bellator debut, but instead of facing his original opponent, the 6-0 Carrington Banks, Nica will now be facing the 11-4 Samba Coulibaly. Nica has yet to see a third round in his young professional career, and by young, I mean all 5 of his pro fights occurred during 2016. Will Nica make a splash on the big stage and keep his ‘0’ intact?
Samba Coulibaly has a major opportunity to gain some exposure, as he will be stepping in on short to face Mihail Nica on the Bellator 176 main card. With 6 of his 11 wins coming by way of submission, don’t expect Coulibaly to shy away from the ground game. Possessing 3-times as many professional fights to his credit than does his opponent, can Coulibaly pull from his experience, and give the Bellator lightweight division something to think about?