Bellator NYC is upon us as The Big Apple is playing host to one of the promotions largest tent pole events to date, this Saturday night. The Spike card will be capped off with a light heavyweight title tilt between champion Phil Davis and newly acquired free agent, Ryan Bader. This will be the second time these top light heavyweights will square off, but the stakes will be much higher this time around. Also on the TV portion of Bellator 180, SBG Ireland’s 20 year old featherweight prospect James Gallagher will face off with Chinzo Machida, 40 year old Karate ace and older brother of Lyoto Machida.
The Bellator 180 TV Card can be seen this Saturday night, live on Spike at 8:00 P.M. EDT/5:00 P.M. PDT, with the prelims streaming online. This preview covers all of the TV Card fights, as the Pay-Per-View card will have its own posts.
Spike TV Card: 8:00 P.M. EDT
Phil Davis (17-3-1 MMA; 4-0 Bellator) vs. Ryan Bader (22-5 MMA; Bellator Debut): Light Heavyweight Title
Phil Davis has been nothing short of “Wonderful” since jumping ship from the UFC, to the Bellator brand of MMA. Davis burst onto the scene at Bellator 142, tournament style, as he submitted Emanuel Newton with a 1st round kimura, and knocked out Francis Carmont in a brief 2:15, all in the same night. Davis went on to tangle with heavy handed wrestler King Mo, picking up the decision victory, and even wobbling Muhammed Lawal with strikes late in the 3rd round. In his most recent outing at Bellator 163, Davis dominated Bellator’s then light heavyweight champion, Liam McGeary, with a smooth wrestling attack that earned himself the honor of world champion. The confidence of Phil Davis is sky high right now, and that is exactly when the champ is at his most dangerous.
Keys to victory: Kicks, clinch strikes, cardio
Ryan Bader is another one of Bellator’s Top-10 free agent acquisitions, as he signed with the Viacom promotion on the heels of back to back KO victories in the UFC. Bader scored a highlight reel KO over Ilir Latifi back in September of 2016, and followed up with a 3rd round TKO of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira just 2 months later. For his first promotional bout with Bellator, Bader has been given an immediate title shot, against a man that he already holds a victory over. Will Bader cannonball into the Bellator promotion, and finally earn himself a world title?
Keys to victory: Hit harder, stuff the takedowns, zap the confidence
The 1st fight: The first time we witnessed Phil Davis vs. Ryan Bader was back at UFC on FOX 14 in January of 2015. Bader was able to fend off most of Davis’ takedown attempts, but did eat a few strikes from the clinch along the way. A monstrous left hook from Bader puffed up the eye of Davis in the 3rd round, which was the most meaningful sign of damage in the fight. Bader ended up squeaking out a split decision win in the 3 round affair, but this time around, the light heavyweights will be scheduled for 5. Will this fight look anything like their first tangle?
James Gallagher (6-0 MMA; 3-0 Bellator) vs. Chinzo Machida (5-2 MMA; 2-0 Bellator): Featherweight
James Gallagher sports an undefeated 6-0 record, with half of his fights occurring inside of a Bellator cage. Of his 6 victories, 5 have come by way of submission, and of those subs, 4 have come by way of rear-naked choke. In his last outing at Bellator 173, Gallagher dispatched Kirill Medvedovski by RNC in just 2:53 of the opening round. Despite his thirst for chokes, Gallagher has displayed a fundamental striking attack, utilizing jabs and crosses mixed in with an occasional spinning technique. At just 20 years of age, half that of his 40 year old opponent Machida, will youthful exuberance be a help or will it be a hindrance in his first fight on American soil?
Keys to victory: Remain defensively sound on feet, get the takedown, keep the takedown
Despite a rather young record of 5-2, Chinzo Machida had his first professional fight way back in 2005. Since signing on with Bellator MMA, Machida has been actively competing as of late, picking up back-to-back KO finishes of Mario Navaro and James Ocampo. Against Ocampo at Bellator 170 this past January, we saw Machida get taken down quite a number of times, before a well placed cross buckled his opponent late in the 3rd round. Chinzo Machida deploys the same sort of accurate karate-based style that we have seen from his younger brother, Lyoto Machida, but can he remain vertical for long enough to give himself the best chance of achieving victory? Did we mention that Machida is 40 years old?
Keys to victory: Remain vertical, let hands go, old man strength
Neiman Gracie (5-0 MMA; 3-0 Bellator) vs. Dave Marfone (5-2 MMA; Bellator Debut): Welterweight
Carlos Gracie had a son named Hobson Gracie, who had a daughter named Carla Gracie, who gave birth to Neiman Gracie. You with me? Gracie is 5-0 in his MMA career, 3 of which took place under the Bellator banner. It is no secret that Gracie will be looking to add to his already 4 submission wins, so expect this fight to exist on the floor.
Keys to victory: Jiu-Jitsu the F out of Marfone
Looking to score a win over someone with a Gracie surname, Dave Marfone will be making His promotional debut with a 5-2 record. Marfone is a shredded welterweight powerhouse that isn’t afraid to muscle his way to victory. Will this be a Gracie showcase of Jiu-Jitsu, or will Marfone rain on the Gracie parade?
Keys to victory: Throw with vicious intentions, avoid ground at all cost, hold the gloves?
Heather Hardy (Pro Debut) vs. Alice Yauger (4-5 MMA; 0-1 Bellator): (W) Flyweight
Heather Hardy will be making her professional MMA debut following an undefeated 20-fight boxing career. Hardy has shown to be a volume puncher with decent footwork, that leans on natural reflexes to evade strikes. Despite a love for pumping the jab, Hardy has shown a willingness to stand in the pocket and let em’ fly. Having only seen her compete in boxing, it is unknown what her grappling style will look like, so we will have to wait for Saturday to see if Hardy has more than one dimension to offer up to her opponents.
Keys to victory: Jab, jab, cross
Alice Yauger had a tough outing in her promotional debut, as she dropped a unanimous decision to Jessica Middleton at Bellator 171. Yauger ate a plethora of punches, visibly wincing in agony at times, but never gave up and continued to fight. It’s safe to say that the word toughness is an understatement when talking about Yauger’s ability to absorb damage. Yauger is going to want to move inside of the long jab of Hardy, and look to test out the ground game of the boxer turned mixed martial artist. This might not be the cleanest bout of the evening, but it should be long on fun!
Keys to victory: Close distance, brawl, test grappling ability
Online Prelims: 6:00 P.M. EDT
Ryan Couture vs. Haim Gozali: Welterweight
John Salgado vs. Hugh McKenna: Catchweight 168 lbs.
Matt Rizzo vs. Sergio da Silva: Catchweight 130 1bs.