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Bellator 183: Henderson vs. Freire staff picks and predictions

Check out the Bloody Elbow staff’s picks and predictions for Bellator 183: Henderson vs. Freire, which goes down on Saturday, September 23rd in San Jose, California.

Bellator 153: Koreshkov v Henderson Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images

The Bloody Elbow staff has made its predictions for Bellator 183 in San Jose, California. Surprisingly, the majority of us are picking Patricky Pitbull to knock off Ben Henderson in the main event. As for the co-main event, the lean is towards Roy Nelson to get the W against Javy Ayala. Everyone is in agreement that Lorenz Larkin will be too much for Paul Daley to handle.

Note: Predictions are entered throughout the week and collected the day before the event. Explanations behind each pick are not required and some writers opt not to do so for their own reasons. For example, if Phil Mackenzie entered all of his predictions on Wednesday without adding in any explanations, he has no idea if he's going to be the only one siding with one fighter for any given fight.

Ben Henderson vs. Patricky Freire

Mookie Alexander: Really interesting as to how many people are going with Patricky Pitbull here. Bendo is roughly a 2-to-1 favorite and for good reason, as he’s accomplished way more at 155 than Patricky. What concerns me with Henderson is that he’s declined in a way that he’s not “shot” by any means, but his offense is less meaningful than it’s ever been, and he STILL has no idea how to commit to a jab. Some of his less-than-impressive performances may be attributed to his knee problems, which he’s thankfully corrected. Pitbull really wrecked Josh Thomson in his last fight, showcasing his power and timing on his way to becoming the first man to stop Thomson since Yves Edwards in 2004. Best route to victory for Henderson is to go to his wrestling and grappling, where Patricky is definitely not as good as Patricio, but something tells me we’re going to see an upset. Patricky is in arguably the best form of his career (the Chandler KO notwithstanding), so the pick is Patricky Freire by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Henderson might have left the UFC off some wins, but he’s either had some really bad stylistic matchups or he’s really losing a step and a half. His “win” over Patricio wasn’t going well until the injury stoppage. The Chandler fight was what it was, but it feels like he’s sliding further out of his prime and hasn’t adjusted to the reality that there are a lot of things he cannot rely on any longer as his athleticism begins to fade. Factoring in the retirement talk and hopes of joining the military (?), you just have to wonder if there’s a lack of focus or maybe just the usual and inevitable decline we see in fighters. I’ve been a Bendo fan since the WEC days, but I just can’t pick him here against a more focused and aggressive striker that’s likely to pressure him. Interchangeable Pitbull brother by decision.

Eddie Mercado: This is a rematch of, oh wait, it’s the other one. Well then, this is almost like a rematch, so I see Bendo bullying forward, while eating counter punches from Pitbull for 3 rounds. Pitbull by Split decision.

Staff picking Henderson: Bissell, Phil
Staff picking Pitbull: Nick, Stephie, Mookie, Victor, Eddie

Roy Nelson vs. Javy Ayala

Mookie Alexander: Ayala hasn’t fought since smashing up Sergei Kharitonov in 16 seconds. Roy Nelson is genuinely not fun to watch anymore. He’s struggling to pull the trigger on his right hand and whatever veteran craft he had in his stand-up game is totally gone. I suppose this could be one of those classic “Bellator signs a faded UFC fighter and he looks depressingly faded in his debut” moments, but I think Nelson’s current “try and grind out a decision on the ground” strategy might work here. He hasn’t really lost to competition outside the top-15, and I don’t consider Ayala to be up there. Roy Nelson by unanimous decision.

Phil Mackenzie: Blah. Looks like a set-up for Nelson to get a big KO, although he's struggled to knock out more than the corpses of Big Nog/Foot in recent memory. In all honesty, I just don't want to see him fight any more. He's not very interesting to watch, and has taken simply hideous amounts of punishment. Roy Nelson by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Ayala’s done pretty well in his Bellator run bouncing back after a pair of losses and knocking out Sergei Kharitonov. Logically, it seems Nelson should win this on paper. He’s had a long career and fought (and brutalized) higher-level opposition compared to Ayala. Problem is that he’s regressed to a point where he’s largely spamming his overhand right. Outside of that fight against Josh Barnett, Nelson hasn’t really shown a willingness to string combinations together and his once-legendary chin is no longer what it was. It’s a combination that makes him less reliable as a pick. Ayala’s not the fastest heavyweight, but he’s not slow and plodding to the point where he’ll be an easy target. Ayala’s also not going to fall for the okey-doke here and just let Roy land that big bomb on him. Unless he gasses out super early, Ayala catches him enough times to get the stoppage as we see just how far along in his career decline Nelson really is. Javy Ayala by TKO.

Eddie Mercado: Unless you’re Mark Hunt, you must beat Roy Nelson by decision. Ayala is good for a solid 1.25 rounds, which just isn’t enough. Hell, it took Hunt past the midpoint of round 2 to get it done, so I pick Roy Nelson’s chin by 3rd round Belly.

Staff picking Ayala: Stephie, Victor
Staff picking Nelson: Bissell, Nick, Mookie, Eddie, Phil

Lorenz Larkin vs. Paul Daley

Mookie Alexander: It’s not a good matchup for Daley anymore. This version of Larkin is a top-10 guy and short of his chin failing him against the power of “Semtex,” he can basically win this anywhere he wants. Larkin is way too quick and has a more well-rounded striking style than Daley. I wouldn’t be surprised if Larkin stopped Daley, but Paul is really tough to finish with strikes, so with that in mind I’m going with Lorenz Larkin by unanimous decision.

Victor Rodriguez: Daley’s got an explosive striking game, but Larkin has so many weapons, so much patience and the cardio to pose so many threats. The guy that beat Neil Magny and made him look like an amateur is fighting 2017 Paul Daley. Think about that. Lorenz Larkin by TKO.

Phil Mackenzie: Who is Daley's last real high-quality win? Brennan Ward is decent I guess, but then we go back to... where exactly? The weird Masvidal Shark Fights thing in 2009? Kampmann in 2010? He's a bit craftier and more consistent than he was, but on the downside his power has clearly faded, and he's no longer going to be able to just obliterate people with a left hook. While I think in the aggregate, Daley poses some problems (reasonable fundamental kickboxing, counter hooks, good by the cage, Cheater Arms) for Larkin's style, the physical mismatch is just going to be too much at this stage. Lorenz Larkin by TKO, round 2.

Eddie Mercado: Yay! A symphony of welterweight violence! I like me some prime Larkin over some past prime Daley. Lorenz larkin by lopsided decision.

Staff picking Daley:
Staff picking Larkin: Bissell, Nick, Stephie, Victor, Phil, Eddie, Mookie

Adam Piccolotti vs. Goiti Yamauchi

Victor Rodriguez: Yamauchi’s Achilles Heel used to be great wrestling with good top control. He’s shored up his defenses and cleaned up some of his striking. He’s the more seasoned of the two, but Piccolotti might take this. His submission game is better than a lot of the fighters Yamauchi has beaten, and he’s got enough ways to stay busy with ground strikes to create openings. Adam Piccolotti by submission.

Phil Mackenzie: One of my general rules is "don't pick sub grapplers to beat AKA fighters unless there's a substantial skill disparity." It's not a very snappy rule, but it probably holds. Should be a ton of fun if/when these guys hit the mat, but I still trust Piccolotti's wrestling and ability to achieve and retain top position. Adam Piccolotti by unanimous decision.

Eddie Mercado: Both are aces on the mat, but Piccolotti is a better wrestler and the more effective striker and phase shifter. I’m picking Piccolotti by unanimous decision.

Staff picking Piccolotti: Nick, Victor, Phil, Mookie, Eddie
Staff picking Yamauchi: Bissell, Stephie

Aaron Pico vs. Justin Linn

Victor Rodriguez: Gotta give Bellator credit, they’re clearly making Pico their golden boy but not giving him any easy fights. At all. Linn is rangy, and capable of landing an uppercut on Pico like Zach Freeman did in June. Pico’s just got such a better overall game, and I doubt he’ll fall for the same thing again. Linn’s wrestling defense is OK, but not great. Definitely not enough to stop Pico. Aaron Pico by submission, round 2.

Phil Mackenzie: I just don't know. This seems like a referendum on the guys at AKA rather than on Pico himself. Are they pushing him into hard fights because they know that he's stratospherically, unbelievably talented, or are they simply overconfident? Rockhold, Velasquez, Cormier etc all won belts relatively quickly in their MMA careers, but even they weren't pushed *this* hard, and they were all in *far* weaker weight classes than modern lightweight. Linn is broadly similar but maybe even slightly better than Zach Freeman, all the way down to a vaguely biblical and silly nickname. The Altar Boy! The Mortal Sinn! I have no idea what to expect. Aaron Pico by unanimous decision.

Eddie Mercado: I have no legit reason to pick either guy, so I won’t, but look for flyweight Brooke Mayo to catch a body on the prelims. Chaos by flawless victory.

Staff picking Linn: Bissell, Nick, Stephie, Mookie
Staff picking Pico: Victor, Phil
Staff picking Chaos: Eddie

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