Bellator 193 is set to kick off from the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California with the top of the billing involving the 18-7 Lorenz Larkin locking horns with the 27-14 Fernando Gonzalez, who weighed in three-tenths of a pound over the 180-pound catchweight limit.
The night’s co-main event has Bellator vet Saad Awad squaring off with J.J. Ambrose, who makes his return to the promotion after nearly half a decade of fighting around the world. Also on the card, 40-fight MMA veteran Kendall Grove is hoping to get back in the win column as he takes on hard hitting journeymen A.J. Matthews. Opening up the main card, the 8-1 Steve Kozola welcomes Jake Smith to the Bellator cage for his 1st time.
Bellator 193 can be seen this Friday night, on Paramount Network at 9:00 P.M. ET with the prelims streaming online at 7:00 P.M. ET.
Main Card: Paramount Network
Lorenz Larkin (18-7 MMA; 0-2 Bellator) vs. vs. Fernando Gonzalez (27-14 MMA; 7-1 Bellator): 180 pounds
Lorenz Larkin left the UFC as one of the promotions top welterweights, TKO’ing Neil Magny in the first round, before taking his talents elsewhere. Well, it has been a bit of a rocky start for Larkin under the Bellator banner, first losing a unanimous decision to then-champion Douglas Lima at Bellator NYC, and then suffering a horrendous knockout at the hands of Paul Daley at Bellator 183. Sitting at 0-2 with Bellator, Larkin is in serious need of a win, and he will have to earn such a victory over someone in Gonzalez who sports an 8-1 promotional record. This bout just might be Larkin’s lowest profile fight since maybe Nick Rossborough at Strikeforce Challengers 19, but that in no way makes this a gimme fight for “Da Monsoon.” Will Larkin be able to find some traction with a win over Gonzalez, or will he slip to a disappointing 0-3 in his second stint with Scott Coker?
Do not let the 27-14 record fool you, Fernando Gonzalez has posted a highly respectable 8-1 record within the promotion, with his only loss coming by way of split decision to Michael Page back at Bellator 165. After his only Bellator hiccup, Gonzalez went on to earn a unanimous nod over Brandon Girtz at Bellator 174, and then recently choked out Brennan Ward with a guillotine in the 3rd round of their Bellator 182 tilt. Having gone the distance with dangerous and techy strikers like “MVP” and Paul Daley, you better believe that Gonzalez is more than able to hold his own on the feet, but will it be enough to get the W?
Saad Awad (21-9 MMA; 9-6 Bellator) vs. J.J. Ambrose (29-7 MMA; 1-2 Bellator): Lightweight
Saad Awad is a Bellator OG that has had a relationship with the organization since 2009, fighting a who’s who of competition from Will Brooks to Patricky Freire. 2017 saw Awad go 2-0, first scooping up a unanimous decision over Ryan Quinn at Bellator 174, then following up with an incredible one-punch KO of Zach Freeman at Bellator 186. With a pocket full of momentum, will Awad make it to three-straight wins and position himself for another big name fight?
J.J. Ambrose is returning to the Bellator brand after competing on the global circuit for nearly five years. The last time we saw Ambrose wearing the Bellator gloves, he fell short to David Rickels at Bellator 103 back in October of 2013. Since then, Ambrose has won 9 of his last 11 bouts, including five-straight victories, three of which ended inside of the distance. You might remember Ambrose from his brief stint on TUF Season 12, or perhaps from his fight with Mike Pyle at Affliction 1: Banned. Bloody Elbow recently revisited the old Affliction card from 2008 on the 6th Round Retro, which can be found by clicking here. With a full head of steam, will Ambrose be able to best the Bellator vet and make his promotional return in style?
Kendall Grove (23-17 MMA; 4-3 Bellator) vs. A.J. Matthews (8-7 MMA; 4-5 Bellator): Middleweight
After joining the Bellator roster and going 2-2, it seemed as if Kendall Grove was gearing up for a career resurgence with back-to-back knockouts of Joey Beltran and Francisco France. Unfortunately for Grove, more hiccups were waiting ahead in the form of an Alexander Shlemenko KO loss at Bellator 162 and a first-round submission loss to John Salter at Bellator 181. To be fair, Grove’s most recent losses have come to the top tier of Bellator’s middleweight food chain, and an A.J. Matthews caliber of opponent just might be what the doctor ordered for “Da Spyder” to get back on track.
A.J. Matthews has proven to be a staple action fighter for the Bellator brand since 2011, always looking to bang and always looking for a finish. Matthews has knocked out six of his eight victims, three of them taking place in front of a Bellator crowd, and is hoping to add Kendall Grove to that list. Wins have been escaping Matthews as of late, with the dangerous striker dropping his past four fights, getting finished in two of those matches. The term ‘must win’ is an understatement here, as five consecutive losses might make it quite challenging for the 30 year old Matthews to get booked again moving forward, especially on the big stage.
Steve Kozola (8-1 MMA; 3-1 Bellator) vs. Jake Smith (6-2 MMA; Bellator Debut): Lightweight
Steve Kozola came into the Bellator promotion with an undefeated 4-0 record, posting three first round knockouts, and then suffered a minor setback to Carrington Banks at Bellator 184. Kozola is hoping to return to his winning ways and refuel his label as an up and coming prospect. Jake Smith will be making his promotional debut with a 6-2 record, having knocked out four of those six foes. Smith has the opportunity to to take the place of Kozola in Bellator’s lightweight division, but will he rise to the occasion?