Bellator 218 kicks off tonight, March 22, from the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The top of the billing will see a rematch of 2017 Bellator 170 matchup, when former title contender Emmanuel Sanchez meets the ever-dangerous Georgi Karakhanyan.
In the co-main event slot, Bellator light heavyweight veteran Linton Vassell makes his move up to heavyweight to take on the 7-1 Valentin Moldavsky. Before that, training partner of Moldavsky, Anatoly Tokov, is slated against former UFC competitor Gerald Harris. Opening up the main card will be the 3-0 Norbert Novenyi Jr. vs. the 1-1 William Lavine.
For an in-depth breakdown of each Bellator 218 main card fight, check out The MMA Vivisection with Bloody Elbow’s own Zane Simon, Vic Rodriguez, and Eddie Mercado. Stay glued to Bloody Elbow for all of your event coverage including play-by-play, results, highlights, and more!
Bellator 218 takes place this Friday, March 21, and will air live on the Paramount Network and DAZN at 9:00 P.M. ET. The prelims will begin at 6:45 P.M. ET.
Emmanuel Sanchez (17-4 MMA; 9-3 Bellator) vs. Georgi Karakhanyan (28-8-1 MMA; 6-6 Bellator): Featherweight
Emmanuel Sanchez is looking to rebound after falling short in a five-round decision against Bellator’s featherweight champ Patricio “Pitbull” Freire in his last fight. The Roufusport product in Sanchez is known for his fundamental volume striking, skilled yet cavalier grappling, and a tireless gas tank. The first time he fought Karakhanyan, Sanchez was willing to engage on the ground, where Karakhanyan is he most lethal, and did fairly well. There was a controversial moment when Sanchez landed a knee to the head of a downed Karakhanyan, resulting in a point deduction. When it was all said and done, it was Sanchez who walked away with the majority decision.
Georgi Karakhanyan is the type of fighter that typically wins with an impressive finish, whether it be by knockout or submission. In fact, five out of his six Bellator victories occurred before the need for a third round. Karakhanyan is quite the tough out as well. Five of his six Bellator losses have come by way of decision, so he’s not someone that gets ran right through. After dropping a decision to Henry Corrales at Bellator 192 last January, Karakhanyan went 1-0-1 in ACB before signing on for this Bellator rematch. What will Karakhanyan be able to do differently this time around to ensure victory?
Valentin Moldavsky (7-1 MMA; 2-0 Bellator) vs. Linton Vassell (19-7 MMA; 7-4 Bellator): Heavyweight
Valentin Moldavsky is looking to remain perfect under the Bellator banner after earning a unanimous decision over Carl Seumanutafa and a second-round knockout of Ernest James. It’s no secret what Moldavsky comes to do. He wants to grab ahold of his opponent and proceed to mug them. Having debuted at 205-pounds, the 6’1 Moldavsky has played on the leaner side of heavyweight. What Moldavsky may lack in size he more than makes up for with sheer strength. The man is a powerhouse and strong like bull, but will that be enough to best his most technically sound adversary to date?
Linton Vassell has posted up a respectable 9-4 record within Bellator’s light heavyweight division, but now he’s making the move up to heavyweight. Vassell has been seen out-grappling the likes of Emanuel Newton and Francis Carmont, and even choked out Bellator’s former 205-pound champ Liam McGeary with an arm-triangle. Considering the old adage about moving up to strike and dropping down to grapple, it remains to be seen how well his grappling style will hold up at heavyweight. Vassell should hold the edge here in technical ability.
Anatoly Tokov (27-3 MMA; 3-0 Bellator) vs. Gerald Harris (25-7-1 MMA; 0-2-1 Bellator): Middleweight
Anatoly Tokov is known for being more physically imposing than he is for his technical prowess. Nonetheless, the Russian fighter has already finished two opponents within the promotion, and then earned a unanimous decision over Bellator’s former middleweight champ Alexander Shlemenko. Going up against another veteran this time around seems like another I.Q. test for Tokov. Pulling out the win here would make it four-straight and likely place Tokov right up there in title contention.
Gerald Harris is an MMA veteran who was seen cutting his teeth on TUF season 7 as well as going an official 3-1 in the UFC. Despite having retired once already, Harris is heading into his fourth matchup with the Bellator promotion. After dropping bouts to elite fighters Rafael Lovato Jr. and Yaroslav Amosov, Harris drew even with Hracho Darpinyan at Bellator 210 last November. Harris will need to lean on his veteran savvy here and really make the most of his opponent relying on his physicality. Can Harris avoid going winless across his first-four Bellator bouts?
Norbert Novenyi Jr. (3-0 MMA; 1-0 Bellator) vs. William Lavine (1-1 MMA; 0-1 Bellator): Middleweight
Norbert Novenyi Jr came up big in his promotional debut, scoring a first-round RNC over Mehmet Yueksel at Bellator 196 in Budapest, Hungary. Now, he gets the chance to open up tonight’s main card by taking on the 1-1 William Lavine. The lone promotional bout for Lavine ended in a second-round submission loss to Dominic Garcia at Bellator 171 back in January of 2017.