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Bellator London: Mousasi vs. Lovato Jr fight card preview

Scott Lagdon looks ahead to arguably the biggest fight card that Bellator have ever put on in Europe.

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Bellator MMA return to the SSE Arena, Wembley on Saturday, June 22nd for a stacked card filled with some of the best European prospects as well as established, worldwide stars. The promotion have made London a regular, yearly destination for one of their ‘tentpole’ events due to their increased foray into the market. Not only is it arguably the best offering Bellator have given their European fans, but the show also represents a ground-breaking moment in the UK as it marks the first time that the promotion splits the broadcast between different TV stations. The evening’s main card kicks off on subscription channel, Sky Sports, before moving over to free to air, Channel 5, for the event’s final three match ups. Bellator London is headlined by an intriguing clash for the middleweight title which tops the mammoth, 19 fight card.

The main event sees middleweight champion, Gegard Mousasi (45-6-2), look to defend his belt for the second time as he takes on jiu-jitsu specialist, Rafael Lovato Jr. (9-0). These competitors were originally scheduled to face off back in January at Bellator 214 but an injury suffered by Mousasi forced him to withdraw from the card. Five months later, they will finally step inside the cage together in what is being billed as a classic striker v grappler matchup. Mousasi leads the way for a number of fellow Dutch fighters on the card and will look to utilize his famous striking to keep Lovato Jr. on the end of his punches so he can dictate the range. The veteran of the UFC, Strikeforce and Pride FC has discussed how he is planning to stop the takedown so Lovato Jr., who is only the second American to win the world jiu-jitsu championship as a black belt, doesn’t even get the chance to implement his elite grappling game.

Despite being Mousasi’s elder by two years, Lovato Jr. is somewhat of a novice in MMA compared to his counterpart as he has only fought 9 times sat opposite the champion’s 53 professional bouts. The American is undefeated and holds victories over Chris Honeycutt, Gerald Harris and John Salter on his journey to the title shot while also finishing 8 of his 9 professional wins. Will Mousasi fend off another challenge to further cement his claim to be the world’s best middleweight or will Lovato Jr. pull off the upset to add to his already historic resume in martial arts?

In the evening’s co-headliner, Melvin ‘No Mercy’ Manhoef (30-14-1 2NC) brings his violent, brawling style back to the cage for the first time in just over two years as he moves up to light heavyweight to take on Englishman, Kent Kauppinen (11-4). Many have questioned whether Manhoef, who is now 43-years-old, should still be fighting after suffering three brutal knockouts in his last five fights but Bellator seemingly believe he can still bring value to the promotion. However, when the cage door closes behind the man who has finished a staggering 28 of his 30 victories by knockout, action is all but guaranteed.

Kauppinen will be looking to build momentum after dispatching Alessio Sakara in his home country of Italy by knockout after a minute back in December. He has finished all of his eleven victories by stoppage and remains the only man to have put hot prospect, Fabian Edwards, in any kind of trouble after briefly dropping him during their clash last year. Although this fight doesn’t have any great implications on the light heavyweight division, it should be a fan pleasing affair where a highlight reel knockout could be on the cards. Don’t grab any refreshments or go for a toilet break during this one!

Also featured on the main card is a welterweight showdown between fan favourite, Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley (40-17-2), and Brazilian UFC veteran, Erick Silva (20-10 1NC) where both fighters will be eager to prove that their best days aren’t behind them. The explosive pair last competed on the same card four months ago and neither were able to get out of first gear on their way to decision losses. Daley came up short in his highly anticipated grudge match against Michael ‘Venum’ Page that didn’t live up to the hype while Silva dropped his Bellator debut to Yaroslav Amosov. 80% of the English striker’s wins have come by knockout so he will be looking to land concussive blows on the feet whereas the once highly touted prospect, Erick Silva, would be sensible to look to take this one to the ground so he can attempt to add to his 13 career submission victories. Neither fighter can afford to lose this one if they plan on being a factor in the Bellator welterweight division.

Following a dominating performance in his hometown of Dublin earlier this year, James Gallagher (8-1) looks to recapture the momentum that had him hyped as a future world champion before his shocking loss to Ricky Bandejas in August. He hopes to achieve this by taking out the 32-year-old, Jeremiah Labiano (12-6), in convincing fashion at a catchweight of 140 lbs. The two were supposed to headline a Dublin show in August 2017 before Gallagher suffered a knee injury which ruled him out of the contest. On paper, this looks to be another fight tailor-made for Gallagher to add to his competitive experience and to build up a winning streak before putting him back in there against higher level competition. All but one of Gallagher’s victories have come by submission so he could well be looking to become the first person to make Labiano tap out, as the American has never been submitted in his professional career.

Another notable bout on the card sees possibly the hottest prospect in all of European MMA, Fabian Edwards (7-0), take on Jonathan Bosuku (7-4) in a contest designed to keep Edwards busy. Bellator have made a highly questionable decision by not putting Edwards on either of the televised portions of the card in the UK, which appears to be a massive missed opportunity to add to the hype surrounding the Team Renegade fighter. At middleweight in a bout that is flying under the radar, Mike Shipman (13-1) challenges Costello van Steenis (11-1) where the winner could well face Fabian Edwards later this year in the European Series. In other action, reality TV star, Aaron Chalmers (4-1), looks to bounce back after suffering his first defeat while Bellator Kickboxing world champion, Denise Kielholtz (2-2), and SBG Ireland’s, Charlie Ward (6-3), return to MMA competition. This card also hosts the Bellator debut of flashy striker, Galore Bofando (5-3).

The event is being billed slightly differently in the US as some of the undercard is being promoted as Bellator 223: Daley v Silva. This portion of the show will air as a delayed broadcast on Paramount Network and simulcast on DAZN. It will feature Daley v Silva, Gallagher v Labiano, Edwards v Bosuku, Shipman v van Steenis and Ward v Moore. The evening’s top three fights between Mousasi, Lovato Jr., Manhoef, Kauppinen, Chalmers and Freeman is entitled ‘Bellator: London’ which is being advertised as a European Series event. This will stream live on the Bellator App.

Bloody Elbow will be in attendance at the SSE Arena, Wembley so stay tuned for event coverage all weekend long.

Complete Bellator London Card:

Bellator London: Channel 5 broadcast

Middleweight World Title Main Event: Gegard Mousasi (45-6-2) vs. Rafael Lovato Jr. (9-0)

Light Heavyweight Bout: Melvin Manhoef (30-14-1, 2 NC) vs. Kent Kauppinen (11-4)

160-lb. Catchweight Bout: Aaron Chalmers (4-1) vs. Fred Freeman (2-2)

Bellator London: Sky Sports broadcast

Welterweight Feature Bout: Paul Daley (40-17-2) vs. Erick Silva (20-10, 1 NC)

140-lb. Catchweight Bout: James Gallagher (8-1) vs. Jeremiah Labiano (12-6)

Updated Preliminary Fight Card:

Middleweight Bout: Fabian Edwards (7-0) vs. Jonathan Bosuku (7-4)

Middleweight Bout: Mike Shipman (13-1) vs. Costello van Steenis (11-1)

Middleweight Bout: Charlie Ward (6-3) vs. Justin Moore (7-3)

Welterweight Bout: Walter Gahadza (18-3) vs. Oliver Enkamp (7-2)

Women’s Flyweight Bout: Denise Kielholtz (2-2) vs. Bryony Tyrell (4-3-1)

Lightweight Bout: Chris Bungard (14-4) vs. Charlie Leary (15-10-1)

Women’s Flyweight Bout: Kate Jackson (10-3-1) vs. Lena Ovchynnikova (12-5, 1 NC)

161-lb. Catchweight Bout: Terry Brazier (10-2) vs. Alessandro Botti (15-9)

Featherweight Bout: Nathan Rose (7-1) vs. Luke Ord (7-2-1)

Lightweight Bout: Alfie Davis (11-3) vs. Jorge Kanella (8-7, 1 NC)

Welterweight Bout: Justin Burlinson (4-0) vs. Wendle Lewis (8-4)

Welterweight Bout: Galore Bofando (5-3) vs. Kevin McCabe (3-3-1)

Middleweight Bout: Kevin Fryer (6-3) vs. John Redmond (7-13)

Bantamweight Bout: Nathan Greyson (6-3) vs. Frans Mlambo (6-4)

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