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Bellator 170 preview, predictions for ‘Ortiz vs Sonnen’ on Spike TV

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Bellator 170: “Ortiz vs. Sonnen” takes place this Saturday night (Jan. 21, 2017) at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., featuring an explosive main event between long-time mixed martial arts (MMA) veterans, Tito Ortiz and Chael Sonnen, who talk just as much trash as they whup ass.

As is often the case for their signature “tent pole” events, Bellator is trying to use the attention that two big names of the sport can bring to shine a spotlight on their future stars. Welterweight sluggers Paul Daley and Brennan Ward have an important opportunity in the co-main event, but that’s just one of four Spike TV-televised fights with big divisional implications.

Let’s break it down:

205 lbs.: Tito Ortiz (18-12-1) vs. Chael Sonnen (28-14-1)

There was a point between 2006 and 2012 where if you had written off Tito Ortiz as a fighter, few people would have blamed you. His days of dominating the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Light Heavyweight division in the early 2000’s seemed long behind him as the long streak of losses mounted up, with only a surprising defeat of Ryan Bader at UFC 132 briefly put an end to his skid. Things continued downhill after that until UFC cut its losses and parted ways with “Huntington Beach Bad Boy,” at which point he came to Bellator and won back-to-back decisions for the first time in almost a decade.

Despite losing a title fight against Liam McGeary in 2015, Ortiz has at least proven he can’t be consigned to the ranks of MMA history just yet with his Bellator career, while Chael Sonnen went into self-imposed exile after a failed drug test in 2014 and then got slapped with a two-year suspension on top of that. While he has stayed busy running his mouth and taking grappling matches, “American Gangster” has done nothing since late 2013 to prove himself. And before he found himself on the outside looking in, he had already taken losses in three of his last four fights.

Now if we’re cutting Sonnen any slack here, it should be noted those three losses came to Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Rashad Evans — hardly a list of scrubs and nobodies. Stretch out his record to his last six fights and he’s batting .500 with wins over Brian Stann, Michael Bisping and Shogun Rua, giving him career victories over three former and future champions. With 17 of 29 wins (58 percent) by decision he can out-wrestle anybody, putting that All-American pedigree from the University of Oregon to good use, but his 12 finishes (seven knockouts, five submissions) shouldn’t be overlooked. He’s also stayed healthier than Ortiz, who by his own admission blames his failures on his injuries.

To make a long story short, the outcome of this main event can be determined by who you feel has more left in the gas tank. Neither one is a spring chicken, but at 39 with three years off from full time competition, I have more confidence in Sonnen’s reserves than the chronically hurt Ortiz despite his recent success. At 41, Ortiz is pushing past the point where it’s a good idea to compete, but as so often happens to fighters later in their careers, his name value is more bankable than his fight record. He beat Alexander Shlemenko in a fight with a monstrous size difference, and he toppled a past his prime Stephan Bonnar, but we already know from past history that Sonnen can out-wrestle Ortiz. He will again.

Final prediction: Chael Sonnen defeats Tito Ortiz via unanimous decision

170 lbs.: Paul Daley (38-14-2) vs. Brennan Ward (14-4)

Paul “Semtex” Daley was set to face Derek Anderson at Bellator 163, but erring on the side of caution Bellator and the Mohegan Athletic Commission pulled him from the fight following a hard weight cut. He did make the weight, though, for whatever that’s worth, which may have earned him enough grace with Bellator to be rebooked for a later date at the same weight with Brennan Ward. “Irish Bad Boy” is more than happy to accept the challenge with three knockouts and two rear-naked choke submissions in his last six bouts, his only loss in that span a shocker to “Cyborg” Santos.

Ward is almost unrepentant in the fact he wants to be a throwback fighter, eschewing technique and discipline and wanting to bang it out with his opponents. Although that has paid many dividends in his MMA career to date with 64 percent of his wins coming by knockout, I strongly recommend he rethink that strategy against Daley, a ferocious power striker with 28 of 38 MMA wins (73 percent) coming by knockout, and a similarly sterling record in kickboxing. Ward can throw down and out-strike most of his foes, but based on his track record I think that’s going to backfire here in a big way.

Final prediction: Paul Daley wins via first round knockout

185 lbs.: Ralek Gracie (3-0) vs. Hisaki Kato (7-2)

What do you make of Metamoris founder Ralek Gracie? His record seems impressive at a cursory glance, but his last win dates back to 2010. Given he’s a first-degree black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu you might expect more than a unanimous decision over an aging Kazushi Sakuraba, who was already 41 at the time and hasn’t won a single fight since. That doesn’t really compare to Kato, who has has nine fights over the same span and won 77 percent of them … all by knockout. Kato has something in common with Ward — he’ll risk it all to get the finish and pop the crowd. While I can’t take any fighter with the last name Gracie lightly, Kato just needs to avoid going to the ground to get the job done.

Final prediction: Hisaki Kato wins via first round technical knockout

145 lbs.: Georgi Karakhanyan (26-6-1) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (13-3)

“Insane” Georgi Karakhanyan is on a mission of late after snapping a two-fight losing streak against Daniel Weichel and Pat Curran and putting together a two-fight win streak against Bubba Jenkins and Kirill Medvedovsky. While the aforementioned Weichel may have a better claim for No. 1 contender at present with three straight wins, Karakhanyan could move into a tie by doing the same thing Weichel did — defeating “El Matador” Emmanuel Sanchez. At that point they’d either have to face each other or A.J. McKee to break the logjam, but Sanchez hasn’t lost two fights in a row in his entire career and may not be ready to start now.

Here’s the tale of the tape on this key divisional bout. Sanchez is only 26, 5’9″ and has a solid 71″ wingspan. He’s a grinder of a fighter with 12 of 13 wins by either submission or decision (five of the former, seven of the latter). Karakhanyan is 31, 5’8″ and is giving up some distance with a 68″ reach. The best way for Karakhanyan to negate those advantages is follow the blueprint Weichel laid down — strike when necessary and secure takedowns as the opportunities open up. With 53 percent of his wins (14 of 26) by submission, Karakhanyan has the ground game advantage as well, but Sanchez has yet to tap out in a fight. Like almost every Sanchez fight, this one will be a close battle.

Final prediction: Georgi Karakhanyan wins via split decision

155 lbs.: Derek Campos (17-6) vs. Derek Anderson (14-2, 1 NC)

Our final bout of the main card pits two long time veterans of Bellator’s Lightweight division against each other in a contest where only one can earn a third straight win; except, of course, in the unlikely event this goes to a draw and they meet two new opponents. Even if that happens they’d just have to do it again at a later date so that someone can move up the ladder toward Michael Chandler, though if Anderson has an advantage it’s that he’s never faced “Iron” Mike before and Campos already lost to him via rear-naked choke, so Campos may need to do more to prove he’s ready for a rematch.

Campos’ advantage is his diverse tool kit with a nearly equal number of wins by knockout, submission and decision (five-five-seven) while “Barbaric” Anderson is normally a finisher (11 of 14 by either knockout or submission), but has gone to a decision in his last two fights. The tale of the tape may help here, though, as Anderson is 6’0″ and has a 74″ reach, while Campos is significantly smaller at 5’9″ with a 68″ reach. As much as I respect Campos’ long tenure and signature wins over guys like Estevan Payan and Melvin Guillard, it’s hard to ignore the mismatch here.

Final prediction: Derek Anderson wins via submission

That’s a wrap!

MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 170 on Saturday night, with results throughout the evening starting at 6:50 p.m. ET for “Prelims” undercard matches followed by Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.

Source:: mma mania