Bellator 171: “Guillard vs. Njokuani” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., Jan. 27, 2017) at Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane, Kans., featuring a familiar face leading the way — “Young Assassin” Melvin Guillard, who hopes to repeat his last performance in the same venue (sans repeating the drug test failure that followed).
Fight fans in Mulvane will also get a dose of deja vu from “The Caveman” David Rickels, who has taken six of his last seven Bellator bouts in the exact same venue. In addition, an undefeated Featherweight “Mercenary” makes a quick turnaround for this card, and a Flyweight from Wichita will try to repeat her success from one year ago in Mulvane.
Let’s break it down:
180 lbs.: Melvin Guillard (32-16-2, 3 NC) vs. Chidi Njokuani (16-4, 1 NC)
What can be said of the mercurial Melvin Guillard, the so-called “Young Assassin” who has fought 53 times at 33 years old, that hasn’t already been said before? Well, we can say this much: He’d better test clean this time around. A drug test failure cost him his win over David Rickels in this same venue, which also would have been his first professional win since 2014 and only his second dating back 10 fights. It’s a damn shame that just as fans and reporters were ready to write the story of Guillard’s comeback in Mulvane, he literally pissed it all away.
Chidi “Bang Bang” Njokuani is primed and ready to take advantage of a more experienced fighter who is also more experienced at losing. Their careers could not be on more opposite trajectories. While Guillard has struggled as much getting wins as making weight, Njokuani hasn’t taken a loss in eight straight bouts, turning in a scintillating 21-second knockout just a month ago. At only 28, Njokuani is just hitting his prime, while at 33, Guillard already seems to be well past his. Need I say more? I think not.
Final prediction: Chidi Njokuani bangs his way to a knockout win
170 lbs.: David Rickels (17-4, 2 NC) vs. Aaron Derrow (14-8)
Hailing from nearby Derby, Kans., is our co-main eventer and local fan favorite, David Rickels, who is known for finishing his fights (13 out of 17) and for colorful ring entrances that involve pimp suits and giant animatronic dinosaurs. Unfortunately, his popularity locally doesn’t always translate into success, as Rickels has not strung together back-to-back victories since 2013. He had a good chance to do just that against a past-his-prime Guillard at Bellator 159, but wound up being knocked out instead. Ultimately, it didn’t matter as Guillard failed a drug test and bout was thus ruled a no contest.
Maybe this time things will go better against Aaron Derrow a.k.a. “Daddy Long Legs,” a career journeyman from Blue Springs, Mo., who has a little momentum right now with back-to-back wins over Ramon Barber and Nate Jolly. Although he has two career knockouts, his biggest strength is clearly his ground game, with 10 out of 14 wins (71 percent) coming by submission. With his size his record should probably be better — he’s a 6’1″ fighter with a 73.5″ reach, but he’s just barely edging out Rickels at 6’0″ with a 72″ reach. In the cage, the size differences should be virtually nonexistent.
Two things to note about Derrow: He missed weight for his last Bellator fight, which took place more than two years ago. If he spent the last two years polishing his game, healing up from any nagging injuries, and getting his weight cut under control then he’ll have a good chance in this contest. On the other hand, the lack of demand for his services over that time may have given an already middling fighter more time to flounder. And sometimes we should call a spade a spade, anyway — Bellator did not put this fight together for Rickels to lose again in Mulvane.
Final prediction: David Rickels wins via technical knockout
145 lbs.: A.J. McKee (6-0) vs. Brandon Phillips (6-2)
This is a relatively fast return for “Mercenary” A.J. McKee given he fought at Bellator 166 in Dec. 2016 and he thought he broke his thumb in that fight. Clearly the x-rays came back negative or he wouldn’t be here right now. His opponent, Phillips, has had some success in the promotion before at Bellator 159, but the Oklahoma City fighter has been unable to find the knockout power in Bellator he once had on the regional circuit. McKee’s strategy should not differ much from what he did to Ray Wood — go for the legs, secure the takedown and pound away. A lucky punch can change anybody’s night, but Bellator is clearly banking on McKee as a future star and bringing him along in winnable fights.
Final prediction: A.J. McKee ground-and-pounds a unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Jessica Middleton (1-0) vs. Alice Yauger (4-4)
Jessica Middleton was something of a surprise in Bellator last year when she defeated the more experienced Bruna Ellen in her debut for Bellator at this same venue. That success earned her a return fight on the main televised card, and another tough test in eight-fight veteran Alice Yauger. Middleton has a solid wrestling game and good submission defense, and the 28-year-old will need both against Yauger, who is 10 years her elder. The good news is that Yauger has only finished one of her four wins and none by submission, and the age difference should prove highly advantageous for Middleton in both stamina and cardio if the fight enters the third round. Middleton can and should step up again.
Final prediction: Jessica Middleton gets her first career submission
185 lbs.: Chris Harris (7-0) vs. Jordan Young (5-0)
Since we’ve got two undefeated Middleweights on the “Prelims” let’s add a bonus preview to this card. “The Caveman” Harris is a fighter with local appeal, hailing from Wichita, Kans., and having fought on the same card where Rickels faced Guillard. His fight was not aired, but it certainly could have been given he dispatched opponent Matt Foster with a rear naked choke in just 83 seconds. That was something of a statement for Harris given all of his previous finishes had come via strikes and his lone Bellator fighter before that was a unanimous decision.
If it’s a battle of submissions you want, then Young is certainly prepared to give it, as the Urbandale, Iowa, native has submitted 80 percent of his opponents to date. He’s giving up a slight experience edge to Harris, though, most notably in having had two fights in Bellator, while Young will be making his promotional debut. At 6’4,” he’s a big boy for the weight class, which may give the smaller 5’11” Harris fits, particularly if he can get in around the legs for a takedown and then use those long legs to get both hooks in. For that reason, I actually favor the Iowan in this contest.
Final prediction: Jordan Young wins via rear naked choke
That’s a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 171 tomorrow night, with results throughout the evening starting at 7 p.m. ET for “Prelims” fights 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