Bellator MMA is set to return on May 2 to continue its 10th season. Live from Atlantic City, N.J., the card boasts a lineup that includes the interim bantamweight championship and one of the welterweight tournament semifinal bouts.

Joe Warren and Rafael Silva are set to fight for the interim bantamweight title while reigning champion Eduardo Dantas recovers from an injury. The winner will hold the gold and wait for either Dantas, if he recovers quickly enough, or this season’s tournament winner to challenge them in the future.

In the welterweight semis, Russian sensation Andrey Koreshkov takes on Sam Oropeza. The winner meets Adam McDonough in the tournament finals with the victor getting a crack at new champion Douglas Lima in the near future.

Without further ado, let’s preview the Bellator 118 card and make some predictions.

Interim BW Championship: Joe Warren (10-3) vs. Rafael Silva (21-3)

Eduardo Dantas is out with an injury, but that won’t prevent Bellator from hosting a bantamweight title showdown. Recent tournament winners Joe Warren and Rafael Silva will battle it out for the interim gold. It is a match-up of two of the premiere 135-pounders in all of Bellator.

Warren is a wrestler who has developed his striking as of late with Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, as well as Factory X Muay Thai in Colorado. Since losing the featherweight title and returning to bantamweight, Warren has gone 3-0. That includes two wins in last season’s bantamweight tournament over the likes of Nick Kirk, who Warren tapped with a highlight-reel inverted armbar, and Travis Marx, against whom Warren scored a devastating knockout where he utilized knees and punches to down his foe.

Silva is a grinder with an awesome grappling pedigree. He has solid striking, but it is his top game on the ground that suffocates and wears opponents out so that he can search for the stoppage. His tournament run in the last Summer Series included a tapout of Rodrigo Lima and a finals showdown where Silva outwrestled wrestler Anthony Leone. He likely cannot outwrestle Warren, but he can certainly make it competitive on the feet and in grappling exchanges, given his good sweeps and transitions.

This is a very good match-up, but Silva takes this bout on very short notice. That could affect how he fights, though he seems like the type of guy that could be classified as a gym rat.

Warren uses a balanced attack and a good game plan to stifle Silva’s attack and become the first-ever two-division Bellator champion.

WW Semifinal: Andrey Koreshkov (15-1) vs. Sam Oropeza (11-2)

The co-main event is a welterweight semifinal that moves one man closer to a title shot, as Russian phenom Andrey Koreshkov takes on East Coast fighter Sam Oropeza. It is a rescheduled bout from a few weeks ago, where illness took the fight off the card. The winner meets Adam McDonough for the tournament championship.

Koreshkov is a devastating striker with one-punch knockout capability and an impressive track record in Bellator. He is 6-1 under the Bellator banner and has already challenged for a title in the past. The title bid came in his only career loss against Ben Askren. In the quarterfinals, Koreshkov made quick work of Strikeforce and UFC vet Nah-Shon Burrell, who fell to “The Spartan” as a result of a brutal knee and combination.

Oropeza is a top-game grappler with decent striking and a rugged disposition. He finds himself on a six-fight surge, which includes finishes in all of those bouts (four knockouts, two submissions). In the quarterfinals, Oropeza took on Fight Master vet Cristiano Souza, a devastating striker in his own right. It took just a tad over three minutes, but Oropeza smashed Souza with heavy punches to earn the stoppage and this semifinal spot.

If Oropeza can get this fight to the mat, he can have some success, though that may be tough. If he gets in Koreshkov’s wheelhouse, he risks being left unconscious. The Russian is a buzzsaw and a favorite this season to win it all. He will get aggressive early and throw bricks at Oropeza’s dome. The result will be another first-round knockout that sets up Koreshkov’s date with Mr. McDonough.

BW: Marcos Galvao (15-6-1) vs. Thomas Vasquez (7-0)

A pair of bantamweights potentially hoping for a Summer Series tournament spot are set to collide when undefeated prospect Thomas Vasquez meets former tournament winner Marcos Galvao. It is an interesting match-up that will either present a future contender in Vasquez or keep Galvao atop Bellator’s bantamweight rankings.

There is nothing flashy about Galvao. His main focus is to close the distance, snag a takedown and rain blows from the top position. He is a grappler, but surprisingly has never tapped out anybody. Instead, he prefers to grind and ride out opponents. Since his devastating loss against champion Eduardo Dantas, Galvao has gone 2-0 with finishes against Shely Santana and Tom McKenna. He is truly a top bantamweight with Bellator and needs to prove it here against Vasquez.

Vasquez is a well-rounded kid making his Bellator debut, but he is not being given an easy task. We most recently saw Vasquez, who is undefeated in seven pro bouts, at Tachi Palace Fights 18, where he choked out Alex Rojas in a fun, one-round bout. He will need to keep this fight on the feet, because a grappling match with Galvao could be disastrous.

Vasquez is a solid fighter, but he is extremely overmatched against Galvao. Galvao has been around the block, has fought some tough competition and did so with mostly positive results. Look for him to take Vasquez down, beat him up and win a fairly one-sided affair, whether it be a finish or a judges’ decision.

LHW Quarterfinal: Liam McGeary (6-0) vs. Mike Mucitelli (6-0)

British powerhouse Liam McGeary and New York native Mike Mucitelli are set to make their Bellator tournament debuts in the light heavyweight division. This tournament is to be part of the Summer Series that officially kicks off in June at Bellator 121.

Mucitelli enters the Bellator cage for the sixth time, owning a 4-0 record with one no-contest. He is known for having good submissions on the ground that have led to stoppages in the Bellator cage against Brent Dillingham, Matt Uhde and TUF 19 competitor Matt van Buren. Against McGeary, it is vital that “Crazy” Mike closes the distance quickly and puts the Brit on his back or he could be in for a long (or short) night with the power puncher.

McGeary is one of the hottest prospects coming out of England, though he has moved his fight camp to the United States. McGeary is 3-0 in Bellator, only leaving the first 90 seconds once in those three outings, and that was in a fight that ended at the 91-second mark. He has brutally knocked out Anton Talamantes and Beau Tribolet, while tapping out Najim Wali with a beautiful armbar. In working with Renzo Gracie, he threatens to become a real all-around threat, as opposed to just a boxer with heavy hands.

Mucitelli does have some upside, but his no-contest against Jeff Nader saw him almost get finished early in the fight. That does not give one a ton of confidence, especially going in against a juggernaut like McGeary. McGeary will push forward with his normal aggression, head-hunting with his massive strikes. He will finish Mucitelli and earn a semifinal spot in the Summer series tournament.

Preliminary Card
MW: Jesus Martinez (8-5) vs. Ryan Contaldi (7-7-1)

Jesus Martinez is in search of that elusive first win in Bellator, and he gets a great opportunity to get one here when he takes on .500 middleweight Ryan Contaldi. Martinez is 0-3 with Bellator. He has fallen victim to strikes from the hands of Karl Amoussou, Aung La N Sang and Nah-Shon Burrell. He can do a little of everything, though defense and cardio are the question marks on him. Contaldi is on a four-fight skid right now, but he has been fighting tough guys like Eddie Gordon and Tim Carpenter. Martinez is the better fighter and will prove it with a finish of Contaldi in the first round.

FW: Darrion Caldwell (4-0) vs. Joe Pingitore (4-1-1)

Wrestling prodigy and highly touted prospect Darrion Caldwell is set to return to the Bellator cage for his sophomore outing, but in his way of a successful second fight is Joe Pingitore, who looks to play spoiler here. Bellator looked great in stealing Caldwell away from Legacy FC. The wrestler has a bright future if he continues to develop as quickly as he has thus far. He is athletic and explosive, which allows him to nail takedowns almost on demand. He made short work of Lance Surma in his debut, choking him out with a guillotine in 50 seconds. Pingitore has shown some holes on the ground, especially in his last fight, where he was tapped out. Pingitore will suffer another submission defeat.

FW: Lester Caslow (11-9) vs. Jay Haas (11-13)

Pennsylvania’s Jay Haas and New Jersey’s Lester Caslow, a pair of struggling featherweights, look to generate some momentum opposite each other. Caslow is a rugged individual who has shown good offensive striking and submissions, but the chink in his armor is his submission defense. He is best when he is on the attack and getting top position. Meanwhile, he finds it difficult fighting off his back. Haas is similar in that regard, as almost all of his losses come from submissions, including a good number of them via guillotine. The man who leaves his neck open here loses. Caslow has shown decent enough offense that he can find Haas’s neck on the ground and squeeze until he taps.

151-pound catchweight: Julian Lane (6-3-1) vs. Anthony Morrison (18-10)

The infamous Julian Lane returns to Bellator for the first time since 2012 to take on respected journeyman Anthony Morrison. Lane is best known for his all-talk, no-walk persona on The Ultimate Fighter 16, where Lane was better known for running his mouth and acting immature than performing in the cage. Since the show, he has struggled, compiling a 2-2-1 record in East Coast events. Morrison, who has almost triple the fight experience, is a wrestler with good submission ability. He has been vulnerable to submissions in the past, but those have been against high-quality fighters like Chad Mendes and Mike Brown in the WEC. Morrison is the better fighter, period. He should look to ground Lane and pound him from the top, earning a late stoppage or a decision.

151-pound catchweight: Mike Bannon (5-1) vs. Sidney Outlaw (2-0)

A catchweight bout pits normal lightweight Mike Bannon against undefeated prospect Sidney Outlaw, another normal lightweight. Bannon is a submission fighter, choosing the ground opponents and look for submission attempt after submission attempt. He is most famous for his fight with striker Cosmo Alexandre, who put a severe beating on him before the doctor stopped the bout. Outlaw, a Renzo Gracie fighter, is also a ground fighter. It could be argued that his wrestling and ground striking are more polished. He owns finishes in both wins and will continue that trend here, slamming Bannon with ground-and-pound until there’s nothing left to smash.

FW: Kevin Roddy (13-15-1) vs. Amran Aliyev (3-2)

Team Bombsquad member Amran Aliyev takes on Kurt Pellegrino disciple Kevin Roddy in what could be a featherweight barn-burner. Aliyev likes to throw on the feet. He possesses good kicks and heavy punches. His weakness is exposed when he’s fighting off his back, which is where Roddy will look to put him. Roddy, despite having a sub-.500 record, is an exciting fighter with good submission skills and a tough exterior. He has the wrestling and grappling chops to force this to the ground, something which will play out in his favor as he taps out the less-experienced Aliyev.

WW: Eugene Fadiora (13-1) vs. Timothy Woods (6-4)

Maryland native Timothy Woods is set to defend his home country, but in his way is a tough Brit, the highly touted Eugene Fadiora. Fadiora, a prospective welterweight tournament participant, has heavy hands and a ground game that is starting to develop nicely. His hands remain his bread and butter, though, and he should look to use them early and often. Woods is a powerful welterweight with one-strike knockout power, though he has been exposed when fighting off his back. Fadiora is vastly superior and should win this fight wherever it is contested.

WW: Dante Rivera (15-7) vs. Gemiyale Adkins (8-6)

A pair of East Coast MMA staples are set to collide at 170 pounds when UFC veteran Dante Rivera makes his return to the Bellator cage opposite middling slugger Gemiyala Adkins. Rivera is a Renzo Gracie disciple with a polished ground game and a choke squeeze like a boa constrictor. His game plan is to change levels, snag a takedown and work from top position. He takes on a power puncher in Adkins, who wants to keep this fight upright and throw haymakers. Adkins has shown to be susceptible to the takedown in the past, and he will get grounded consistently en route to a submission loss to the superior Rivera.

About The Author

Riley Kontek
Staff Writer

Riley Kontek is a Chicago-land native that has been an addict of mixed martial arts since the first Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz encounter. He has been writing on MMA for the last year and is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report MMA. In addition to that, he used to host a weekly radio show on MMA. Though he has no formal training in mixed martial arts, Riley is a master in the art of hockey fighting.