Bellator MMA is set to return on May 17 to continue its 10th season. Live on pay-per-view from the Landers Center in Southaven, Miss., the card boasts an incredibly deep lineup that includes a pair of tournament finals and an interim championship.

In the main attraction of the night, the ghost of MMA past strikes when Quinton “Rampage” Jackson takes on Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. The winner becomes the top contender to champion Emanuel Newton’s throne and takes bragging rights in this rivalry.

The action starts with five preliminary card bouts at 6 p.m. ET on, then moves to Spike TV at 8 p.m. ET for four additional prelim match-ups. It’s off to pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET for the main card.

Without further ado, let’s preview the Bellator 120 card and make some predictions. The MMA Corner crew of Bryan Henderson, Rob Tatum and Riley Kontek gather to give you insight on this momentous Bellator event.

WW: Michael Page (5-0) vs. Ricky Rainey (7-2)

Henderson: After more than a year since he last competed in a MMA bout, undefeated kickboxer Michael Page returns to action against the more experienced Ricky Rainey. The two welterweights are slated to kick off the pay-per-view card.

Page’s unorthodox striking techniques have resulted in five baffled and defeated foes. “Venom” introduced himself to the MMA world by landing a tornado kick to score a TKO finish of Ben Dishman in just 65 seconds. His pace in combat hasn’t slowed in the time since that first win. He knocked out Ryan Sanders in just 10 seconds in his only Bellator appearance prior to this pay-per-view outing, and his longest fight flirted with hitting the four-minute mark. The London Shootfighters product is a highly decorated kickboxer who also possesses a background in karate and kung fu. Page has faced a couple of fighters with prospect-like records, but Rainey provides him with a step up in competition.

Rainey, who played football during his college years, has seven victories through nine professional outings as a fighter. His tendencies also lean toward the striking arts. “The Sniper” trains out of Renegade Boxing and has four wins by some form of knockout. He has several fights under the XFC banner, including a split decision loss to Dhiego Lima, and he’ll enter the cage against Page just over one month removed from his Bellator debut, in which he scored a 71-second TKO of Andy Murad.

The win over Murad gave Rainey a highlight-reel moment and provided fans with a real reason to anticipate this upcoming encounter with Page. However, Murad and Page represent two completely different realms of striking. Page is a dynamic striker who uses techniques that you don’t see every day in the MMA cage. If Rainey opts to ignore his wrestling and stick to a stand-up war, his one positive accomplishment in this fight will be lasting past the four-minute mark. If he decides to wrestle, he could test Page’s all-around MMA game.

Rainey’s striking base makes him the wrong candidate to challenge Page. The 27-year-old English fighter is out to put on a show in this high-profile fight. Expect something flashy from Page, who will maintain his unblemished record with another knockout victory.

Tatum: As Bryan hinted in his breakdown of this match-up, Bellator is hoping for a stand-up war in this contest. Luckily for the promotion, Rainey and Page are likely to give the promotion exactly what it wants to kick off the pay-per-view.

Page’s success so far is certainly a product of his ability to overwhelm his opposition with his striking prowess, but there’s another factor: his size. At 6-foot-3 with a 77-inch reach, Page is very long and rangy for the welterweight division. Combine his size with his unorthodox delivery and it’s easy to see why his record is comprised of nothing but first-round stoppages.

Rainey also likes to stand and trade. All five of his wins via strikes have come inside the first round, including his dominant performance against Murad. He does not possess the precision that Page does with his techniques, but that doesn’t mean he’s not effective. When Rainey smells blood, he is relentless.

There are some obvious concerns for both fighters in this fight. How will Page respond against an opponent who is coming forward from the opening bell? Will Rainey’s defense be able to withstand Page’s counters? And then there’s the question Bryan put forth—will Rainey use his wrestling to avoid a firefight?

I have to echo my fellow panelist on this one. Page is just too polished as a striker to let Rainey drag him into a brawl. Rainey will come out aggressive, but that will be his undoing as Page turns out the lights with a looping hook over the top in round one.

Kontek: I somewhat disagree with my colleagues on how this fight is going to play out. Yes, Rainey is a good striker and a stand-up battle with Page is desirable, but Rainey also has that one thing that he should try to use to test Page: wrestling.

As we saw in Rainey’s fight not long ago against Lima, Rainey has both offensive and defensive wrestling that is very overlooked. Mixing wrestling in with his striking would be the best bet for Rainey if he wants to keep his consciousness.

Of course, Page is very quick and athletic, which will aid him in thwarting shots, should Rainey decide to grapple a bit. Page moves in and out well, sticking his opponent in lightning-quick fashion.

There’s a lot to like about Rainey’s upside, but I have to stay on the Michael Page bandwagon. The dude’s striking is so fluid and powerful when he steps in the cage. He has a psychological advantage as well. Page will finish Rainey at some point.

HW Tournament Final: Blagoi Ivanov (11-0) vs. Alexander Volkov (21-4)

Tatum: Bellator will crown another heavyweight tournament winner when former titleholder Alexander Volkov takes on Bulgarian Blagoi Ivanov. The pair will look to claim the $100,000 prize and the right to face current titleholder Vitaly Minakov, the man who took the belt from Volkov.

If you wanted to see a clash of styles—and body types—then this is the fight for you. Ivanov is a stocky, 5-foot-11, sambo stylist with a knack for submissions, whereas Volkov is a towering, 6-foot-7, karate practitioner with a plethora of knockouts on his resume. Ivanov is a bull, but he’s not immune to getting hit, as we saw in his semifinal bout with Lavar Johnson.

Volkov’s massive, eight-inch height and reach advantage is going to be the difference in this contest. The former champion keeps Ivanov at range and scores a violent, first-round head-kick finish of the Bulgarian.

Kontek: Although the size difference will be an issue, Ivanov is very good at closing the distance. That may play a big difference in this fight—Volkov strives on being on the outside, but Ivanov can really get on the inside of guys.

Ivanov’s whole game is moving forward and marching through strikes to gain the clinch and score takedowns. He has good power strikes, but he prefers to clinch and dirty box before grounding guys. Volkov needs to avoid that. He is a big and tall striker with good kicks and knockout power. If he can mix it up nicely, a kick upstairs could be a deciding factor. That being said, Ivanov is cautious and will likely game-plan for that.

Ivanov has beat the odds before and he will do it again. He will snag a leg and ground Volkov. From there, Ivanov will dominate from top position and either earn a grinding decision or tap the Russian down the stretch.

Henderson: Volkov’s significant reach and height advantage could give him the edge if he can stay away from Ivanov’s clinch. That’s a big if, though. Ivanov is a highly skilled sambo practitioner who also happens to hold the rank of black belt in judo. If he clinches with Volkov, he might even be able to use the man’s size against him for leverage in taking him down via throws or trips.

Ivanov also represents one of the best ground specialists Volkov will have faced. If he can close the distance and get Volkov to the mat, the Russian could find himself in tons of trouble. He hasn’t lost via submission in several years, but that could change by the end of this contest. And should Volkov fend off Ivanov’s submissions, he’ll still have to worry about the Bulgarian’s ground-and-pound attack.

Volkov’s finish of Mighty Mo illustrates what he can do when he’s on his game. If he can keep Ivanov at the end of his jabs and kicks, then he could work to set up a head kick. Volkov won’t seek takedowns of his own, nor will he be too eager to clinch with Ivanov for fear of the takedown. However, if he does find himself in the clinch, he could look to do tons of damage with knees to Ivanov body and head.

One problematic element of Volkov’s game is his tendency to use kicks and knees. Mighty Mo was able to catch one of those kicks and score a takedown against Volkov. If a striker like Mo could do it, Ivanov should be able to follow suit. And if Ivanov can find success with takedowns, he’ll be able to wrap up the fight on the mat. Ivanov by submission.

LHW: Tito Ortiz (16-11-1) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (50-7)

Kontek: UFC Hall of Famer Tito Ortiz makes his return to the cage for the first time since retiring, and he does so in a featured main-card bout. In his debut with the company, the injury-riddled former UFC champion meets Bellator middleweight king Alexander Shlemenko.

Ortiz has seen better days in his career. The former UFC champ has won just once since 2006. That being said, he has been fighting guys of a high caliber, including Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. His bread and butter is and always will be his wrestling, something he needs to utilize here against the much smaller Shlemenko. Standing with the Russian could get Ortiz hurt.

Shlemenko is a murderer on the feet. He has some of the best kickboxing in all of MMA. He has not lost since 2010, when he dropped a bout to current UFC contender Hector Lombard. Since then, the Russian has stormed through guys like Brett Cooper (twice), Brian Rogers, Ikuhisa Minowa and Maiquel Falcao. He is giving up a lot of size to Ortiz, but he makes it up with quickness, technique, youth and power.

Ortiz is way over the hill at this point. He should have just stayed retired, because he is harming his resume and image with his continued insistence on fighting. Yes, he is much larger than the Russian, but he is not as skilled. Shlemenko will stick and move, staying out of the range of Ortiz’s shot. If he gets the finish, it will be late, but either way the Russian will prevail.

Henderson: This fight takes the cake as the biggest head-scratcher of the year (and possibly the decade) in terms of matchmaking. Bellator and Shlemenko have everything to lose and nothing to gain from the outcome of this contest. If Shlemenko wins, the impact on his career is minimal at best. If Ortiz somehow manages the upset, the result would be catastrophic—the Bellator middleweight champ is suddenly discredited and Bellator and its champions suffer the lasting consequences.

If I had to go out on a limb (although this isn’t really much of a limb), my money would be on Ortiz pulling out with an injury at the last minute. The guy has not been a reliable booking in years, and age certainly isn’t doing him any favors.

In the event that Ortiz hasn’t tweaked his back or suffered a fractured skull before the opening bell, then we’re looking at a fight between an aging wrestler with only one win since 2006 against a champion who simply won’t have to cut weight like he normally does. Ortiz doesn’t have knockout power in his hands and his takedowns are going to be largely ineffective against Shlemenko, who has stuffed plenty of takedowns in his 57-fight career.

Shlemenko’s striking will be a great weapon to use in picking apart Ortiz. Nogueira and Evans used strikes to the body to finish off Ortiz, and that could be the route Shlemenko takes to score the victory.

Shlemenko by TKO.

Tatum: I’m not sure Bryan did quite enough to describe the nonsensical nature of this fight. My job is not to play matchmaker for any promotion, but there’s just no reason whatsoever for this fight to happen. Hopefully it has to do with fulfilling contract obligations and less with someone thinking this was a good idea.

Regardless of our collective criticisms, this fight is happening. My colleagues have laid out the details, and I’m not going to argue with either of their predictions. I have had the pleasure (misfortune?) of watching Ortiz fight numerous times over the last five years, and it’s clear to me that the sport has passed him by. His once dominant wrestling and ground-and-pound attack is now ineffective and he lacks the speed necessary to defend against a striker of Shlemenko’s caliber.

The only way Ortiz wins this fight is if he finds a way to get Shlemenko to the ground in each round without absorbing a barrage of kicks and knees to his liver in the process. The size discrepancy in this fight is almost comical, and if Ortiz gets a hold of Shlemenko, he could easily manhandle him, but like my fellow panelists, I just don’t see it happening. Ortiz is already a legend of the sport, but this fight isn’t going to help his legacy.

Shlemenko by liver kick in round two.

Interim LW Championship: Will Brooks (13-1) vs. Michael Chandler (12-1)

Tatum: It’s a shame that this fight is happening under the circumstances that it is. The former champion, Michael Chandler, was expected to complete his trilogy with champion Eddie Alvarez in the night’s main event, but a concussion forced Alvarez off the card just one week before the event. Luckily for the promotion, the season-nine lightweight tournament winner, Will Brooks, was already on the night’s main card in a planned match-up with Nate Jolly. Now, Brooks and Chandler will battle for an interim belt and the right to challenge Alvarez in the future.

If there’s an upside to this interim title fight, it’s that it helps alleviate the logjam that existed in the lightweight division. Brooks, along with Dave Jansen, had been on the sidelines waiting for the Alvarez-Chandler rubber match so that they could get their shot at Bellator gold.

The 27-year-old Brooks has quickly vaulted himself up the 155-pound ranks over the last two years. The Chicago native has compiled a 5-1 record inside the Bellator cage. He employs a stifling wrestling attack that has earned him decision wins in four of his appearances with the promotion. He was able to avenge his lone loss, a knockout to Saad Awad, on his way to capturing the tournament title. Training with American Top Team, Brooks’ striking game is evolving, but ultimately his biggest weapons are his takedowns and top game. He’s already scored wins over UFC veterans Drew Dober and John Alessio, as well as former Sengoku champion Satoru Kitaoka.

Across the cage will be the former champion, Chandler. The University of Missouri product lost a controversial decision to Alvarez at Bellator 106 last fall and he undoubtedly was anxious to get his belt back. Chandler has essentially run through everyone Bellator has put in his way not named Eddie Alvarez. His skill set has evolved tremendously throughout his Bellator career, to a point where he’s not only a threat for takedowns and submissions, but for knockouts. He rocked Alvarez in both fights and easily dispatched of a tough David Rickels in last title defense.

The concern in a match-up with Brooks has to be whether Chandler will be as motivated. Having the interim belt on the line should help, but Brooks is a different type of fighter than Alvarez. Chandler has the better overall skill set and has never been finished in 13 career outings, but will his style mesh as well with Brooks?

Brooks has struggled to finish fights recently, and Chandler is far and away the toughest opponent he’s ever faced. Couple that with the fact that Brooks went from a three-round fight with Jolly to a five-round affair with Chandler on just a week’s notice and Brooks has quite the challenge in front of him.

Brooks is a tall order for most lightweights in Bellator, but Chandler is on a different level. The two wrestlers will jostle for positioning early, and Brooks’ athleticism will keep him competitive, but ultimately, Chandler’s experience in title fights and his gas tank will be the difference. Chandler finishes Brooks in round four with ground-and-pound to cement another shot at Alvarez later this year.

Kontek: Brooks is one of the most underrated talents in all of mixed martial arts. In fact, he is a guy the UFC should have signed after he defeated Kitaoka in Japan. That said, Chandler is also UFC quality, which should make this bout surprisingly good.

Brooks is athletic, quick and explosive. Other than a quick knockout loss to Awad—a fight I think Brooks overlooked—he has been nothing short of brilliant. He mixes strikes well with timely takedowns, which he uses to smother and grind out opponents. Brooks is no Renan Barao in terms of excitement, but he is effective nonetheless.

Chandler is the wrestler with boxing to back up his skills. When he is patient on the feet and picks his shots, he can be as deadly as they come. Just ask David Rickels, whose jaw is still probably throbbing from his drubbing at the hands of Chandler.

This is an extremely tough fight to call, but Chandler has really been a star that Bellator has been able to build up. Brooks needs to use quickness and athleticism, though his wrestling is probably not as strong as Chandler’s own wrestling. The former champ is an all-around better fighter and should be able to notch a victory here, maybe in the middle rounds, via knockout.

Henderson: The biggest truth in Riley’s breakdown of this fight is how much Bellator wants—and needs—to build up Brooks. Perhaps the promotion has done too solid of a job in that regard if we’re looking at Brooks and calling this a tough fight to call. That’s not to discredit Brooks at all, but rather to compliment Chandler’s own skill set. Chandler is a wrestler with superior overall skills in that department compared to Brooks, and he also has the ability to destroy Brooks in the stand-up game.

Brooks can dominate a fight with his wrestling, and his power is legitimate enough to put Chandler at danger for another knockout loss. However, we’ve also seen Brooks rocked on occasion, and Chandler is among the best Bellator lightweights at delivering a knockout blow. Chandler has put Alvarez in bad spots using his fists and the occasional flying knee, and Alvarez ranks among the rare few fighters in the sport who can recover from those situations with reliability. Brooks, despite just one career loss, doesn’t evoke the same confidence in his chin and ability to recover.

Rarely in MMA do we find a pair of competitors who are so perfectly suited to push each other at every turn, as we did with the original match-up pitting Chandler against Alvarez. Brooks is a fine substitute for Alvarez in terms of keeping this fight interesting, but he’s not the move-for-move foil that Alvarez was to Chandler.

The nail-biting intensity of Chandler vs. Alvarez has been lost. Brooks will mount a strong challenge against Chandler, but he’s going to find that Chandler will outwrestle him and definitely outstrike him. Even if Brooks does manage to surprise Chandler by putting him on the mat, Chandler will answer with a lot of scrambles and sweeps that will end up making Brooks wish he’d never sought the takedown in the first place.

Chandler has so many weapons at his disposal that this fight could end in any number of ways. Brooks could make a mistake during a scramble and find himself the victim of a submission, or he could get clipped by a punch and suffer the TKO loss. I’ll lean toward the latter.

LHW Tournament Final: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (34-11) vs. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal (12-3)

Tatum: The season-nine light heavyweight tournament will conclude in the night’s main event when former UFC champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson locks horns with former Strikeforce titleholder Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal.

The similarities between these two fighters, both in and out of the cage, have made this fight an easy sale for the promotion and fans alike. The two Tennessee natives are outspoken and present larger-than-life personas. But, for one of them to claim the tournament, $100,000 and a guaranteed title shot, their fighting skills are going to be more important than their microphone prowess.

Rampage has fought a who’s who of the 205-pound division throughout his 15-year career. The 35-year-old’s biggest asset has always been his power, but for all of his over-the-top antics, Jackson is great at making opponents fight his fight. Over the years, Jackson has transformed from a decent wrestler to largely a stand-up fighter with crisp boxing technique. That change has come with mixed results. Since dropping three straight bouts inside the UFC Octagon and signing with Bellator, Rampage appears to have recaptured his form of old, knocking out both Joey Beltran and former champion Christian M’Pumbu. But neither of those fighters was able to exploit the holes in his game. Throughout his career, Jackson has struggled with two types of opponents: Brazilians and wrestlers. Unfortunately for Jackson, Lawal represents the latter of the two. Three of Jackson’s four most recent losses have come against fighters with wrestling pedigrees—Rashad Evans, Ryan Bader and Jon Jones. Although there’s no shame in losing to any of those fighters, each has shown a recipe for exploiting Jackson’s fight game.

This fight represents a chance for King Mo to put himself back in the spotlight. After a messy divorce from the Zuffa-owned Strikeforce, Lawal entered Bellator with a ton of hype. However, the former Oklahoma State wrestler was shockingly knocked out by current champion Emanuel Newton with an unexpected spinning backfist in his second appearance with the promotion. The 33-year-old bounced back with knockouts of Seth Petruzelli and Jacob Noe to earn another crack at Newton. He again came up short, but this time on the scorecards. Despite his highly decorated wrestling resume, Lawal has also fallen in love with the boxing game. Training under the tutelage of Jeff Mayweather, Lawal’s striking game steadily improved, but he got away from his bread and butter. Following the second loss to Newton, Lawal switched to American Top Team in Florida and stifled a tough Mikhail Zayats to put himself in line to face Rampage.

This fight is likely to come down to where it takes place. On the feet, Jackson is the more experienced and savvy striker. Although both men possess solid boxing skills, the power of Rampage has to be a concern for Lawal. Both men have succumbed to strikes in their careers, but Lawal’s knockout loss to Newton is a bigger concern than Jackson’s past defeats to Wanderlei Silva and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in Pride. Yet, Jackson’s not-so-distant string of defeats to wrestlers in the UFC is a huge red flag against a dominant wrestler like Lawal. Jackson has solid takedown defense, but he struggles when opponents are able to get inside and pressure him against the cage.

In the end, Lawal has a better skill set to nullify Jackson’s strengths. Jackson certainly has the power to end the fight on the feet, but look for Lawal to execute a game plan of takedowns and top control and take this fight on the scorecards.

Henderson: Earlier in his career, Rampage was all about slamming opponents to the mat. Now, however, if there’s one thing the former UFC champ does well, it’s boxing. Whereas my colleague leans toward Lawal’s wrestling as the deciding factor, I have to pull in the opposite direction and single out Rampage’s striking.

Jackson has evolved into an excellent technical boxer. He can throw a great counter, too—just ask Chuck Liddell. That alone isn’t enough to give him the victory, but combine it with two other factors and the odds jump that Rampage walks out with the victory.

Those two factors? Lawal’s chin and his striking style. Lawal’s first career loss came to Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante by way of TKO and his second defeat was the knockout loss to Newton. If a fighter lands cleanly, Lawal doesn’t seem to have the chin to survive. The more troubling of the factors, though, is that he leaves that chin out there. Lawal often adopts a low, leaning stance. He’ll leave his hands low and put his head forward. That’s not a good idea against Rampage. It only provides Jackson with a clear bullseye.

If Lawal hadn’t fallen in love with striking, he’d get the nod here. His wrestling certainly could give Rampage fits, but the problem is that Lawal doesn’t put his wrestling to use enough nowadays. The Strikeforce vet is all too willing to stand with anyone and everyone. Rampage will take advantage of that flaw in Lawal’s strategy and score the knockout midway through the contest.

Kontek: Fake beef and obvious over-the-hill syndrom aside, this is actually a really interesting fight in terms of the match-up. Both men can wrestle, both throw hands and both are brash. That’s why this fight is somewhat marketable.

Lawal has become one of the most overrated fighters in MMA history due to his recent performances. He was supposed to be a certified superstar upon entrance to Bellator, but he has really only beaten low-level guys for the most part and lost to Newton twice. It has not been the championship reign that many thought he’d have.

Rampage, meanwhile, has breathed new life into his career in his two-fight Bellator stint. He has returned to form with the huge knockouts of Beltran and M’Pumbu. Sure, these guys aren’t on the level of the guys Rampage fought in the UFC, but it’s a step back into the win column for the should-be future Hall of Famer.

King Mo’s wrestling is overrated, and he has fallen in love with boxing against guys. Boxing with Rampage will be a huge mistake, though. Jackson is far more refined standing up than Mo. He will tag Mo with punches and eventually finish him, earning another resume-building win.

Preliminary Card
FW: Mike Richman (16-4) vs. Goiti Yamauchi (16-2)

Kontek: I was all over the Goiti Yamauchi bandwagon before his quarterfinals loss this season to Will Martinez. Now, however, I am a little suspect on the Brazilian prospect as a legit threat. Mike Richman is well traveled and has fought guys tougher than Yamauchi. Richman will stave off takedowns from the jiu-jitsu whiz and pepper him with strikes, running a decision victory in the process.

Tatum: Riley hit the nail on the head regarding Yamauchi. His hype train was thoroughly derailed against Martinez, and now the Brazilian will have to face off with a power-punching Marine in Richman. Richman has struggled against the top featherweights in the promotion, but he possesses a skill set that the young Brazilian has yet to encounter. Yamauchi will overcommit to his takedown attempts and Richman will knock him out in round two with a vicious uppercut.

Henderson: Yamauchi’s record suggests a fighter with a bright future, and he’s only 21 years old, so he has plenty of time to grow. However, he lacks the takedown skills to put fighters of Richman’s caliber on the mat, and he’s certainly outgunned on the feet. There’s not really much more to add to what my fellow panelists have already said. Yamauchi is scrappy enough to go the distance, but Richman could score the knockout. Even if Richman can’t find the finish, he’ll take the judges’ nod

FW: Shahbulat Shamhalaev (12-2-1) vs. Fabricio Guerreiro (19-3, 1 NC)

Henderson: Well, Patricky Freire managed to injure his hand in training. So now, instead of a lightweight tourney final between the “Pitbull” and Marcin Held, we’ll see featherweight action pitting former title challenger Shahbulat Shamhalaev against season-nine tournament semifinalist Fabricio Guerreiro. This is an interesting non-tourney contest that pits master striker Shamhalaev against a man who holds a black belt in judo and finished 12 of his 19 wins via submission. Shamhalaev’s only losses have come against Khabib Nurmagomedov and Pat Curran. Patricky’s brother, Patricio, laid out the blueprint for defeating Guerreiro on the scorecards, and Shamhalaev is talented enough to implement that same strategy. It’ll be a competitive battle, but the Dagestani fighter will take the decision.

Tatum: I can’t argue with Bryan’s assessment of this one. Shamhalaev has the skills on the feet to frustrate Guerreiro and prevent him from implementing his grappling game. If the fight does find its way to the mat, Shamhalaev will certainly have to be careful, since his aforementioned losses to Curran and Nurmagomedov came via submission. But Guerreiro did not fare well against Shamhalaev’s countryman Magomedrasul Khasbulaev, who also had his struggles on the mat previously. Look for Shamhalaev to use his striking prowess to slowly pick apart the Brazilian and earn a late, third-round TKO win.

Kontek: Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney said it best on Bellator 119’s pre-show: Guerreiro cannot catch a break with the opponents he has been given. Shamhalaev is a murderer with his hands, something seen in most of his fights with the company. The way to beat the Russian is with powerful wrestling and top position. Guerreiro, although a grappler, is not a takedown artist. Shamhalaev wins via knockout.

HW: Cheick Kongo (20-9-2) vs. Eric Smith (6-1)

Kontek: Cheick Kongo went from winning the Bellator heavyweight tournament last season, to fighting for the title against Vitaly Minakov, to fighting Eric Smith on the undercard of a pay-per-view for Bellator. Talk about a drop off. This is Kongo’s fight to lose. He could get caught by Smith, but he would have to be real errant to do that. He will beat Smith up and finish him with extreme prejudice, likely earning another heavyweight tournament seed.

Henderson: If Smith wasn’t nearly four and a half years separated from his last professional win, I’d give him more of a chance in this contest. However, he has only fought once since 2010, and that fight ended in a 26-second no-contest call. Though he has four submissions on his resume, at least two of those finishes came via strikes. This is purely a rebound fight for Kongo, and it should end quickly via knockout.

Tatum: No disrespect to Smith for stepping into the cage with Kongo, but this fight was put together purely to get the Frenchman back in the win column. Kongo will use his superior striking to batter Smith early and often. I’ll echo Riley and Bryan and take Kongo to finish this via knockout.

Preliminary Card Quick Picks
BW: Brian Hall (5-2) vs. Cortez Phelia (1-0)

Tatum: Promotional newcomer Cortez Phelia is going to get a rude welcome to the Bellator cage against Strikeforce and XFC veteran Brian Hall. Hall will capitalize on Phelia’s inexperience and score a second-round TKO.

Henderson: Phelia has just one pro fight under his belt, but he has fought 12 times as an amateur. The troubling thing is that he lost four of those contests. Hall’s experience is a huge edge, as Rob noted, and it’ll carry Hall to the first-round TKO win.

Kontek: Make it three for three here. The newcomer Phelia will struggle against Hall, a cagey veteran. It will be some type of finish, but Hall will snag the victory.

WW: Anthony Lemon (2-3) vs. Codie Shuffield (4-0)

Henderson: Anthony Lemon is on a three-fight losing streak, whereas Codie Shuffield is undefeated through four fights. This seems like a showcase fight for Shuffield, who will score the submission win.

Kontek: A sub-.500 fighter taking on an undefeated prospect? Sounds like a Bellator preliminary card fight. Shuffield will blow through Lemon and push his record to 5-0.

Tatum: Lemon’s opposition? A combined 50-15, including UFC veteran Brock Larson. Shuffield’s? 10-18. Give me the XFC and KOTC veteran Lemon to get back to .500 with a first-round knockout.

WW: Ben Brewer (3-0) vs. Andy Uhrich (8-4)

Kontek: Undefeated Ben Brewer gets a tough test in the form of Bellator veteran Andy Uhrich. Though Brewer has been solid through three pro appearances, Uhrich uses his grinding style and experience to hand the youngster his first loss.

Tatum: Hard to argue with Riley’s assessment. Uhrich has wins in Strikeforce and Bellator, whereas Brewer is making his promotional debut. Look for Uhrich to use that experience advantage to pick Brewer apart standing en route to a TKO win.

Henderson: Uhrich’s record might not blow anyone away, but his recent losses have come against the likes of Charlie Rader and Nathan Coy. Brewer might have the better record on paper, but he hasn’t exactly fought the toughest competition. Uhrich will get the TKO.

HW: Justin Frazier (6-1) vs. Mike Wessel (13-7)

Henderson: The Ultimate Fighter 10 alum Mike Wessel has found mixed success in his career, but those six knockout losses on his record are a major concern. Justin Frazier tends to barrel through opponents using his striking, so there’s a good chance Wessel is left staring at the lights by the conclusion of this contest.

Tatum: I can’t fault Bryan for his prediction, but I can’t ignore the fact that Frazier has never been out of the first round and lost to the only recognizable name on his resume (current UFC fighter Derrick Lewis). Wessel is inconsistent, but he’s also fought on the sport’s highest level. If he can get past Frazier’s initial onslaught, he’ll finish off Frazier with ground-and-pound in round two.

Kontek: I agree with one of my fellow panelists, and that panelist is Bryan. Wessel has fought at a high level, but he has shown that he is not of a high level. Frazier is a finisher, and he will down Wessel in the first round.

FW: Austin Lyons (10-3) vs. Zach Underwood (12-5)

Tatum: This featherweight contest is a rematch nearly four years in the making. Austin Lyons bested Zach Underwood via split decision in 2010 when the pair faced off for the Empire FC title. Underwood has gone on to find success in Bellator and the XFC. Meanwhile, Lyons failed to make the cast of The Ultimate Fighter 15 and dropped two of his last three outings. Underwood will use his grinding attack to exact revenge on the scorecards.

Kontek: This is a close fight on paper, but the big thing will be who has grown the most since their first encounter. Underwood has been solid since that loss to Lyons, though Lyons does have the more complete skill set. Lyons will take a decision from Underwood again.

Henderson: Rematches can really show the progress two fighters have made in their careers. Underwood has certainly enjoyed some success since his last fight with Lyons, but he is 5-2 in that span, compared to Lyons’ 6-2 record. Lyons’ one advantage is his grappling game, but Underwood has never been submitted. This will be another close decision, but it’ll go to Underwood this time.

Editor’s Note: A 158-pound catchweight bout between Nate Jolly and Marcin Held was added to the fight card following publication of this event preview. As such, predictions for the contest do not appear above.

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.