Live from the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas, Bellator MMA comes back at you this Friday night with another stellar night of fights as Bellator 130: Newton vs. Vassell airs live on Spike TV with prelims on Spike.com. In the headliner of this event, Bellator light-heavyweight champion Emanuel Newton return to action after a recent finish of Joey Beltran to face top challenger Linton Vassell, who has been on a tear since 2010.

Former TNA heavyweight champion Bobby Lashley will also make a return to the Bellator cage as part of the night’s co-headliner against undefeated Karl Etherington. Etherington owns one win inside the Bellator cage; Lashley made his Bellator debut recently opposite Josh Burns.

Also, former lightweight tournament winners will do battle as season seven winner Dave Jansen faces season six winner Rick Hawn. Incidentally, Hawn also owns a season-nine welterweight tournament championship, which puts him in line for a shot at Douglas Lima’s Bellator welterweight title. Jansen returns for the first time since beating Marcin Held last March.

The card will kick off with the Bellator debut of former Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion Marloes Coenen against Italian MMA prospect Annalisa Bucci. Coenen has not fought since appearing in Invicta FC last year, while Bucci recently scored a decision win as part of European MMA 9 in Copehagen.

What follows is a breakdown of the main card, as well as predictions for each of the bouts that you will see on Spike TV.

Women’s bantamweight bout: Marloes Coenen vs. Annalisa Bucci

Marloes Coenen comes off of a loss to Cris Justino at Invicta FC 6 to make her Bellator debut this Friday night. The fourth-round TKO loss came at featherweight, just as their Jan. 2010 encounter did, so it has been over a year since Coenen has fought. Meanwhile, Annalisa Bucci’s unanimous decision win over Maria Hougaard Djursaa came back in May, and in fact, happened just 20 days after a loss to Pannie Kianzad.

The win over Djursaa marked only the second time that Bucci had ever gone to the judges’ scorecards and won. Typically, the Bologna native will come into a fight looking for a finish, either by dropping opponents and finishing them off with strikes or finding an opening to submit them. To date, she has claimed three of her seven wins by submission, so she is certainly not a stranger to the grappling aspect of the sport.

Still, she never got tasked with having to try and take “Rumina” into that realm, which certainly proves a different feat altogether. It says something when a woman scores 15 out of 21 pro wins by some form of submission, but what does it say about that same woman when she puts away ten of those 15 in the first round? Arguably it says, “don’t play the ground game with this woman,” and makes it logical to stand with the likes of Coenen, as striking was the key to her losses to Justino.

Training with Golden Glory, however, means that Coenen will have an answer for Bucci if she even thinks of striking with her. Though Coenen is not the division’s top striker, she is well-versed and can hold her own in that realm. Ultimately, Coenen uses her kickboxing to roll out the red carpet for her ground game, and once the fight goes to the submission game, Bucci will find herself mismatched. Coenen finds an arm and cranks it for an early finish.

Prediction: Coenen def. Bucci by submission (armbar). Round 1
Lightweight bout: Dave Jansen vs. Rick Hawn

With Scott Coker as the new president of Bellator MMA, the age of the tournament format feels like forever ago, even though we had the format earlier this year. What has not changed, however, will be the fighting spirits of two of the division’s most intense battlers as Dave Jansen combats former welterweight and lightweight tournament winner Rick Hawn.

Jansen has been nursing injuries for the past year, which has prolonged his shot at the Bellator lightweight title. Currently, former champion Michael Chandler and current interim champion Will Brooks are slated to battle for the vacant title, but if Jansen does defeat Hawn impressively, he could find himself opposing the champion sooner rather than later.

Hawn is by no means a tough task, though he is certainly not the same man he was just two years ago either. As a lightweight, Hawn impressively powered through Ricardo Tirloni and Lloyd Woodard, then secured a unanimous-decision win over Brent Weedman back in 2012 before losing to then-champ Chandler. Hawn rebounded by sandwiching decision wins over Weedman and Hernan Terrado in between knockouts of Karo Parisyan and Ron Keslar, but he comes off of a punishing loss to welterweight champion Lima, falling victim to Lima’s offense of grotesque leg kicks.

Still, with the drop to lightweight, and with the power Hawn has shown lately, this fight promises to be a bundle of fun for as long as it lasts. Jansen will need to answer the questions about cage rust with Hawn, while Hawn will need to rebound from that crippling loss to Lima.

Inevitably, Hawn throws hands and plays the standup game with Jansen before tapping into his Judo. Jansen will fight hard, showing less rust than expected, but Hawn takes a split-decision win here, with the takedowns and top control making the difference.

Prediction: Hawn def. Jansen by split-decision
Heavyweight bout: Bobby Lashley vs. Karl Etherington

39 year-old Karl Etherington gets co-headliner status against former TNA, XFN, and Shark Fights heavyweight champion Bobby Lashley. Much of Lashley’s TNA run has had him billed simply as “The Destroyer”, and while he has lost twice in his MMA run thus far, he certainly has looked like something of a destroyer in some of his more recent wins.

Lashley made his Bellator debut a few weeks back against Josh Burns. Burns, a Bellator veteran, hunted down his first win, but Lashley’s hands, wrestling, and powerful top game spelled the difference, as Lashley forced Burns to tap. While the debut win certainly did not do enough to pin Lashley in the MMA world’s eyes as a legitimate threat to Minakov’s title, it did help make the statement that Lashley is still a beast with some potential to make some waves in the sport

Karl Etherington might be viewed as a walk in the park, but he really in’t a walk-through fight for Lashley. After all, Etherington only started his MMA career a short time ago, and while he has yet to fight a big name in his own right, he has built a reputation of having caused bouts to end in the first round.

This fight could be more competitive than expected come fight time if Etherington gets off to a quick start and forces Lashley to tire himself out over time, but then there’s that “first-round finisher” tag which begs a very important question. Etherington is a phenom for a gentleman his age, but does his knack for ending fights in the first frame compensate for a lack of cardio? Some fighters make similar reputations for themselves and still end up looking good when they finally have to see the judges’ scorecards, but Lashley does not play that stuff, and he will punish Etherington about as soundly as he did Burns.

Prediction: Lashley def. Etherington by TKO (Strikes). Round 1
Light-heavyweight title bout: Emanuel Newton vs. Linton Vassell

There may be a question about why Linton Vassell, relatively unknown despite having fought and won multiple times under the Bellator banner in recent bouts, leapfrogged Liam McGeary in getting the next crack at Emanuel Newton’s Bellator light-heavyweight championship. Regardless of the reason, Newton faces a difficult challenge in Vassell, though it certainly does not represent a challenge that Newton cannot overcome.

Newton did lose a debated decision to Attila Vegh early in his Bellator run, but after scoring two impressive wins over Muhammed Lawal, Newton continued his winning ways by dethroning then-champ Vegh for the title and then knocking Joey Beltran out last month. This makes the fight with Vassell a rather quick turnaround for the champ.

We must point out that while Vassell might be viewed as an unknown, he is still a dangerous individual. For one thing, the man has not lost in nearly four years, and in that time frame, he has defeated names like Zelg Galešić and Virgil Zwicker. Nevertheless, Newton represents the biggest challenge to date for the former UCMMA light-heavyweight champion.

At this point, only Newton can stop himself. He demonstrates every bit of his long-term upside in every fight he takes, and this will show come Friday night. Newton will finish Vassell and then await a future bout with McGeary, who may stand the best chance out of any light-heavyweight in Bellator to give the champion a challenge.

Prediction: Newton def. Vassell by KO (Punch). Round 1

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.