This Friday Bellator MMA returns to action from the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Ks. In addition to featuring a women’s featherweight matchup between Marloes Coenen and Annalisa Bucci, it also has a stellar lightweight matchup in Dave Jansen and Rick Hawn and a heavyweight co-main event with former WWE superstar Bobby Lashey. Of course, topping the card is a light heavyweight championship bout as current 205 lb. belt holder Emanuel Newton will put it all on the line for the third time this year as he takes on British fighter Linton Vassell.

Newton hasn’t lost a fight since he dropped a controversial split-decision to former champion Atilla Vegh in 2012. His unorthodox style and explosiveness makes him a legitimate threat to anyone at 205 lbs, regardless of organization. Even with all his success he hasn’t been able to land a big name fight, King Mo aside.

Vassell made a name for himself on the UK circuit, fighting exclusively in his home country until making his Bellator debut a year ago. While he may not have the pedigree of some of Bellator’s better known light-heavyweights, he has the ability to finish fights with strikes of submissions. It may have taken a few strokes of luck for him to get a big fight like this so soon, but expect Vassell to try and take full advantage of the opportunity.

Striking

This one is almost a toss-up, if for no other reason than the fact that Vassell is a Brit, and Brits know how to throw down. The big difference here is that Newton has his own unique style which almost everyone he has faced has had trouble with. In fact, his only two losses in the last five years were to karate specialists, who are known for having their own tricky style of standup to overcome. Expect Vassell to bring the fight forward, and Newton to bring it and take it every which way from Sunday.

Advantage – Newton

Wrestling

This is another close one as Vassell has secured half of his wins by way of submission. There is one big difference, and that is Newton does have a wrestling background which has allowed him to earn a 62% takedown success rate, and he has two wins over one of the most decorated wrestlers in the division.

Advantage – Newton

Submissions

This is an area where Vassell may in fact excel at, assuming he can get in a position to pull it off. I don’t think Vassell will be particularly dangerous off his back, and I doubt Newton will be vulnerable to a submission while in a top position. You actually have to go all the way back to August of 2009 to the last time the champ lost a fight by submission, which was to Raphael Davis, a guy who submitted Vinny fucking Magalhaes, so there’s no shame in that. But assuming Vassell can get in a good position to attack, he is more likely to attempt a submission, which is how he won his last two fights in the cage. Newton, by contrast, has not submitted an opponent since he entered the Season 8 tournament.

Advantage –Vassell

Cardio/Conditioning

This one is pretty clear, as Newton will be entering his fourth-straight five-round fight. His wins vs. losses by decision are a 3:1 ratio, and he has gone and won all five-rounds twice in a row. Vassell has only been the distance a total of three times, and none of those were five-round fights. If the contender is going to win this, it likely won’t be on points.

Advantage – Newton

Official Prediction

Vassell is a clear and present underdog going into this fight, and the reasoning is pretty clear. This is a fight no one wanted to take, but the champ wants to stay active, so he is the one taking all the risk here. With that said, the one thing the challenger does bring to the table is killer instinct and a bragging-rights finish rate to back it up. While the official prediction clearly goes to Newton, one wrong step could make all the difference in this fight and it will be lights out for The Hardcore Kid. And that’s the bottom line.