This Friday, Bellator MMA returns to action from the Bren Events Center in Irvine, Calif. In addition to featuring a sure to excite the crowd middleweight bout between kickboxing extraordinaire Joe Schilling (2-3) and up and comer Brazilian Rafael Carvalho (10-1), the nights headliner will be for the promotions lightweight championship. The incumbent champ Will Brooks (15-1) will be making his first undisputed title defense against Season 7 Lightweight Tournament winner Dave Jansen (20-2).

Brooks won the Season 9 Lightweight Tournament and is coming off back-to-back victories over former Bellator Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler and is currently riding a six-fight wins break. His only career loss was over two years ago at Bellator 91 to Saad Awad during the Season 8 Lightweight Tournament, which David Rickels would go on to win.

The challenger, Jansen, who theoretically secured a title shot after his tournament victory at Bellator 93 in March of 2013, went on to decisively defeat Rick Hawn last fall at Bellator 130. He has gone 7-0 under the Bellator banner, and has not lost a fight since 2010.  While he may not be the most well known fighter in Bellator’s most stacked division, he is by all rights the most legitimate contender. The only other tournament winner to not yet receive a title shot is Marcin Held who defeated Patricky Freire at Bellator 126 in September, however Held has previous losses to both Jansen and Chandler.

Striking

String goes to Brooks, almost without a doubt. This is not to say that Jansen won’t be able to keep up, but Brooks has five wins by KO/TKO to Jansen’s one, not to mention his most recent win over former champ Chandler was by strikes. Brooks has also really come a long way since his knockout loss to Awad, and has shown an urgency in his defense to not let it happen again.

Advantage – Brooks

Wrestling

On paper Jansen should have the clear advantage, as he was a collegiate wrestler and trains with Team Quest. Of course wrestling isn’t just about getting the take down, it’s about stopping it as well, and Brooks has some of the best wrestling defense for MMA in the business, showcased by his two wins over Chandler. The difference here is that Jansen uses his wrestling to win, and since fighting in Bellator has not come across a single person who can stop him.

Advantage – Jansen

Submissions

This is the toughest area to judge, as both men have shown an ability to submit their way to victory when the opportunity is present. While Jansen has over double the submission victories, he also has more fights. This is where the offensive wrestling pays of for Jansen though, as he doesn’t just seize on an opportunity, he creates it.

Advantage –Jansen

Cardio/Conditioning

Another close one to call, but not impossible. Jansen has a superb base, numerous unanimous decision victories, and is on a seven-fight win streak, but he’s never been in a five round fight before, let alone gone the distance for five rounds. This will be Brooks’ third five-round fight in a row, the first going the distance and he ended the second in the fourth, a testament to his cardio making him dangerous in any round of the fight.

Advantage – Brooks

Official Prediction

Jansen is the underdog going into this fight with the champion, and while he is primed to become one of the promotions newest stars, that time is just not now. Not to take away anything from his pedigree, as he is a legitimate contender and threat, he has yet to face the level of compassion Brooks has and his greatest strength may become his greatest weakness if he isn’t able to execute his game plan and control the fight, or take it to the mat. Betting odds are on Brooks remaining champion, and holding the belt for the foreseeable future. And that’s the bottom line.

About The Author

Justin Fuller
Associate Editor/Senior Writer

Justin Fuller is a writer, broadcaster, and political analyst. With a background in sports talk radio, he now runs his own podcast, "The Fuller Fight Factor LIVE."