Bellator 254 Preview: Macfarlane vs. Velasquez

Bellator 254 from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut is right around the corner and unless you really believe in underdogs, the main event appears pretty cut and dry. 11 up, 11 down. That’s the story of Bellator women’s flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane’s career to date.

Macfarlane has been undefeated even in her amateur career. She faces the also undefeated Juliana Velasquez who stands at 10-0. Bellator is lacking in name value beyond Cris Cyborg when it comes to female talent, so it’s difficult to discuss the quality of opponents for either fighter so far. With that in mind, let’s have a look at their fighting styles.

Macfarlane has a finish rate of 73 percent in those 11 fights but she leans heavily on her jiu-jitsu. Submissions make up 55 percent of those finishes. Velasquez is dead even with five finshes and five decision victories but four of her finishes are KO/TKO wins. So, there’s really no need to ponder either woman’s game plan. 

This one should revolve around who can impose their will, but the champion isn’t afraid to strike either. As Julius Choi of Combat Press put it:

“It is on the ground that we have seen Macfarlane’s best work in the cage. While it was ultimately ruled as a finish via a triangle choke in the third round of a championship fight at Bellator 213, she made Valérie Létourneau tap because of elbow strikes thrown while having secured a figure-four headlock. 

Then, in her third consecutive third-round finish against Veta Arteaga, MacFarlane landed an elbow while in her opponent’s guard that opened up a gash on Arteaga’s forehead so big that the blood seeping out dyed her hair red. This led to the fight stoppage.”

Is Macfarlane Too Good?

What Bellator appears to have on its hands is a situation similar to that of the UFC’s Ronda Rousey era. OddsUSA is not comparing either Cyborg or Macfarlane to Rousey (that’s a discussion for you the fans to have.) The similar problem is that the rest of both women’s divisions need to catch up to the champions in terms of skill. 

The UFC faced this problem before Cyborg left for Bellator and Demetrious Johnson left for ONE Championship. It’s the same situation she and Macfarlane are in now–they are skilled champions but predictability takes the fun out of things for fans and bettors.

Macfarlane should definitely be considered the favorite even if the difference in the odds isn’t by much given similar records between the two ladies.

Odds (Sportsbook)

Macfarlane +120

Velasquez -160

The end result of Thursday’s event should be business as usual for Bellator.

Prediction: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane def. Juliana Velasquez by submission to retain her championship

UFC 255 Betting Preview for Figueiredo vs. Perez: Cashing in on the Champ

This Saturday night at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo faces his first test as king of the divisional mountain against Alex Perez.

This may be the champion’s first challenge since capturing the title, but so far, he’s passed every test he’s been faced with. The Brazilian is 19-1 with 16 finishes (84% of his victories) and in his lone defeat against Jussier Formiga, Formiga failed to put him away as the bout went to the judges.

If you add to this the fact Figueiredo started his career with 15 straight wins until the loss to Formiga, you will understand why he is both the OddsUSA betting favorite and the favorite of the oddsmakers, clocking in at -325 at FanDuel. Both men fighting in the main event may be unknown to many sports fans, but that could all change by Sunday as fireworks are expected

Tale of the Tape for UFC 255

Thanks to’s By the Numbers series, we know the champion has eight knockdowns to his credit since joining the division, placing him first on the organization’s all-time list at 125 pounds. For those dying to know, John Lineker (seven), Benavidez (six), John Dodson (six) and Ryan Benoit (four) round out the Top 5.

Meanwhile, Perez has racked up “1.51 knockdowns landed per 15 minutes in the UFC, giving Perez the highest such rate for a flyweight in promotional history. Figueiredo (1.37) ranks second all-time in the category at 125 pounds.”

Both men also have finishes in under a minute. Figueiredo subbed David Raimundo Arcangela Silva with a guillotine choke outside the UFC for the fastest submission win of his career. Perez made Jeff Carso tap with a standing guillotine also before joining the UFC.

Figueiredo vs. Perez Betting Pick: It’s Good to be the Champ

OddsUSA expects the champ to get things done come fight night. He lands fewer significant strikes per minute but is eight percent more accurate and absorbs less per minute than Perez.

Perez lands roughly three takedowns every 15 minutes to the champion’s 1.71. They are dead even in takedown accuracy at 50% but Perez has an 87-61% edge in takedown defense. This should not be a problem as both men are a threat everywhere, but Figueiredo prefers to throw hands more often than not.

Both men are incredibly dangerous, and it would be a surprise if this one goes the 25-minute distance. Figueiredo’s average fight time is just under ten minutes and Perez’s time is just under seven minutes. If this somehow does go to the scorecards, it could be a bloody spectacle all the way to the end a la Lawler-McDonald at UFC 189, a fight that shortens careers.

Prediction: Deiveson Figueiredo def. Alex Perez by finish for the UFC flyweight championship.

Figueiredo by KO/TKO (-120)

Figueiredo by Submission (+460)

Bellator 253 Betting Preview: Caldwell vs. McKee… Will McKee Stay Perfect

Bellator MMA is back with another Thursday throwdown this week as the featherweight grand prix continues. Bellator 253’s main event features Darrion Caldwell looking to gain momentum after an even 2-2 split in four bouts. Meanwhile, undefeated A.J. McKee hopes to keep his streak alive.

This bout features two high-level wrestlers. Sometimes when two fighters have backgrounds in the same style, they cancel each other out. This could become a stand-up affair. If that happens, who has the edge?

McKee is known for putting the pedal to the medal from the word go and his stats back that up. Looking at the specifics of his unblemished 16-0 record, he’s finished 11 fights or 69%. It’s a pretty even split between KO/TKOs and submission wins at 38% and 31% respectively. Eight of those 11 finishes came in the first round, the last being in just eight seconds.

The 15-3 “Wolf” Caldwell has just two finishes by throwing hands compared to six submissions, which make up 40% of his victories. If Caldwell still shoots for the takedown, that presents McKee with an opening. Julius Choi of Combat Press wrote:

“Now, the more glaring Achilles’ heel that tends to rear its ugly head is when Caldwell becomes hyperfocused on chomping down on his mouthpiece and scoring a takedown. It is during these overcommitments that he leaves himself susceptible to a submission via guillotine choke.

That’s how his fights have ended on numerous occasions, but most notably in his first meeting with Horiguchi in Japan for RIZIN.14 and in the first of the two fights he had against Joe Taimanglo. In the second fight against Taimanglo at Bellator 167, Caldwell almost got submitted again with the same technique.”

McKee, the betting favorite at -230, should get the job done. He’s well-rounded enough that predicting how he does this is the hard part. To keep things simple, OddsUSA predicts an overall finish.

Bellator 253 Betting Prediction: A.J. McKee Finishes Darrion Caldwell

McKee then wants to take both Patricio Pitbull’s featherweight and lightweight titles. Pitbull advanced to the semifinals opposite Emmanuel Sanchez after stopping Pedro Carvalho in the first round. USA Today’s MMAJunkie is currently calling Pitbull “arguably the greatest fighter in the promotion’s history.”

“That’s an easy fight,” McKee told MMA Junkie Radio. “That’s a warmup. … That’s what I’m looking forward to doing, getting that first belt out the way. I’m gonna do it like Drake said, ‘back to back.’ I want both of them, back to back. I’m gonna give ‘Pitbull’ a little warm up.

“He’s been ducking me since day one. He acts like he doesn’t know who I am or what I’m coming for. He knows that time is coming, but I’m gonna make the first fight look so easy, he’s gonna rethink the second one or his ego’s gonna get in the way and he’s really gonna want the second one. It’s gonna be another cakewalk, I told him I got that leash in the kennel, whenever he wanna go to the pound, I’m ready to take it.”

Note: After Bellator 252 ended, MMAJunkie noted that betting favorites, such as 253’s McKee, improved to 11-2 in main events. Additionally, Freire’s 11 stoppage victories in Bellator featherweight competition are tied with A.J. McKee for most in divisional history.

If things play out right, Bellator is going to put on a very fun fight in the near future.

Bellator 252 Betting Predictions: Pitbull vs. Carvalho

The Bellator 252 card on Bellator 252 on Thursday, Nov. 12, presents an interesting challenge for champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. The event serves as a part of the promotion’s featherweight grand prix tournament with quarterfinal bouts serving as the marquee matchups. 

This means if Pitbull loses to Pedro Carvalho, the division will be guaranteed a new king.

Before you put money down, have a look at how the fighters in the main and co-main event compare.

Pitbull vs. Carvalho Betting Prediction

To get to the point, this one feels pretty cut and dry. The marketing of this fight could be a little deceptive because Carvalho is unbeaten in Bellator (4-0) and is 11-3 overall. He’s only been finished once with the other losses being by disqualification and by decision prior to his current 6-0 run.

However, Pitbull has been equally impressive and as Combat Press notes, he’s had a better strength of schedule. The champion is riding a 5-0 streak, 6-2 dating back to 2015 with one loss being due to injury while facing former UFC champion Benson Henderson.

As Combat Press’ Julius Choi and Andrew Sumian put it:

“Wilson Reis, whom he beat in 2010 in season four of Bellator’s featherweight tournament, would move on to have a seven-year tenure with the UFC in which he competed for the flyweight title against Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson at his peak.

Michael Chandler was knocked out by Patricio last year (at lightweight, making Pitbull a double champion) after just one minute of the first round, yet he also took a portal to the UFC and served as the back-up fighter for the recent title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje. Chandler now expects a fight with a top-five contender like Tony Ferguson.”

Bellator 252 Odds for Pitbull to Come Away with a Finish

Obviously, Pitbull getting a finish early means absorbing as little damage as possible. He is both a threat with his hands in the grappling department resulting in 21 finishes spanning 30 wins. 11 of those wins were submission victories, 37% and going with a grappling approach could mean less damage as he progresses in the tournament.

However, his current 5-0 streak only includes one win by finish, the KO of Chandler. Carvalho has only been put away once, so throughout this tournament, Pitbull should at least have his durability tested. 

Even when it comes to durability, he has the edge as his time with Bellator dates back to when tournaments were the main focus for the promotion. Pitbull was the runner-up in 2010’s Bellator Season Two Featherweight Tournament before winning Season Four in 2011. Carvalho debuted for Bellator in 2018, meaning he lacks that experience.

In this fight, it’s not so much about who is going to win but how that victory occurs. Carvalho should have a good showing before this one goes to the scorecards, unless the level of skill/strength of schedule is just that drastically far apart. Combat Press made another noteworthy point, also about going the distance bettors should be aware of.

“[Carvalho] has only fought in four fights that have gone to a decision. While Carvalho is 3-1 in those scenarios, Pitbull has a 75 percent winning percentage in 12 fights in his career that went the full distance.”

Prediction: Patricio Pitbull defeats Pedro Carvalho by decision

Bellator 252 Co-Main Event Betting Prediction: Weichel vs. Sanchez 2

Emmanuel Sanchez could redeem himself on Thursday night. After suffering a split-decision loss to Daniel Weichel in 2016, Sanchez has gone 6-1 with three submission finishes, two triangle chokes and an arm-triangle choke.

Weichel has more experience at 40-11 overall and should be considered the better grappler with 22 submission wins. This was why Sanchez kept things on the feet four years ago. He should be expected to do the same again, but hopefully with even more improved skills. 

Meanwhile, it could be argued that perhaps Weichel is at the beginning of a slow decline. While he is coming off a decision win over Saul Rogers in 2019, prior to that he’d had four bouts between 2016 and 2018 result in splits, going 2-2 since beating Sanchez the first time, again a split.

Aside from having far more fights than Sanchez, he is also 35 while Sanchez is 30. One must ask how many more punches Weichel’s punch card has left. Typically around this point, those in Weichel’s shoes have five years or so left in their careers. 

Only time will tell because Weichel did very well, resulting in two points in the contest where a stoppage from strikes seemed imminent when it was expected to be a battle on the ground. If he stays on the feet with Sanchez again though, OddsUSA suspects “El Matador” to get the nod.

Prediction: Emmanuel Sanchez defeats Daniel Weichel by decision

Looking Ahead to Bellator 253

The first semifinal bout of this tournament is already booked. A.J. McKee will face Darrion Caldwell at Bellator 253. If Patricio Pitbull advances as expected, he will face either Sanchez or Weichel in possible rematches. Not only did Pitbull beat both of these men, he did so in consecutive bouts around four months apart.

Expect Pitbull to surely advance to the semifinals where he will have fresh match-ups. Either way, neither McKee or Caldwell have his level of experience. It seems fair to expect Pitbull’s dominance to continue. 

Pitbull dropped the title to Daniel Strauss in 2015. He immediately earned another crack by defeating Henry Corales in 2016. His 2016 loss to Henderson was at lightweight, so he still had the third fight with Strauss on deck in 2017, which he won to immediately take the belt back. 

All this is to say Pitbull has had a hardly interrupted six year run as Bellator featherweight champion. He is the face of the division and should also be expected to actually keep his champ-champ status by defending at 155 at some point.