Following a brief stop in America last week, Bellator heads back overseas Saturday for Bellator 190. The event takes place in Florence, Italy.
In the headlining bout, middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho puts his title on the line against Italy’s own Alessio Sakara. If Carvalho is successful in defending his belt, he will tie former champion Alexander Shlemenko for the most title defenses in division history with three. If Sakara wins the belt, he will extend his winning streak to four straight, his longest run of consecutive victories in nearly 15 years.
In the co-main event, Brandon Girtz looks to end his three-fight losing skid against Bellator newcomer Luka Jelcic, who has earned nine of his 10 career victories by first-round stoppage.
Bellator 190 takes place at Nelson Mandela Forum with a main card that airs at 8 p.m. ET on Spike via tape-delay.
Here are five reasons to watch the event.
1. Stand up
Expect a standup battle in Bellator 190’s main event. Carvalho (14-1 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) has 11 knockout victories on his resume. Sakara (19-11 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) has stopped 13 of his opponents with strikes. The two middleweights have a combined 51 percent finishing rate.
Sakara’s career appeared to be on the decline after he dropped four straight with the UFC between 2011 and 2013, but the Italian fighter has found a second wind over the past two years. Sakara is 3-0 (with one no-contest) heading into his shot at the 185-pound title. He won each of those three fights by knockout, including his two Bellator bouts – both of which took place in Italy.
Sakara is mostly a boxer, and that could hurt his chances to add another knockout win to his record against Carvalho’s kickboxing style. While Sakara has to get in close, Carvalho can end the fight with a single brutal kick – something he did against Brandon Halsey to win the title and to Melvin Manhoef in his most recent defense of his belt.
2. In need of a confidence boost
Girtz was climbing up the lightweight rankings a few years ago. He had run off three straight wins with two stoppages and looked poised for a breakthrough. Then things went south for the former NCAA Division II All-American wrestler.
A torn ACL put Girtz on the shelf for a year. When he returned, he lost three fights in a row. His most recent defeat was a doctor’s stoppage TKO loss to Derek Campos at Bellator 181. The stoppage was due to a ghastly cut on Girtz’s forehead.
In February, Girtz spoke to MMAjunkie about his tough run.
“I don’t think I’m injury prone (as some have called me), just some bad stuff happened and I’ve been unlucky,” Girtz said. “Once I get on a roll, we saw what happened when I beat Melvin (Guillard) and I knocked out Derek (Campos). Once my confidence starts going, I’m going to be a very hard man to deal with. If I can stay healthy for longer than a year, things are going to be looking great for me.”
At Bellator 190, Girtz (14-7 MMA, 5-5 MMA) fights for the third time this year, something he hasn’t done since 2013. It appears he has solved the staying healthy part of the equation. Now Girtz needs a win to regain his confidence. He looks to do that against Bellator newcomer Jelic (10-2 MMA, 0-0 BMMA). A Croatian fighter, Jelic has won his past four fights by first-round stoppage.
3. Things are looking up
Former kickboxing champion Lena Ovchynnikova had a fair amount of hype behind her when she joined Bellator last year, but she lost her promotional debut to Rebecca Ruth. Since then, the Ukrainian fighter is 2-0. With a victory in Italy, there is a chance she could set herself up for a shot at recently minted flyweight champion Ilima Macfarlane.
Considering her background, it’s no surprise Ovchynnikova has good striking skills. She’s not exceptionally busy on her feet, but when she does throw, she usually lands. Her combinations are fast and accurate, but not all that powerful. Where she struggles is in close. If her opponent can get in tight, Ovchynnikova lacks the strength to break free from the clinch and can be overpowered and taken to the mat.
Ovchynnikova (12-4-1 MMA, 2-1 BMMA) faces Alejandra Lara (6-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA). The Colombian fighter has five stoppage wins in six victories and makes her Bellator debut in Italy. Lara’s most recent bout took place in February 2016. She won that fight via second-round submission.
4. And now for the second act
Mihail Nica made his Bellator debut in April with a 36-second anaconda choke victory over the more experienced Samba Coulibaly.
The win gave the 26-year-old, who fights out of Italy, a perfect 6-0 record. Each of those wins came via stoppage. Only one of his fights has gone to the second round. At Bellator 190, Nica (6-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) faces the younger but more experienced Carlos Miranda (10-3 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) in a lightweight contest. Miranda, a 23-year-old Brazilian fighter, has won his four most recent bouts.
Lightweight is one of the more talented divisions in Bellator and Nica did what he needed to do to get noticed in the crowded weight class. If he can extend his stoppage streak to seven at Bellator 190, he could find himself in a high-pressure matchup in his next outing.
5. A looming presence
When Gegard Mousasi signed with Bellator, he had several goals in mind.
“I have to beat Shlemenko first, then the title fight, then maybe a matchup against Rory MacDonald, and then maybe light heavyweight,” Mousasi told MMAjunkie. “In light heavyweight, you have ‘King Mo’ (Lawal); you have Ryan Bader, Phil Davis, Chael Sonnen, Wanderlei Silva, ‘Rampage’ Jackson – all big names. Plenty of names I can fight and make exciting fights.”
He squeezed by Shlemenko but had his orbital bone broken in the process. With that win in his pocket, Mousasi (43-6-2 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) can now set his sights on the winner of Bellator 190’s main event.
Mousasi’s presence looms large over the card. It will be interesting to see if the victor of the main event calls for Mousasi as his next opponent or if he dismisses the former Strikeforce and DREAM light heavyweight champion since his win over Shlemenko did come with its share of controversy.
- Jimmy Smith: You better not underestimate champ Rafael Carvalho in Bellator 190 headliner
- UFC interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson undergoes elbow surgery
- Expect more quick turnarounds from Marlon Moraes, who wants hard road to the top
Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: 5 reasons to watch Bellator 190, including Alessio Sakara's home title shot in Italy