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It has been six weeks since Bellator MMA staged an event on American soil. To make up for the missed time, the promotion is returning this weekend with two events, Bellator 235 and Bellator 236, which will be held on back-to-back nights from the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu. On the first leg of the weekend, the organization will put on a show in honor of the American military which they are calling Salute the Troops. The card is headlined by the legendary Josh Barnett, who will be stepping into the Bellator cage for the first time.
Let’s take a closer look at Bellator 235.
Barnett will make his long-awaited Bellator debut this Friday after requesting his release from the Ultimate Fighting Championship stemming from his ongoing feud with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Though his last positive test for a banned substance was determined to have come from a contaminated substance, it was the fourth time in his prestigious career that he had been flagged with a violation. When the 42-year-old finally steps back into the cage, it will mark the end of three years of inactivity. Though he has been on the sidelines, Barnett is an extremely experienced veteran who has faced a who’s who list of all-time top heavyweights, including the likes of Dan Severn, Pedro Rizzo (twice), Randy Couture, Mirko Filipovic (three times), Mark Hunt, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (twice), Sergei Kharitonov, Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Ben Rothwell and Andrei Arlovski. The last time we saw the former UFC heavyweight champion in action he showed some signs of wear and tear. The 6-foot-3, 256-pound warrior is still a crafty veteran, but he appears to have lost some of his hand speed, which he will be forced to make up for by constantly switching stances and trying to get his foes to guess what his attacks will be. The Warmaster does pack some serious power in his kicks, which he likes to use to target the body. The Washington native has always been a very strong clinch fighter, where he uses elbows and knees to batter his counterpart. The Erik Paulson student is a seasoned wrestler who likes to use trips to get his opponents to the canvas. His grappling, of course, is his bread and butter, earning him 19 total wins by way of submission. Though he has good takedown defense, he has struggled to get off the bottom when placed on his back.
When the Professional Fighters League announced their selections for the 2019 field, the pick of Ronny Markes was a surprising choice. He made matters worse by being unable to make the light heavyweight limit. Though he defeated Sigi Pesaleli in his first regular season match, he was removed from the competition after missing weight for the second time. The Brazilian heads into the main event matchup having lost six out of his last 11 appearances and being stopped five times during that run. His recent skid notwithstanding, Markes holds wins over the likes of Paulo Filho, Karlos Vemola, Aaron Simpson and Andrew Craig. The former middleweight is moving up to heavyweight, where he will need to show that there is some tread left on his 31-year-old tires. The UFC veteran can be a bit of a wild man on the feet. He loves throwing winging power shots with bad intentions and his best strikes may be his chopping leg kicks. His willingness to brawl leaves him open to take a lot of damage, though, and tends to empty his gas tank pretty fast. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is a solid wrestler with quick entries and good drive to get his opponents to the canvas. He attacks with a strong submission game and is good at sweeping his opponents when on the bottom.
When Bellator announced that Barnett was joining the roster, most expected his debut to be against a big name in the division like Fedor Emelianenko, Cheick Kongo or Matt Mitrione. I don’t think many would have expected PFL dropout Markes to be his first dance partner. After being out of the sport for a long time and being in the twilight of his career, it is hard to have any confidence in Barnett’s chances of turning back the clocks and make a run in the division. Even so, this still appears to be his fight to lose. He will be the much larger fighter in this matchup, so Markes will have to use his superior speed and whatever power he may gain from moving up in weight, but I believe it will all be to no avail. Expect the catch-wrestling master to muscle the Brazilian to the ground and finish off the smaller man with hard ground and pound. Barnett wins via second-round TKO.
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