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Bellator MMA kicks off its weekend doubleheader with Bellator 245—an eight-fight event that features seven favorites with lines of -240 or above on Friday in Uncasville, Connecticut. Although there is currently only a single prop bet for each of the eight bouts in addition to selecting a winner—whether the fight goes the distance or not—there are still ways to come out ahead if one is willing to take a risk. Join us for this abbreviated edition of Prime Picks focusing on the first of the two Bellator cards.
Lyoto Machida (+290)
Picking Machida to get revenge against Phil Davis, who has arguably looked as good as ever in recent appearances, is one with substantial risk. The favored status of “Mr. Wonderful” at -350 and rising is just too great to plunk down your hard-earned cash, even if some expect that the former Penn State University wrestler’s victory is a foregone conclusion. These former top-ranked light heavyweights first met in 2013, and their records since then are relatively similar. Machida has dropped five bouts to top-tier fighters, including Luke Rockhold, Chris Weidman and Gegard Mousasi, while Davis has two losses to Ryan Bader among his four defeats since their meeting. On the other hand, Machida has won seven times, while Davis has prevailed in nine bouts.
The game plan for Davis should be an obvious one: take down the striker. He did so just a few times when they first fought, although Machida proved the far more efficient man and won the match in the eyes of every single media member scoring the bout. If there is a facet that the wrestler has developed significant since joining the Bellator MMA roster, it is his striking, especially with his legs. When taking on former champion Liam McGeary, Davis chopped down his legs and busted him up on the feet once he was hobbled, forcing a tapout due to strikes. If that strategically aggressive Davis shows up instead of a tentative one, it could be a long night for “The Dragon.”
Seven years have passed since the first fight, and Machida finds himself north of 40, with Davis seven years his junior. Fortunately for Machida, his karate style is not as vulnerable to depleting with age, and he looked polished and came close to topping Mousasi in their rematch a year ago. Stuffing the takedown and not spending a lot of time off his back will be key to his success. Where Davis can take advantage is if Machida remains gun-shy out of concern that he will overextend himself and get taken down.
This upset opportunity for Machida hinges on his ability to keep his distance, get his kicks off and check the ones that come at him. Should Davis grind him against the fence or drag him down to the ground, Machida may find himself in a bad situation for an extended amount of time. Although it is not likely that either man gets a finish – Fight Goes to Decision is a decent prop bet option of -210 – the last three wins for Davis have come in the third round. Were there an over line of whether the match went longer than 1.5 rounds, we would advise on one pursuing that. Otherwise, Machida has the tools to present the upset, he just has to pull the trigger and not get backed into a corner.
Rafael Carvalho (-135)
For the second line worth taking at Bellator 245, we have to drop down to the prelims. Cat Zingano as a -1000 favorite in the co-main event seems obvious considering the level of competition both women have faced and the fact that opponent Gabrielle Holloway missed weight by nearly five pounds. If anything, placing a small amount on Holloway at +650 could be feasible, as she may be able to throw her weight around against an aging Zingano who has lost four of five. Otherwise, Ed Ruth is expected to ragdoll Taylor Johnson, and Raymond Daniels is the prohibitive favorite over fellow standup fighter Peter Stanonik. Instead, we dive into the prelims, as former middleweight king Carvalho takes on Bellator newcomer Alex Polizzi.
Carvalho wandered up to light heavyweight after missing weight against Machida and Chidi Njokuani, and his first test in the 205-pound division was current champ Vadim Nemkov. The loss was one-sided, as Nemkov figured him out early and worked him over until he forced the stoppage in the second frame. Drawing a promotional newcomer with a little hype behind him and a spotless record, the 34-year-old Brazilian will need to put on an emphatic performance to not only stay in the top echelon of his division but to potentially stave off a pink slip. Throughout his career, Carvalho has preferred to keep things standing, where he can kick and knee and elbow his opponents at will. Carvalho’s takedown defense will likely be tested early, and it will be a statement for either man if he can stay upright or gets wrenched to the canvas.
The step down in competition for Carvalho from Nemkov to Polizzi is a wide one, although “Easy” earned his most impressive win to date by hitting a late heel hook on Jamal Pogues in February to capture the Legacy Fighting Alliance 205-pound throne. The unbeaten fighter went at it with Pogues for three hard rounds, and his wrestling proved to be the difference, as “The Stormtrooper” grew fatigued. In Carvalho’s first career knockout loss, Mousasi took him down repeatedly and earned a finish in under four minutes. Polizzi will almost certainly look to emulate his success, but Carvalho’s striking is on a level that Polizzi has not yet encountered.
In most of the last decade, the only men to defeat Carvalho were former or future champs in major organizations. Many of the men he has taken on have been willing to strike with him, and Polizzi might find himself a little too interested in testing his developing skills on the higher stage. Like the previous match, the mere threat of an oncoming takedown attempt from Polizzi could stifle some of Carvalho’s more spectacular striking, but Davis was a far more accomplished wrestler than Northwestern’s Polizzi. When the dust settles, we expect that Carvalho will be the first man to defeat his opponent. Even so, he will be tested and likely put on his back before it is all over.