On Saturday, May 11th, Bellator will be live from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, for Bellator 221: Chandler vs Pitbull. The main event of the night is a lightweight title fight as champion Michael Chandler defends his belt against the current featherweight champ Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. The co-main event is a semifinal matchup for the Welterweight Grand Prix as the former champ Douglas Lima takes on the undefeated “MVP” Michael Page.
Also on the card is the return of former WWE superstar Jake “Jack Swagger” Hager in his second professional fight. One more notable bout is the undefeated A.J. McKee taking on longtime Bellator veteran Pat Curran.
The preliminary bouts are set to begin at 6:30 PM ET and the main card will begin at 9 PM ET and stream on DAZN. MMA betting sites have released betting odds for this event. Let’s step inside the betting octagon to check out the latest Bellator lines, identify any potential betting value, and KO our picks.
Bellator 221 Main Card Predictions
The following fights are scheduled for the main card portion of the night and they will stream live on DAZN beginning at 9 PM ET.
James Bennett (3-0) vs Tywan Claxton (4-0)
Tywan Claxton is one of the handful of promising prospects on Bellator’s roster. Nicknamed “Speedy,” Claxton has gone undefeated since debuting for Bellator in November 2017. His last fight was in December at Bellator 212 and he defeated Kaeo Meyer via TKO in the first round. Claxton was a huge betting favorite in that fight at -445 odds. However, those odds were down from his Bellator 194 fight against Cris Lencioni when he was a -1700 to -1800 betting favorite.
As of this writing, no betting odds are available for this fight. However, if I had to speculate, Claxton would be a big favorite once again. Bennett hasn’t fought in a year. He took on Stusse at Bellator 198 and won via TKO in the first round. However, that was his only fight under in this promotion.
Claxton doesn’t have to look far ahead to see what’s waiting in his future. Featherweight champ Pitbull is on the card along with top contenders McKee and Curran.
For this fight, I’m taking Claxton to win via TKO. However, if the online betting sites do list odds closer to the event, I don’t see Claxton offering any value.
Winner: Tywan Claxton
Jake Hager (1-0) vs T.J. Jones (0-1)
The artist formerly known as “Jack Swagger” in the WWE is stepping back inside the cage this weekend to take on T.J. Jones in his second pro fight. Hager dominated Kiser in his first fight which took place at Bellator 214 in January. Hager won via submission. And, no, it wasn’t with his former WWE finisher, the ankle lock. He actually won via arm triangle choke.
T.J. Jones was handpicked for Hager to dominate. Nicknamed “Tombstone,” Jones will be pushing up daisies after this contest. T.J. lost his first pro fight via submission in less than a minute into the bout. I don’t see him lasting past the first round in this contest.
Hager’s odds were as high as -800 for his fight against Kiser. If odds become available for this contest, I would expect Jake to be a huge betting favorite. Hager will win this heavyweight fight via submission.
If there weren’t two big fights at the top of the card, this featherweight battle could’ve been the main event. We have a veteran and former champ taking on the rising undefeated contender. It has all of the makings of an epic showdown.
Pat Curran is a former two-time featherweight champion. He’s also the winner of Bellator Season Two Lightweight Tournament and the winner of Bellator 2011 Summer Series Featherweight Tournament. The 31-year-old is a longtime Bellator veteran with 17 fights in the promotion.
Although there are no current betting odds for this bout, as of this writing, Curran has been a betting favorite in his last four fights. He was an underdog against Freire in their second match. Curran did defeat Patricio in their first match but lost the featherweight title to Freire in their rematch nearly five years ago.
For McKee, he’s one of the top prospects in Bellator and his time as the best in the division might be now. He fought three times in 2018 and four times in 2017. In those seven fights, he stopped four of his opponents. Of his 13 career wins, nine of them have come via KO and submission. Additionally, he’s been a betting favorite in his last 10 fights. When McKee took on Crawford in December, he was as high as -2000 depending on the sportsbook.
If odds are released for this bout, I expect McKee to be the betting favorite. Curran is a warrior, but he hasn’t fought since October 2017. That’s a long layoff and he’s going up against the hottest fighter in the division.
This is going to be McKee’s toughest fight to date, but I think “Mercenary” can rise to the occasion. However, I don’t think he’s going to stop Curran. More than likely, McKee is going to have to win this fight via the score cards. I’m taking A.J. McKee to win via UD.
This exciting fight is a semifinal matchup for Bellator’s Welterweight Grand Prix. Like the McKee vs Curran fight, this matchup is also an undefeated contender taking on a veteran and former champ. MVP is the underdog and offers great betting value. However, this is the first time he’s been an underdog in at least 10 fights. Ironically, Lima was the betting underdog in his last four fights.
Michael “Venom” Page, also known as “MVP,” advanced to this round of the tournament by defeating his rival Paul Daley in February via UD. He’s one of the promotion’s most exciting fighters and it’s largely due to his unique fighting style. MVP is lanky, but he has power in his hands. Eight of his 14 career wins have come via KO/TKO and another three have come via submission. That’s 11 stoppages in 14 fights. Unfortunately, he’s going up against Lima who could give him troubles.
Lima advanced in the tournament by defeating Andrey Koreshkov last September. It was their trilogy fight as Lima won the second encounter in November 2016. Their first fight was in 2015, and Koreshkov won via UD. Prior to his fight last September, Lima had lost the welterweight title to Rory MacDonald in January 2018.
Speaking on MacDonald, Rory might drop out of the tournament. His future is in doubt after his post-fight comments against Fitch last month. That Grand Prix fight ended in a Majority Draw, but MacDonald shocked everyone when he openly talked about his future being in doubt.
MMA Mania reports Lima would love to get another shot at MacDonald:
“That’s a fight I would like to get the rematch, the first was so close and many people think I won, but the title is more important. Of course I’m hoping he keeps going, everything goes good, that’s the final I would like. Let’s see what happens. Hopefully he finds himself and gets back in the tournament.”
Can Lima Hand MVP His First Loss?
Lima is as tough as they come. He can stand up and brawl or take the fight to the ground and grind out a win. More than likely, he will take MVP to the mat because Lima has a huge advantage in this aspect of the fight game. It’s why the oddsmakers have Lima as the large betting favorite.
However, this strategy isn’t a surprise to anyone. MVP is fully aware of what Lima will do and has been training hard to deal with this:
“Yeah of course. Every time we get back in the gym you’re working on all your mistakes you made in the last fight. I think mentally I wasn’t really there (against Daley) and just wasn’t responding the way I normally would be. I don’t care about opinions though. As long as I keep winning it doesn’t matter.”
Page has been very respectful of Lima this entire build up. In fact, he’s been a fan of Lima’s since getting into MMA:
“Douglas Lima is an amazing fighter, amazing athlete, someone that I rooted for all the time that I’ve been in this game and the time that I’ve been in Bellator. I’m just excited to show my skills against him. I look forward to it.”
For Lima, he understands that MVP presents a unique challenge with his striking style. But the former champ believes he will hand Page his first loss:
“I’ve got my own style. I’ve got an answer for a style that he brings. I know nobody was able to deal with it, but I’m about to be the first one to you know. I’m ready, I’ve been ready for this for a while, and I can’t wait to show it on May 11th.”
Who Advances to the Finals?
This is going to be a very exciting fight if Page can prevent Lima from dominating him on the ground. MVP will need to show great improvement in takedown defense from what he showed against Paul Daley three months ago. Lima is a much better grappler than Daley who is largely known for his punching power.
I have to lean toward Lima in this fight. However, I do believe that MVP offers value and is worthy of a flier. He can change a fight with just one punch and has the reach advantage to keep Lima at a distance. The question is whether or not Lima can close that distance before eating too many power shots.
With that said, I do believe Lima has the style to defeat Page. The odds are a bit high in the disparity for this one, but Lima is the smart play here.
Bellator Bet: Douglas Lima (-240)
Patricio Freire (28-4) vs Michael Chandler (19-4)
Patricio Freire (+190)
Michael Chandler (-230)
In the main event of the night, we have a champ vs champ fight where only Chandler’s lightweight title is on the line. That means Freire will keep his featherweight belt even if he loses. It also means that Patricio had to come up in weight for this title fight. Freire is a sizable underdog. It’s the first time he’s not the betting favorite in two years. Chandler has been the betting favorite in all of his fights over the last eight years, dating back to his bout against Eddie Alvarez in 2011.
Another great aspect about this battle is that these two fighters don’t like each other. Chandler addressed this bad blood in the Bellator conference call last week:
“For me it doesn’t mean a thing. I’m extremely nasty when I step into that cage. Unlike Rory MacDonald, I talk to my God every day and he’s fine with me beating the hell out of people. You can mother-eff me all you want but at the end of the day you’ve got to step in there with the toughest dude you’ve ever stepped into the cage with. It’s great that we have the history and the bad blood — the promoters can promote and the reporters can report. All I’m thinking about is outperforming the Michael Chandler who stepped into the cage the last time.”
To reinforce the fact that this is going to be a nasty fight, Freire made the following comments about Chandler in the conference call:
“I don’t care about ranking him against my other opponents. I just want to shut him up, make him hurt, and make him feel every punch. I know he quits when he gets hurt. He’s a little cat when he gets hit.”
Will Freire’s Emotions Get the Better of Him?
Freire is coming into this fight red-hot with emotions. Not only is he publicly blasting and feuding with Chandler, but he also got into it with A.J. McKee during Bellator’s conference call. They call him “Pitbull” for a reason and he’s certainly showing off that bark. But, can he show off the bite against Chandler?
Freire acknowledges that Chandler is a dangerous fighter, but he declares that his opponent is not a smart fighter and that will be his key to victory on Saturday:
“My opponent just thinks about using strength and is not a smart fighter. He’s dangerous, he knows that he’s dangerous, but tactically and strategic wise he’s not smart and I’m going to destroy his world May 11th.”
As for Chandler, he’s been very cool during this pre-fight process. He hasn’t allowed his emotions to get the better of him. But, he’s also not a pushover as he did fire back at Pitbull:
“This is my 24th fight. I’ve heard it all. Everybody thinks their opponent has all these glaring weaknesses. I’m going to be the smartest most veteran I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve continued to improve and I’m stepping into the cage with a guy who is beatable in every aspect of the game. The good thing is his brother will be in the corner to see me dismantle him as well.”
Will Pitbull Become a “Champ Champ?”
Freire has won three straight fights including a trilogy bout against Daniel Straus two years ago. Freire fought twice in 2018, winning both via decision. However, his fight against Weichel ended in a Split Decision victory. In his 28 career wins, Pitbull has stopped 20 of his opponents.
For Chandler, he’s won three straight fights as well. His last fight was in December, and he handed Brent Primus the first loss of his career. Chandler also got his revenge on Primus as Brent was the only fighter to defeat Chandler in his last eight fights spanning nearly four years. That span included a win over Henderson and Patricio’s brother Patricky. 14 of chandler’s 19 career wins have come via stoppage. Of those 14, they’re split evenly between submissions and knockouts.
In the featherweight division, Pitbull uses his toughness, aggressiveness, and knockout power to his advantage. But, he’s going up in weight and fighting a bigger fighter who is dangerous on his feet and on the mat. Chandler is a great wrestler which should counter Pitbull’s BJJ offense. Furthermore, Chandler has just as much punching power, if not more, than Freire.
Chandler will have a two to three-inch height advantage and a four to five-inch reach advantage. I believe his reach advantage will be the difference maker. I’m taking Chandler to win via TKO in the latter rounds of this fight. With that said, Freire is worthy of a flyer due to his punching power and the bad blood for this fight.
Bellator Bet: Michael Chandler (-230)
Final Thoughts on Bellator 221
Last weekend’s Bellator card was lackluster on paper, but had a strong showing when the action started. This weekend’s card is filled with big names and will certainly bring the action. The main card features three fights that are all worthy of headlining Bellator events. Furthermore, we have a champ vs champ battle in the main event. You can’t ask for more than that. Additionally, the co-feature is a Grand Prix semifinal matchup where two incredible fighters will go to war to advance in the tournament.
And, if that weren’t enough to sell you on this card, the McKee vs Curran fight could end up stealing the show if they go the distance and punch each other in the face for all three rounds. Not only is this card full of entertainment value, but there’s also plenty of betting value and potential upsets that could provide MMA bettors with money making opportunities. Get your popcorn ready because Bellator 221 is going to be explosive.
Bellator 221 Fight Card
Patricio Freire (28-4) vs Michael Chandler (19-4)
Michael Page (14-0) vs Douglas Lima (30-7)
James Bennett (3-0) vs Tywan Claxton (4-0)
Jake Hager (1-0) vs T.J. Jones (0-1)
Pat Curran (23-7) vs A.J. McKee (13-0)
Adil Benjilany (5-1) vs Cris Lencioni (3-2)
Scott Writz (0-0) vs Josh Streacker (5-1)
Bryan Bautista (1-0) vs Rob Fenicle (1-0)
Askar Askar (7-0) vs Taylor Moore (7-2)
Romero Cotton (3-0) vs Matt Paul (3-2)
Craig Fruth (7-4) vs P.J. Cajigas (7-9)
James Bochnovic (9-4) vs Rob Morrow (24-21-1)
As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site. ...
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