Bellator will be live from the SAP Center in San Jose, California, for Bellator 226: Bader vs Kongo on Saturday, September 7th. The main event of the night is a heavyweight title fight as champion Ryan Bader puts his title on the line against Cheick Kongo.
In addition to the heavyweight title fight, Bellator’s featherweight tournament gets underway with four fights featuring eight of the 16 total participants. The other half of the field will fight at Bellator 228 on September 28th.
In total, there are 20 fights scheduled for this event. The prelims are set to begin at 6:45 PM ET and the main card will begin at 10 PM ET. The entire event will be streamed on DAZN.
Sports betting sites have Bellator 226 odds trickling in throughout the week leading up to fight night. Let’s look at the available odds, identify potential value, and KO our picks.
Bellator 226 Main Card
The main card for Bellator 226 features six fights with five of them being featherweight bouts.
Gaston Bolanos (5-1) vs Daniel Carey (5-3)
- Gaston Bolanos (TBA)
- Daniel Carey (TBA)
Gaston Bolanos versus Daniel Carey is a featherweight fight, but not one that is part of the official featherweight tournament. This bout will open the main card portion of Bellator 226.
Some may question why Bolanos wasn’t in the tournament, but Gaston has taken this all in stride, as he continues to ascend up the division. He’s honored that the fans and pundits are talking about him and knows that he could end up as an alternate if one of the 16 tournament fighters pull out or get hurt.
As for this fight, I expect Bolanos to be a large betting favorite when the lines do come out. All five of his pro wins have been via KO/TKO. He floored Nathan Stolen in April and created quite the buzz. His opponent at Bellator 226 is more of a steppingstone than a real threat.
Carey is coming off a loss last November, which was the third of his career. Although he’s 2-1 under the Bellator banner, Carey has yet to prove that he can contend in this division. I don’t expect him to win this fight. In fact, I see him getting floored just like Stolen.
In his last two fights, Bolanos was a -700 favorite against Stolen and a -1200 favorite against Gutierrez. You can expect his odds for this fight against Carey to be somewhere in between. Regardless of the line, Bolanos won’t offer any value despite likely coming away with his sixth TKO/KO victory.
(c) Ryan Bader (27-5) vs Cheick Kongo (30-10-2)
- Ryan Bader (-350)
- Cheick Kongo (+250)
Kongo is a sizable underdog in this heavyweight title fight, but he will have the actual size advantage. Kongo will be at least 10 to 15 pounds heavier than Bader, and he will have an eight-inch reach advantage. However, some pundits believe that the 44-year-old Kongo is a bit long in the tooth.
I say, don’t let the age fool you. Kongo has won eight straight fights and he’s aiming to set out to prove all of the doubters wrong:
“I can do it. Age means nothing. It will show them that I am the best heavyweight in the world. People have doubted me, gave up on me, I wasn’t in the grand prix, this will show and prove them all wrong.”
15 of Kongo’s 30 pro wins have come via KO/TKO. 18 of his 42 total fights have gone the distance. Kongo believes this fight will end in a KO/TKO, and he hopes to be the one still standing at the end of it.
Ryan Bader is Bellator’s top star. Not only is he the heavyweight champ, but he’s also the light heavyweight champ. The promotion’s president Scott Coker has publicly declared that Bader is the best heavyweight in the entire sport. According to MMA Fighting, that’s a praise that Bader fully agrees with:
“For me, I believe that [I am the best]. If you don’t believe that, then you shouldn’t be in this sport. I do believe I’m the best in the world. That’s where I feel the best in terms of being agile, speed, cardio, all that kind of stuff plus I have the power. It was nice to get that recognition, too, so now I just have to go out there and continue to prove it.”
I believe that Bader is the best heavyweight that’s not in the UFC, but I can’t say he’s the best in the sport. When he fought in the UFC, Bader competed in the light heavyweight division. Although he had success, he wasn’t the best in that weight class. A man named Jon Jones was at the time and still is.
Bader does have the agility, speed, and cardio to be a scary heavyweight. He’s undefeated in this weight class while ripping through the heavyweight tournament on his way to becoming the champ. When Bader fights, he’s most likely going to score a TKO/KO or grind it out for a decision win.
12 of his 27 pro wins have come via TKO/KO and another 12 have been by decision. He does have three TKO/KO losses, which is why Kongo believes that there’s a chance at handing Bader a fourth TKO/KO loss and taking the title.
For me, I believe this fight will come down to Bader working toward getting Kongo to the mat. Once he has him there, Bader will control the fight with his top level wrestling skills and ground and pound for a TKO win or grind Kongo for the entire fight. Either way, Bader will win this title bout.
Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix
I, along with many other Bellator fans, am pumped up for this featherweight tournament. It features 16 of the promotion’s top featherweights all battling for the championship belt and a $1 million purse to the winner.
The first round of fights for this Grand Prix will be split over two events: half of the fights on Bellator 226 this Saturday and the other half at Bellator 228 on September 28th.
Current featherweight champ Patricio Freire will be in the tournament as he takes on Juan Archuleta at Bellator 228 on September 28th. Every fight the champ participates in, the belt will be on the line. Even if Freire loses to Archuleta, Juan will have to defend the belt in his next tournament fight.
The following tournament matches are scheduled for Bellator 226:
Sam Sicilia (17-9) vs Pedro Carvalho (10-3)
- Sam Sicilia (TBA)
- Roberto de Carvalho (TBA)
Sicilia is a former UFC veteran who fought for the promotion from June 2012 until February 2017. He was released after losing three straight fights. Sam signed with Bellator and debuted with the promotion in December 2017. He’s 2-1 with the company, but hasn’t fought since last December.
12 of Sicilia’s 15 wins have come via stoppage. The 33-year-old American has been in the fight game for over a decade, but appears to have reached his ceiling. He’s been the underdog in four straight fights and I expect him to be it for this fight as well.
Pedro Carvalho has won five straight fights including all three of his Bellator contests. He last fought in May and defeated Campos via TKO in the second round. Campos is in this tournament as well and will also be fighting on this card. Ironically, Campos also lost to Sicilia in his last fight.
Carvalho is only 24 years old and is still growing in this sport. However, he’s already showed a propensity on the ground as five of his 10 pro wins have come via submission. I believe this is how he will defeat Sicilia as Sam is inefficient on the mat and has five submission losses in his career.
Emmanuel Sanchez (18-4) vs Tywan Claxton (5-0)
- Emmanuel Sanchez (TBA)
- Tywan Claxton (TBA)
Claxton is an interesting featherweight prospect with less than two years’ experience as a professional fighter. In his 22-month career, he’s gone 5-0 and has won four of those fights via KO/TKO. Claxton also has a strong background in wrestling from his college days.
With that said, Claxton is facing his toughest test to date. This is a huge step up in competition for Tywan, and I’m not sure he will be able to handle the challenge. I expect him to be a sizeable underdog as well.
Emmanuel Sanchez is a solid all-around fighter who recently competed for the world title held by Freire. Sanchez lost to the champ last November via unanimous decision. With that said, Sanchez has already defeated several fighters in the tournament: Karakhanyan, Sicilia, Straus, and Corrales.
When you look over his resume, Sanchez has to be one of the favorites in this tournament. He will certainly be the favorite in this fight, and I expect him to win. Claxton has potential, but Sanchez is battle tested and strong on the mat. He can also stand and strike for the full three rounds.
I’m taking Sanchez to win this fight via decision. 14 of his 22 pro fights have gone the distance and Emmanuel has a record of 10-4 in those bouts.
Daniel Straus (26-8) vs Derek Campos (19-9)
- Daniel Straus (TBA)
- Derek Campos (TBA)
Daniel Straus, a former featherweight champ, came back to the cage in March after missing nearly 18 months due to health issues outside of the sport. With that said, he looked good in his fight back as he won via first-round submission over Shane Kruchten. 15 of his 26 pro wins have come via decision.
Campos is not the fighter he used to be. In fact, I seriously question why he’s even in the tournament when he’s lost three straight fights. And all three of those losses were to other tournament participants: Freire, Sicilia, and Carvalho. This is where Gaston Bolanos should’ve had Campos’ spot instead.
I have very little confidence in either man advancing to the finals of the tournament. As for this contest, I believe Straus is the better overall fighter, and he will win via decision. The two men combine for 27 fights going the distance in their 62 career bouts.
Pat Curran (23-8) vs Adam Borics (13-0)
- Pat Curran (TBA)
- Adam Borics (TBA)
Of the opening batch of featherweight tournament fights, this is the one that I’m most excited for. In fact, this is the one fight I’m looking forward to the most on the entire Bellator 226 card. I expect Curran to be the betting favorite once MMA betting sites release odds for this bout.
Pat Curran is also a former featherweight champ, but lost in his return fight this past May via decision. He dropped the bout to AJ McKee who is undefeated and in this tournament as well. With that said, Curran is a very tough fighter and has a strong wrestling game.
12 of his 23 pro wins have come via stoppage. Curran has pretty much fought every legitimate contender in the division. Now, he takes on an undefeated prospect who has seemingly come out of nowhere.
Borics is 4-0 in Bellator, but it’s his surprising win over Pico in June that solidified his spot in this tournament. Borics scored a TKO win over the highly-touted Pico with a flying knee. Nine of his 13 pro wins have come via stoppage with six of those contests ending via submission.
You can’t count Borics out of this fight. He does pack some power behind impressive striking skills. Nevertheless, he’s going up against a former champ who has a serious experience advantage. Curran also has the advantage on the ground where I see this fight going.
I’m taking Curran to win this exciting matchup after controlling the fight from the mat. He will either find a limb to lock onto or take top control until landing some ground and pound.
Final Thoughts on Bellator 226
This is going to be an exciting Bellator event. The entire main card is worth watching, especially the first half of the featherweight grand prix. Additionally, the main event heavyweight title fights should be entertaining as the two men try to take each other’s heads off.
I’m really looking forward to this card and fully plan on watching it stream live on DAZN. Like many other Bellator events, you will have to wait until we get closer to fight night for more betting odds.