On Saturday, June 22nd, Bellator will be live from the SSE Arena in London, England, for Bellator 223 also known as Bellator London or Bellator: Lovato vs Mousasi. This is the third event in Bellator’s European series of shows and it features a middleweight title fight between the champ Gegard Mousasi and challenger Rafael Lovato Jr.
The co-main event of the night is a welterweight clash between England’s Paul Daley and Erick Silva. Also on the card will be Ireland’s James Gallagher, England’s Fabian Edwards, and Melvin Manhoef. In total, there are at least 18 bouts scheduled for this event with seven of them set to take place on the Main Card that begins at 9 PM ET and will stream live on DAZN. The preliminary action will begin at 6:30 PM ET and stream on Bellator’s official website.
MMA betting sites have released betting lines for some of the main card fights. Let’s step inside the betting octagon to examine these odds, identify value or potential upsets, and KO our picks.
On the surface, this fight would appear to be one-sided based on what Bellator betting sites have listed these odds at. However, this bout will be contested at a catchweight of 140 pounds, which means Labiano will have to drop five pounds and Gallagher will have to put on five pounds for this bout.
Jeremiah Labiano will step inside Bellator’s cage for the first time in nine months as he takes on Gallagher in a highly anticipated fight. Labiano is a large underdog despite winning his last Bellator fight. For his career, Labiano is 3-2 under the Bellator banner. He also has eight stoppage wins out of 12 career victories.
Labiano feels that a catchweight fight was done to help Gallagher and give him a better chance at winning. However, he also would go on to state how this weight is not going to be an issue and that Gallagher will be in trouble on Saturday:
“He wants any edge that he can get at beating me. But he’s forgetting that I did most of my fights at bantamweight, at 135. So, you know, the 145  cut is going to be easy for me. It’s going to be nothing. But yeah, I was calling for featherweight the whole time. According to the matchmaker, he wouldn’t budge. He wanted to do catchweight so I said, fu** it, let’s do it. Anyway, it doesn’t matter.”
James Gallagher has been one of Bellator’s most exciting prospects. He’s certainly one of the promotion’s more colorful young characters. Gallagher last fought in February when he headlined Bellator 217 in his native country of Ireland. He defeated Steven Graham via first round submission. It was the seventh submission win in eight career victories for Gallagher.
At 8-1, Gallagher is sitting as one of the bantamweight’s top contenders. However, he did suffer the first loss of his career last year against Ricky Bandejas who scored a first round KO. Some pundits and fans believe that Gallagher was exposed in the standup department. Bandejas was able to stuff James’ takedown attempts, then knock him out.
I don’t see Labiano knocking out Gallagher largely because I don’t believe he has the same power as Bandejas. The one area that Gallagher might run into problems, which he isn’t accustomed to, is on the mat. Labiano is a black belt in jiu-jitsu, which means that Gallagher’s grappling style won’t work as well against Jeremiah. Labiano’s experience has been recognized by Gallagher, but ESPN reports the young Irishman isn’t worried about the outcome:
“I’ve got a lot of respect for him, he’s a tough opponent. He’s a solid jiu-jitsu black belt; he’s fought some tough people. I feel like he is probably maybe the toughest fight of my career. I know I’m definitely the toughest fight in his career. I’ve studied him a lot, I can see his weaknesses. I’m going to break him up, bust him up bad and make him want out of there, and then I will give him his way out.”
Although they won’t admit it, the Bellator brass really wants Gallagher to win. His brashness earned him a new six-fight contract. Additionally, the more success he has, the more success Bellator has. Can you imagine if they have a title fight for Gallagher in Ireland?
With that said, I believe these odds are crazy. Gallagher is not this much of a favorite over Labiano. Gallagher is a talented prospect, but the veteran Labiano is the toughest fight of James’ career. Labiano can neutralize Gallagher’s ground game, which means James will have to win via striking. And that’s not an area that favors him.
I believe Labiano is worthy of a flier at these odds, but I do side with Gallagher for this fight. I believe he can win it via UD as long as he outworks his opponent and doesn’t get caught in a submission hold himself. Gallagher doesn’t offer any betting value.
Bellator Bet: James Gallagher (-540)
Erick Silva (20-10) vs Paul Daley (40-17-2)
Erick Silva (+240)
Paul Daley (-320)
Daley is a sizeable betting favorite despite coming into this contest on a two-fight losing streak and dropping three of his last four overall bouts. When we last saw Daley, he had lost to MVP in the welterweight grand prix via UD. It was a bitter fight between two men who can’t stand each other. Daley did a good job trying to neutralize MVP, but he couldn’t put together enough offense himself.
For this fight, Daley will look to blast Silva with one of his vicious knockout shots. 32 of Daley’s 40 career wins have come via TKO/KO. It’s the reason why fans and Bellator like to see him in the cage.
For Silva, he’s hoping that Bellator London will be an opportunity to rejuvenate his career. Silva had a rocky time in the UFC and dropped four of his last five fights with the promotion. His career record inside the octagon was 7-8. After parting ways with the UFC, Silva won in LFA before debuting with Bellator in February. Unfortunately, that didn’t go well as he lost his debut via UD to Amosov.
Nevertheless, Silva is confident heading into his fight with Daley. MMA Junkie states Erick views this as an interesting matchup and believes he can exploit Daley’s openings:
“It’s going to be an interesting fight against Paul Daley. He enjoys the standup game, as do I. He has heavy punches and great flying knees, but he leaves a lot of openings. I’m working with my team to find ways to surprise him during those moments.”
Will Silva Get Back on Track or Get KO’d?
I really find it hard to pick Silva in this fight. Although he has 13 submission wins in his 20 career victories, I don’t see him getting Daley to the ground and forcing the tap-out. More than anything, I see this fight staying upright until someone is dropped. That someone will most likely be Silva as Daley is a beast in the striking department. Erick has also suffered four KO/TKO losses in his career. I believe this weekend will mark his fifth TKO loss, as I see Daley ending this fight like only Daley can.
Bellator Bet: Paul Daley (-320)
Rafael Lovato Jr. (9-0) vs Gegard Mousasi (45-6-2)
Rafael Lovato Jr (+370)
Gegard Mousasi (-560)
Rafael Lovato Jr. is the biggest underdog of the night, according to the available betting odds for this event. Despite being undefeated, Lovato comes in at just under +400 odds. Rafael last fought in September 2018, winning via submission. He went 2-0 last year with both victories by way of submission. For his career, Lovato has scored submission wins in six of his nine career victories. Only one of his fights has gone the distance.
Lovato has been with Bellator for 27 months and has tallied a record of 5-0 under the banner. The reason he had to wait so long to step back inside the cage is that Mousasi injured his back and their January fight was called off. Lovato could’ve taken on another opponent, but the Evening Standard reported that he was only focused on Mousasi as his goal is to win the gold:
“We thought about other fights but it just didn’t make sense, Mousasi was the goal. I had already set my eyes and my focus on that, it just didn’t feel right to go after another fight. It means that I’ve just had more time to prepare. I did a couple of grappling matches to keep myself active and it all worked out perfectly.”
Mousasi is one of the top middleweights in all of MMA. Nicknamed “The Dreamcatcher,” Gegard has proved that he is one of the top fighters in Bellator with his 3-0 record and big win against the welterweight champ Rory MacDonald last year. Mousasi is on an eight-fight win streak since his loss to Uriah Hall in September 2015. He avenged that loss 14 months later via first round TKO. For his career, 26 of his 45 wins have come via TKO/KO. Furthermore, six of his last eight wins have come via TKO.
Gegard Mousasi has had a few setbacks in his prolific career. With that said, this is arguably the most dangerous we’ve seen him. It appears that Gegard has put all of his skills together and he’s just steamrolling anyone in his way. His fight last year against MacDonald was a solid victory for Gegard and an impressive one. He took it to MacDonald and outstruck a great striker.
For this fight, Mousasi is focused on Lovato. And he’s very respectful when commenting on his opponent’s dangerous jiu-jitsu and grappling skills:
“For this fight, he could get me to the ground and maybe submit me in one minute. But that’s his thing. It doesn’t matter that he only has nine (MMA) fights. If I grapple with him in jiu-jitsu, he could win, but thank God for me it’s MMA.”
Mousasi also acknowledges that Lovato has a decent standup game, but he feels that he has the advantage in ground and pound and standup. His aim for this fight is to go in there, “punch him and knock him out.”
If Mousasi gets by Lovato, he could see a potential shot at the welterweight title or light heavyweight title in the near future. Mousasi would have a great chance at holding two belts especially if he can cut down to the welterweight division. With that said, Mousasi isn’t focused on the gold, he’s focused on winning and his health:
“If they pay me more, maybe I could try that and maybe get another belt, do something special. If not, I don’t care. I’ll just keep fighting these three fights. I’m realistic. I’m not thinking of legacy, I’m just thinking of winning and staying healthy. I will look at the result of these three fights and see if I’m still at the top of the game. If I keep losing then I know I’m at the end of my career. But I keep winning now, so I’m not there, but I’ll see after three fights.”
Can Lovato Pull off the Bellator Upset?
If Lovato gets this fight to the mat, then he has a great shot at winning. However, that’s a tall task for anyone, even a grappler with the skills that Rafael has. With that said, I believe the oddsmakers have overvalued Mousasi some and they have undervalued Lovato. When one fighter has a clear advantage in either the ground game or striking, then they have a decent shot at winning. These odds indicate that Lovato has very little chance. Even Mousasi states that Lovato could win if he gets him to the mat.
I’m taking Mousasi to win, because he’s a smart, strong and ferocious fighter. He also has a massive experience advantage over Rafael despite their age. But Lovato is on the upset radar and is worthy of a flier.
Bellator Bet: Gegard Mousasi (-560)
Additional Bellator 223 Main Card Predictions
As of this writing, the following Main Card fights don’t have any MMA betting odds:
Melvin Manhoef (30-14-1) vs Kent Kauppinen (11-4)
Don’t blink, because you might miss a knockout. Kauppinen last fought in December and won via KO just 70 seconds into the fight. It was the ninth KO/TKO win of his 11 career victories. However, Manhoef has 28 KO/TKO wins out of 30 victories, but has been absent from Bellator for two years. Despite being 43 years old, I expect Manhoef to come away with the TKO/KO win. Kauppinen hasn’t faced anyone like this before.
Mike Shipman (13-1) vs Costello van Steenis (11-1)
This is a battle of rising contenders looking to take another step toward the top of the middleweight division. Shipman is from the UK and will have the crowd support. He’s also a solid striker with eight KO/TKO wins in 13 victories. Shipman has stopped all 13 of his opponents on his way to a BAMMA championship belt. He will take on Costello van Steenis (CVS) who also only has one loss.
CVS is a protégé of Gegard Mousasi and has shown some of the same tenacity in his fights. However, he is a better grappler than Mousasi. With that in mind, Costello praised his opponent, but told MMA Junkie he is confident that he will win on Saturday:
“He’s a strong guy and a good fighter. He starts hard, I start hard, but I think he gasses out quickly, though. I think I’ve got a big advantage in that. I believe I’m going to drag him into very deep waters in whatever way the bout goes, whether wrestling, stand-up, or on the ground. I do not believe this will be decided on points. There’s definitely going to be a finish.”
I like what I’ve seen from both fighters in their last Bellator contests. Since I have to choose one, I’m going with Costello. I feel that he is a better all-around fighter at this stage of their respective careers. But this should be a fun fight to watch.
Winner: Costello van Steenis
Fabian Edwards (7-0) vs Jonathan Bosuku (7-4)
Bosuku is making his Bellator debut this weekend. The French fighter has won five straight bouts coming into this matchup. However, he’s going up against one of Bellator’s top prospects in Fabian Edwards who just fought in May and February. Edwards has stopped six of his seven opponents and is quickly moving up the middleweight division.
You might recall that Fabian was backstage at UFC Fight Night 147 in the UK to support his brother Leon in his fight against Gunnar Nelson. Leon would win the fight, but end up in a scuffle backstage when Jorge Masvidal attacked him during an interview.
Fabian vowed to beat up Jorge whether it was inside a cage or on the streets. As for this fight, I don’t even see it being close. Edwards is a superior MMA fighter and will finish Bosuku within the distance. The only question is whether or not he will force the tap-out or get the knockout.
Winner: Fabian Edwards
Charlie Ward (6-3) vs Justin Moore (7-2)
Moore is an English fighter looking to get a big win in his Bellator debut. However, that might be too tough of a task for Moore as he’s taking on the rejuvenated Charlie Ward who has won his last three fights. All three of those wins have come under the Bellator banner.
Ward is a teammate of Conor McGregor and came to Bellator after dropping two fights in a row with the UFC. He turned his career around and has won all three fights via TKO/KO in the first round.
Moore might be a step up in competition, but I don’t see it mattering much. So, Ward doesn’t get the first round stoppage. He will just get the second round TKO instead. I’m taking Ward to continue his solid run with Bellator over a game, but outmatched Moore.
Winner: Charlie Ward
Bellator 223 Final Thoughts
Although I’m not as excited for this card as I was for Bellator 222, I still believe this is a solid event. In fact, this is two strong weeks in a row for Bellator. In addition to the highly anticipated main event title fight, there’s buzz over Gallagher’s return to the cage and even the 43-year old Manhoef’s return. I would love to see “the old man” win his fight. Let’s not forget how Daley can add to his career highlight reel with just one vicious punch.
Additionally, Shipman vs Costello van Steenis is going to be a solid bout and could possibly steal the show if they go the full three rounds. I expect Fabian Edwards to send the fans home happy with a quick, impressive win as well.
Although online betting sites don’t have betting odds for all of the fights, there is some potential for upsets here. Labiano and Lovato are much better fighters than their odds indicate. With that said, this event offers more entertainment value than betting value. In the end, Bellator will put on another strong event and that’s great for the entire sport of MMA.
Bellator 223 Full Card
(C) Gegard Mousasi vs Rafael Lovato Jr.
Paul Daley vs Erick Silva
James Gallagher vs Jeremiah Labiano
Mike Shipman vs Costello van Steenis
Melvin Manhoef vs Kent Kauppinen
Fabian Edwards vs Jonathan Bosuku
Charlie Ward vs Justin Moore
Chris Bungard vs Charlie Leary
Terry Brazier vs Tim Wilde
George Tokkos vs John Redmond
Richard Kiely vs Galore Bofando
Nathan Rose vs Luke Ord
Nathan Greyson vs Frans Mlambo
Kate Jackson vs Lena Ovchynnikova
Denise Kielholtz vs Bryony Tyrell
Alfie Davis vs Josema Jose da Paz
Walter Gahadza vs Oliver Enkamp
Justin Burlinson vs Wendle Lewis
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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