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Weekend Preview for November 3-5 Part I: Bellator 186, LFA 26, ‘Wilder vs. Stiverne’ Rematch

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After a quiet weekend last week, we get an absolute monster that includes the UFC’s return to the Mecca of Combat Sports, Bellator comes to Penn State, HBO and Showtime boxing go head to head, and Impact Wrestling returns to PPV in their new home.

Friday, November 3, 2017

MMA

LFA 26 — Arena Theatre — Houston, Texas — 9 p.m. ET (AXS TV)

LFA returns to Legacy’s old home state with a card headlined by their inaugural heavyweight champion, full-time San Antonio Police Officer Richard the Black Eagle Odoms (13-3) defends his title for the first time against promotional newcomer Jeff Hughes (7-1). Odoms is forty-two years old, so he’s unlikely to ever make it to the UFC, so submitting Jared Vanderra with a kimura in June to become the first LFA champion was a great way to cap his career, and defending his title here would be even sweeter to the man who turned pro at the age of thirty-five.

In an interesting prelim bout, Itzel Esquibel (2-1) tries to get on track against Nicolle Angelica Caliari (3-1). Esquibel came into MMA with some excellent striking credentials, and a successful LFA debut in March but fell in her last fight, submitting to Maycee Barber. Caliari will be making her US debut and is riding a two-fight winning streak, both by knockout, so this has the makings of a fun matchup.

Bellator 186 — Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State University — State College, Pennsylvania

Bellator returns with one of their biggest cards featuring the first title defense of new Bellator light heavyweight champion and former UFC contender Ryan Bader (23-5) defends his title for the first time, taking on a longtime Bellator standout in Brit Linton Vassell (26-10). Bader rode a two-fight winning streak into his Bellator debut in June, when he defeated old rival Phil Davis to win the title. That was an awkward fight where two elite wrestlers almost canceled each other out. Bader should have much more success against Vassell, who is riding a three-fight winning streak, including tapping out former champion Liam McGeary in May in England to earn the title shot. It was the biggest win of his career which should give him plenty of confidence coming into his fight. Bader is probably the more powerful, explosive fighter and it should be a good first title defense for him.

In the co-main, the first ever Bellator female flyweight champion will be crowned, pitting Ilima Macfarlane (6-0) faces Emily Ducote (6-2) in a rematch of an excellent three round battle the two ladies had last December. The undefeated Macfarlane, who did a great intimation of the Disney character Moana at the weigh ins, got the nod that night and followed it up with a submission win over previously undefeated Jessica Middleton in April. Meanwhile, Oklahoma girl Ducote has won two in a row since. It will be interesting to see who has made the adjustments in this fight and it’s also the first five round fight for both. Surely, Bellator is happy that they are crowning their first champion a month before the UFC, so hopefully the girls celebrate that with another great fight.

Meanwhile, former light heavyweight champion Phil Davis, the former Penn State wrestler who has been the face of a lot of the card’s promotion locally, faces an interesting promotional debut in Leo Leite. Leite is thirty-nine years old, but he’s a black belt in both judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and carries a 10-0 record into the promotion. He was Legacy FC’s middleweight and light heavyweight champion. It’s a very interesting fight for Davis on his home turf, who clearly taking a risk in order get back to a third fight with champion Bader, which will be ever harder given their first two fights were ugly and sloppy, meaning there will be little public demand.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Boxing

Showtime Championship Boxing — Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York — 9 p.m. ET (Showtime)

For whatever reason, Showtime has decided to put one of their biggest fighters on for the first time in months going head to head with the biggest UFC card of the year. It’s the kind of thing that just seems to happen in the pro career of WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, the 2008 Olympic Bronze Medalist. Wilder has amassed an amazing record of 38-0, with 37 knockouts, but he has gotten on the backs of very subpar competition. He has made five defenses of the WBC title, but has arguably faced only one credible opponent, the much shorter Artur Szpilka. In Wilder’s last fight in Brooklyn in January 2016, Szpilka gave Wilder hell for nine rounds before Wilder rescued his title with a dynamite right hand.

Now, Wilder will have a rematch with the toughest opponent of his career, the man he beat for the title, Quebec’s Bermane Stiverne (25-2, 21 KOs). Wilder and Stiverne had a pretty good battle in January 2015 and Wilder went 12 rounds for the only time in his career. It makes some sense that we are seeing the rematch here, but, we are only seeing it because Wilder’s original opponent, former interim WBA champion Luiz Ortiz of Cuba, tested positive for banned diuretics. Stiverne has not fought in two years and has only one win since losing to Wilder. He came in fifteen pounds more than the last fight at the weigh-ins this morning, which doesn’t fare well. Make no mistake, this is just another gimme for Wilder.

The co-main is a much more interesting fight, as former IBF welterweight champion Shawn Porter (27-2-1, 17 KOs) facing long time spoiler Adrian Granados (18-5-2, 12 KOs). Porter is coming off a nine-round knockout of former champion Andre Berto following a controversial loss to WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman last June on CBS (thought Porter won clearly). Granados suffered one of the worst robberies of the year to Adrien Broner in February and was riding a five-fight winning streak going into that fight. This is a really solid fight and the winner stays in title contention.

Part II: Coming soon…

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