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April 21, 2017

Bellator 178 Preview; The Return to New England

Bellator 178: Straus v. Pitbull 4 Preview

Travis Lizotte

                Premiere worldwide MMA Promotion Bellator MMA, will make its annual stop in New England on Friday night April 21st in Uncasville, CT. Once again the Mohegan Sun Arena will play host to one of the largest MMA Promotions in the world; Bellator MMA has stacked a card with both local and national talent. Thus, staying true to the Bellator tradition of providing local stars the opportunity to fight on the same fight card as the world’s biggest stars; of the 15 fights (30 fighters) on the card, 22 fighters have fought in New England before, with many of them making their MMA names right here in the Northeast. Bellator 178 features fighters from all of the top New England promotions including; CES, NEF, Cage Titans, Combat Zone, Reality Fighting and Premiere FC. If it is star power you’re looking for; the Spike TV Main Event for the Bellator Featherweight belt pits stars; Daniel Straus (Champion) and Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (Challenger) together in what will be their fourth meeting in the Bellator cage. Patricio “Pitbull” will be looking to put the Featherweight title back where it once belonged, around his waist, and make it three wins against the title holder Straus, who will be looking to once again handle the Brazilian and make it 2-1 in title fights against “Pitbull.” New England MMA fans and MMA fans worldwide will be treated to an exciting night of action on one of the world’s biggest stages, as Ballator MMA makes their highly anticipated return to our backyards, Friday night!

                The undercard which can be watched on will be stacked top to bottom with our own home grown New England talent, including Champions, Rising Stars as well as hardened New England Veterans. New England MMA fans will get a chance to see some fights that would not likely happen if it weren’t for Bellator, being that many of the fighters are currently fighting for different promotions in the Northeast but many are considered to be atop the regional ranks in their weight classes. Being that Bellator is such a big promotion, it has become somewhat of a rite of passage on the local MMA scene. Therefore they have the ability to make these fights happen, we will undoubtedly be seeing some shaking up of names in our regional ranking system as the result of these fights on Friday night. New England MMA fans and national fans alike will most definitely be salivating at the idea of this star studded undercard that breaks down like this:

Ed Ruth v. David “Redneck” Mundell


Ed Ruth (2-0)

Fighting out of: Albuquerque, NM

Affiliation: Jackson Wink MMA Academy

Last Appearance in New England: (Professional Debut) First Round TKO Victory over Dustin Collins-Miles at Bellator 163 at Mohegan Sun.

David Mundell (6-2)

Fighting out of: Clearwater, FL

Affiliation: Gracie Clearwater

Last Appearance in New England: Unanimous Decision victory over Jarod Lawton at NEF; Dana White Looking for a Fight.

Breakdown: Ed Ruth and David Mundell throw down in a Middleweight matchup; Ruth who comes from a wrestling background has focused on his striking to finish his first two fights in the Bellator cage and propel him to a perfect 2-0 record as a pro, finishing both fights in the very first round. With a 2-0 professional record, two first round finishes and two consecutive Bellator victories to start his career Ruth is the true definition of a top prospect in the Middleweight division. Mundell started his career 5-0 before losing two of his last three fights against Mike Perry and Preston Parsons, Mundell will be looking to derail the Ed Ruth hype train and get back to his winning ways on the biggest stage of his career.    


Shane Manley v. Chris “Cassius” Foster


Shane Manley (3-2)

Fighting out of: Syracuse, NY

Affiliation: Team Andrello

Last Appearance in New England: First round submission victory over Taylor Trahan at CES 31.

Chris Foster (10-5)

Fighting out of: North Haven, CT

Affiliation: Ultimate MMA

Last Appearance in New England: Unanimous Decision loss to Calvin Kattar at CES 38.

Breakdown: Shane Manley will be making his return to the cage for the first time since September of 2015 when he submitted Taylor Trahan at CES 31, Manley will be looking to secure his fourth professional victory when he steps in against fellow Featherweight Chris Foster. Foster has developed himself into one of the best Featherweights in New England all the while fighting the top names in the New England Featherweight division for CES and Combat Zone. Foster hopes to make it back to back victories in the Ballator cage following a Unanimous Decision victory over Tom English at Bellator 163 in November of last year.


Kemran Lachinov v. Sam “Super Saiyan” Watford

Catchweight (165lbs)

Kemran Lachinov (3-2)

Fighting out of: Ludlow, MA

Affiliation: Team Link

Last Appearance in New England: First round KO/TKO of Tyler Rose at Reality Fighting.

Sam Watford (2-1)

Fighting out of: Mount Vernon, NY

Affiliation: Renzo Gracie Connecticut

Last Appearance in New England: First round submission of Dean Hancock at Bellator 153 at Mohegan Sun.

Breakdown: Welterweight Kemran Lachinov will be facing the toughest test of his professional career on Friday night when the Reality Fighting, Premier FC and CES veteran steps into the Bellator cage for the first time against highly touted Renzo Gracie fighter Sam Watford. Watford who typically fights at Lightweight will be looking to bounce back from the first loss in his professional career after starting his pro career 2-0 with both wins coming in the Bellator cage. Last time out Watford lost a Decision at Ring of Combat 55 against Nekruz Mirkhojaev in June of 2016, Watford hopes that the Bellator cage is kind to him in his return against Lachinov, at a Catchweight of 165 pounds.  


 Mak Kelleher v. “Shameless” Don Shainis

Catchweight (150lbs)

Mak Kelleher (1-3)

Fighting out of: Centereach, NY

Affiliation: Maxum BJJ

Last Appearance in New England: Unanimous Decision loss to Dylan Lockard at CES 37

Don Shainis (2-1)

Fighting out of: Cambridge, MA

Affiliation: Redline

Last Appearance in New England: First round submission victory over Alex Dolan at Cage Titans 31.

Breakdown: Do not let the 1-3 record of Kelleher fool you, his 3 losses have come against the premier fighters in the Featherweight division including, Rico DiSciullo, Manny Bermudez and Dylan Lockard all in the CES cage. The Featherweight Kelleher will once again be put to the test when he moves up in weight to make his Bellator Debut against Lightweight Don Shainis at a Catchweight of 150 Pounds. Shainis a Cage Titans veteran comes in with only one loss which came at the hands of Jeremy Davis, when an injury made it impossible for Shainis to answer the second round bell. Shainis has enjoyed a successful career including an Amateur title for Cage Titans, but the bright lights of the Bellator cage will undoubtedly shine down on what is to be the biggest fight in the careers of these two New England fighters.    


Nick “JC” Alley v. Kastriot Xhema


Nick Alley (3-0)

Fighting out of: Hooksett, NH

Affiliation: Team Link

Last Appearance in New England: Second round TKO of Addison O’Neil at Premier FC 22.

Kastriot Xhema (Pro Debut)

Fighting out of: Greenwich, CT

Affiliation: American Top Team Fairfield

Last Appearance in New England: Scheduled to fight Keenan Raymond at Bellator 163 but fight did not happen.

Summary: “JC” Alley will be making his Bellator Debut as one of the fastest rising stars in all of New England MMA, the Team Link Hooksett product continues to impress each time out, showing his game is ever improving and his hard work continues to pay off. Alley has finished all three of his professional fights, for Premier FC and Reality Fighting, without reaching the third round. Nick will be fighting the virtually unknown Kastriot Xhema, who will be making his professional debut after his first Bellator fight with Keenan Raymond was scrapped. Xhema hopes to use the Bellator cage to launch his MMA career, while Alley will be looking to leave the cage with his hand raised once again as he hopes to add Xhema to the list of opponents he has dismantled on his path to an undefeated professional career. 


Jordan Young v. Tim “The Bear” Caron


Jordan Young (6-0)

Fighting out of: Coconut Creek, FL

Affiliation: American Top Team

Last Appearance in New England: New England Debut

Tim Caron (7-0)

Fighting out of: Manchester, NH

Affiliation: Team Burgess

Last Appearance in New England: Second round TKO of Steve Skrzat at Bellator 163 at Mohegan Sun.

Breakdown: It’s always exciting when two fighters with undefeated records clash inside the cage and this fight should be no different, in 13 combined professional bouts; no one has been able to solve either of these two fighters. Caron is a well know Middleweight from the New England circuit, carving his undefeated career path through the Combat Zone and Reality Fighting promotions as well as a 2-0 record inside the Bellator cage. Young’s path to Bellator was paved throughout the Mid West region of the U.S. where he went 5-0 with 4 first round submission victories before his 1-0 start in the Bellator cage. Young has recently made the move to Coconut Creek, Florida to train with American Top Team in hopes to hone his skills to become one of the premier Middleweights in Bellator, but has the daunting task of figuring out Tim Caron, who will be standing in his way.  


Tyrell Fortune v. Branko Busick


Tyrell Fortune (2-0)

Fighting out of: Tempe, AZ

Affiliation: Blackzilians

Last Appearance in New England: First round TKO of Cody Miskell at Bellator 163 at Mohegan Sun.

Branko Busick (Pro Debut)

Fighting out of: West Virginia, USA

Affiliation: N/A

Last Appearance in New England: New England Debut

Breakdown: Tyrell Fortune will welcome his third straight opponent to the Bellator cage to make their Debuts; Fortune was successful in his first two trips inside that cage, earning him back to back KO victories to open his own professional career. Fortune trains with the Blackzilians and posses KO power to go along with top of the class Wrestling. West Virginia’s Branko Busick, will be stepping up to another level when he makes his Pro Debut for the Bellator promotion when he takes on Fortune. Busick sported a 2-1 record as an amateur with two first round wins by submission chokes, and looks to have his hands full with Fortune but when two Heavyweights clash virtually anything can happen. This fight will show a lot about the heart and ability of both fighters and should draw a lot of interest from Bellator fans.


Johnny “Mr. Nice Guy” Lopez v. Remo Cardarelli


John Lopez (8-3)

Fighting out of: Hartford, CT

Affiliation: Underdog BJJ

Last Appearance in New England: Third round submission of Matt Almy at Reality Fighting.

Remo Cardarelli (6-5)

Fighting out of: Framingham, MA

Affiliation: South Shore Sportfighting

Last Appearance in New England: Split decision loss to Josh Ricci at CES 39.

Breakdown: This is a fight many years in the making, Cage Titans Flyweight standout Remo Carderelli will square off against Reality Fighting Flyweight Champion Johnny Lopez. This is one of the fights on the card that New England fans are looking forward to; and it took Bellator MMA to come to town to finally make it happen. Johnny Lopez is currently on a seven fight winning streak which lead to him capturing the Reality Fighting belt and since defending that title, of those seven wins Lopez has finished five of the fights by submission. Remo Cardarelli has 4 submission victories of his own on his way to a 6-5 professional career battling some of the top Flyweights in New England for the Cage Titans promotion. Remo will be making his second trip to the Bellator cage, earning a decision victory over Billy Giovanella at Bellator 140 his first time out.



Regivaldo Carvalho v. Jay Perrin

Catchweight (140lbs)

Regivaldo Carvalho (3-2)

Fighting out of: Danbury, CT/ Curitiba, Brazil

Affiliation: Teixeira MMA/ King Shark MMA

Last Appearance in New England: New England Debut

Jay Perrin (3-2)

Fighting out of: Hudson, NH

Affiliation: Sityodtong Boston

Last Appearance in New England: First round TKO of Chad Kelly at Combat Zone 60.

Breakdown: Hudson, New Hampshire’s Jay Perrin will be making his second appearance for Bellator Friday night; The NEF and Combat Zone veteran will be looking to prove that his two split decision losses do not define him as a fighter. Perrin would like to come out and show the world that he is more like the fighter that knocked out Elias Leland and Chad Kelly as part of his three career wins amongst the ranks of the professionals, when he faces off against Brazil’s Cavalho. Cavalho will be looking to bounce back from back to back losses and is looking to score his first win on American soil when he squares off with the New England native. Both fighters train out of some of the top schools in the region, Perrin for Sityodtong Boston and Cavalho trains with Glover Teixeira, at Teixeria MMA and each would like to show their ever improving skills and pick up a statement win in the Bellator cage.


Billy “Wolverine” Giovanella v. “Ruthless” Josh Ricci


Billy Giovanella (9-6)

Fighting out of: Bellingham, Ma

Affiliation: Connors MMA

Last Appearance in New England: First round submission loss to Johnny Lopez at Reality Fighting.

Josh Ricci (3-0)

Fighting out of: Utica, NY

Affiliation: Team Andrello

Last Appearance in New England: Split Decision victory over Remo Carderelli at CES 39.

Breakdown: Fight scrapped at weigh ins.


Blair “The Bull Shark” Tugman v. Tom “The Terror” English


Blair Tugman (9-6)

Fighting out of: Branford, CT

Affiliation: Ultimate MMA

Last Appearance in New England: Unanimous Decision win over Walter Smith-Cotito at Bellator 163 at Mohegan Sun.

Tom English (6-7)

Fighting out of: Centereach, NY

Affiliation: Bellmore Kickboxing/ MMA

Last Appearance in New England: Unanimous Decision loss to Chris Foster at Bellator 163 at Mohegan Sun.

Breakdown: Connecticut’s Blair Tugman is no stranger to the bright lights of Bellator, going 4-2 in his six fights for the promotion, when not fighting for Bellator; Tugman has sharpened his skills against some of New England’s best in the CES cage. Tugman has had his hand raised in each of his last two fights for Bellator earning a split decision victory over Jay Perrin and a unanimous decision over Walter Smith-Cotito at Bellator 153 and 163 respectfully. English will be making his second Bellator appearance and will be looking for his first win for the promotion. English has also been known to sharpen his skills in the CES cage notching fights against Andre Soukhamthath and Kyle Bochniak who have both since fought with the UFC. Tugman is one tough customer, but English is a seasoned veteran himself, this should be a great fight.


Main Card

The four fight Main Card, which airs Live on Spike TV at 10est, features three premier fights leading up to the Main Event for the Bellator World Featherweight Championship as Daniel Straus and Patricio Pitbull have a score to settle as they stand across the cage from each other for the fourth time.  

Dominic “The Honey Badger” Mazzotta v. AJ “Mercenary” McKee



Dominic Mazzotta (12-1)

Fighting out of: Pennsylvania, USA

Affiliation: Ed Vincent MMA

Last Appearance in New England: New England Debut

AJ McKee (7-0)

Fighting out of: Lakewood, CA

Affiliation: Team Bodyshop MMA

Last Appearance in New England: New England Debut

Breakdown: This fight is going to be your classic Bellator rising star fight, both fighters are highly anticipated prospects with extreme hype surrounding them. McKee comes in with a clean professional record at 7-0 with all seven fights coming for Bellator MMA. Mazzotta comes in with only one “blemish” on his professional record; that “blemish” happens to be against the current UFC Bantamweight Champion; Cody “No Love” Garbrandt,  in 2014.  Mazzotta is currently on a nine fight win streak and has shown no signs of stopping, winning seven of those fights by submission. This will be Mazzotta’s first fight for Bellator Friday night and he, as well as his adversary, will be making their New England debuts. This has to be the early candidate for Fight of the Night honors, when these two Featherweight prospects lock horns in front of the Mohegan Sun crowd.


Saad “Assassin” Awad v. Ryan Quinn

Catchweight (165lbs)

Saad Awad (19-9)

Fighting out of: San Bernardino, CA

Affiliation: Millennia MMA

Last Appearance in New England: First round KO loss to Brennan Ward at Bellator 163 at Mohegan Sun.

Ryan Quinn (13-6-1)

Fighting out of: Coconut Creek, FL   

Affiliation: American Top Team

Last Appearance in New England: Third round KO of Brett Oteri at Blockbuster MMA 1.

Breakdown: California’s Saad Awad has been a staple in Bellator since Bellator 10 Back in 2009; this will be his 14th fight for the promotion. Awad is coming off back to back losses to Derek Anderson and Connecticut’s own “Irish” Brennan Ward and his resume includes some of the top Lightweights in the World. Awad has shown over his career that he has the ability to put his opponents to sleep, whether it be by knockout, or by submission. Connecticut born Quinn will be taking the Bellator cage for the 8th time and carries with him a promotional record of 7-0 since his first Bellator fight in 2010. Awad will undoubtedly be Quinn’s toughest opponent to date and he will need to perform to his highest abilities if he wants to keep his clean Bellator record alive against the savvy veteran Saad Awad.


Ilima-Lei “The Ilimanator” MacFarland v. Jessica Middleton


Ilima-Lei MacFarland (5-0)

Fighting out of: San Diego, CA

Affiliation: Team Hurricane Awesome

Last Appearance in New England: New England Debut

Jessica Middleton (2-0)

Fighting out of: Wichita, KS

Affiliation: N/A

Last Appearance in New England: New England Debut

Breakdown: The Hawaiian MacFarland has made a splash in the Bellator Women’s Flyweight division since making her debut in August 2015 going an impressive 4-0 under the Bellator banner. MacFarland has never lost a fight in her MMA career going 5-0 as a pro as well as 2-0 as an amateur, thus earning herself a spot in the World’s top ten Women’s Flyweights. MacFarland will be looking to keep that train rolling when she meets Jessica Middleton in the center of Mohegan Sun arena Friday. Middleton who is 2-0 as a pro, had both of her professional wins come by decision in the Bellator cage. Jessica’s two quick wins have set her up with this match against one of the promotions top contenders, and what is to be the toughest test of Middleton’s early career.


Daniel Straus v. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire


Daniel Straus (25-6)

Fighting out of: Cincinnati, OH

Affiliation: American Top Team

Last Appearance in New England: New England Debut

Patricio Pitbull (25-4)

Fighting out of: Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil

Affiliation: Pitbull Brothers MMA

Last Appearance in New England: Second round Submission of Henry Corrales at Bellator 153 at Mohegan Sun.

Breakdown: Featherweight Champion Daniel Straus will defend his Title for the first time against the man he took it from back in 2015; Patricio Pitbull, who will share the cage with Straus for an unprecedented fourth time in their storied careers. Pitbull got the best of Straus in their first two contests and Daniel knew he was going to have to earn a title shot in order to get his shot at redemption. After Straus submitted Henry Corrales at Bellator 138, he had finally earned his shot at redemption and made the best of it at Bellator 145 when he earned a unanimous decision over Pitbull to dethrone the champion, and put the Featherweight belt around his waist, and thus set up an automatic rematch, which has been just less than 18 months in the making. If the first three fights are any indication of how this fight will play out, this fight will be worth the price of admission on its own. Their last two fights are two of the best fights in the promotion’s rich history; Bellator is doing the New England MMA fans quite a service by having this fight headline this card right in our own back yard. This fight should draw some much welcomed attention to a card stacked with our New England MMA stars!