Mike Richman says his next fight could be a classic. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
When Bellator MMA officials were looking for an action fighter to help draw the curtain for the main card of their heavily-hyped Nov. 15 event, Mike Richman was at the top of the list.
Richman has worked diligently to earn that designation since he debuted in the promotion with a first-round knockout of WEC veteran Chris Horodecki at Bellator 64. Back then, little was expected of the Minnesota-based Marine. Now, with a total of five first-round knockout victories in Bellator to his credit, expectations have changed.
Richman’s own expectations are high heading into his Bellator 131 bout with Nam Phan, a UFC and Strikeforce veteran known for his penchant to engage on the feet. While Phan struggled during his Octagon tenure, Richman feels their styles could make for something memorable in San Diego – that is, unless “The Marine” is able to finish his opponent in typical fashion.
“If I go out there and I’m firing on all cylinders; I’m clicking; I’m committing to my shots; I’m seeing everything – I predict an early TKO win,” Richman told Sherdog.com. “If he’s the one that’s firing on all cylinders, performing to the best of his ability, then he’s gonna make it a super exciting fight.
“If his chin is as good as people say it is, then my hands are gonna be sore at the end of it. Nam and I have the ability to put on something special: [It could be the Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo, Arturo Gatti-Mickey Ward] of MMA. We both sit in the pocket and throw punches. This could be something great.”
It would be particularly sweet for Richman to put on a show in San Diego, which is home to a large military presence. The 29-year-old, who was once stationed in Camp Pendleton, Calif., expects the Valley View Casino Center to feel quite hospitable even though Phan hails from The Golden State.
“I don’t feel like I’m going to be an out-of-town fighter... I’m assuming there’s gonna be a good crowd of Marines and sailors there,” he said. “If the number of people [show up] that I think have the [potential] to show up, it will definitely be my biggest cheering section for a Bellator fight.”
After compiling a 5-4 mark in Bellator’s featherweight division, Richman debuted at 135 pounds with a knockout of Ed West on Sept. 26. With the move, Richman has designs on a top-10 ranking and a title before he’s through.
“I truly believe you’re going to see my true skills at bantamweight,” he said. “I think everyone’s very talented at this level, and everyone is a superstar in the gym. It just comes down to who executes, who commits and who makes it happen under the lights.”
If Bellator had elected to keep its tournament format when Scott Coker took over as promotion president, Richman would not have been as confident of success in a new weight class.
“If I had to do an eight-man bantamweight tournament, it would be difficult for me weight-wise,” he said. “This new format will definitely help me moving forward. You get to put together exciting fights that you might not see in certain brackets.”
The pairing with Phan is just a example of that new philosophy, as is much of the Nov. 15 main card offering, which includes Tito Ortiz-Stephan Bonnar, Michael Chandler-Will Brooks and Melvin Manhoef-Joe Schilling, to name a few. If Richman’s prediction turns out to be correct, he and Phan could be a tough act to follow.
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