What to Watch For: Bellator 146

Melvin Manhoef has seen his better days, but the nuclear power he houses in his fists nevertheless makes him a must-see attraction for Bellator MMA.

The 39-year-old Manhoef will meet Japanese upstart Hisaki Kato in the Bellator 146 main event on Friday at the Winstar World Casino and Resort and Thackerville, Okla. While the matchup carries no real immediate significance for Bellator’s middleweight division, it promises almost certain violence: Manhoef and Kato have delivered a remarkable 94 percent of their 34 combined victories by knockout or technical knockout.

Manhoef suffered a second-round KO loss to Alexander Shlemenko in February, but the result was later changed to a no-contest when the Russian tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone. The Suriname-born Dutch kickboxer has not won a fight since he wiped out former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Doug Marshall at Bellator 125 more than two years ago. Victories over Denis Kang, Kazuo Misaki, Mark Hunt, Kazushi Sakuraba and Evangelista Santos (twice) anchor the Manhoef resume.

Kato was a virtual unknown up until his sizzling promotional debut on June 26, when he knocked out Joe Schilling with a Superman punch 34 seconds into the second round of their Bellator 139 battle at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kan. The 33-year-old had spent his entire career to that point inside the Japan-based Heat organization, where he compiled a 4-1 record. Kato operates out of the Alive gym, training alongside former Shooto and Sengoku champion Hatsu Hioki.

With the Manhoef-Kato main event as the centerpiece, here is what to watch for at Bellator 146:

The Jordan Rules

Jordan Parsons has proven himself in regional circles and has quietly begun to climb the ladder in Bellator’s featherweight division.

The onetime Championship Fighting Alliance titleholder will carry a four-fight winning streak into his co-headliner with Bubba Jenkins, a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler who won a national title at Arizona State University in 2011. Parsons last fought at Bellator 137 in May, when he submitted Julio Cesar Neves Jr. -- “Morceguinho” was 30-0 at the time -- with a third-round arm-triangle choke. The 25-year-old Blackzilians representative has finished each of his last three opponents.

Jenkins has rattled off five wins across his last six appearances, losing only to Georgi Karakhanyan. He last competed at Bellator 139 on June 26, when he disposed of journeyman Joe Wilk with second-round punches.

Bang for Their Buck

Successful runs in the Resurrection Fighting Alliance and Tachi Palace Fights organizations have landed Chidi Njokuani a spot on the Bellator roster.

The younger brother of Ultimate Fighting Championship and WEC veteran Anthony Njokuani, the 26-year-old arrives on the strength of a three-fight winning streak. He last appeared at TPF 23 on May 7, when he pocketed a five-round split decision against Max Griffin at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore, Calif. Njokuani sports nine finishes among his 13 professional victories, a May 2011 body-kick knockout on Alan Jouban among them.

Ricky Rainey will welcome Njokuani to the Bellator cage. “The Sniper” has posted back-to-back wins since his failed encounter with the undefeated Michael Page in 2014.

Spoiler Alert

Melvin Guillard had high hopes when he touched down in Bellator three months ago. The man who spoiled them has taken a place of prominence on the Bellator 146 lineup.

Brandon Girtz returns to the cage for the first time since he upset Guillard on Aug. 28, as he locks horns with Mohler MMA’s Derek Campos in a three-round lightweight showcase. It will serve as a rematch to their Bellator 96 clash, which Campos won by unanimous decision. Girtz has gone 4-1 since, a knockout loss to Derek Anderson in March 2014 the lone hiccup. The 30-year-old Grudge Training Center export was an NCAA All-American wrestler at Minnesota State University, a Division II school in Mankato, Minn.

Campos, 27, finds himself on the rebound following a submission loss to Michael Chandler at Bellator 138 in June. He lasted a little more than two minutes before succumbing to a rear-naked choke.

Caught in the Middle

Ben Reiter’s 16-0-1 record speaks for itself.

With momentum to spare, the undefeated middleweight will take on Francisco France in a high-stakes undercard tilt at 185 pounds. The 28-year-old Pennsylvania native has spent much of his career competing in his adoptive Peru. Reiter put down roots in Bellator a little more than a year ago and has since recorded consecutive decision wins over Shamir Garcia and UFC, EliteXC and International Fight League alum Benji Radach. A 2013 draw with Marcos Rogerio de Lima remains the only blemish on his ledger.

France, 32, has secured 11 of his 12 career victories by submission. He last fought on April 10, when he captured the Resurrection Fighting Alliance middleweight championship with a unanimous decision over Gabriel Checco.
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