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Freire out, Brandon Girtz in to face Derek Campos at Bellator 181

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This afternoon it was announced that Bellator 181 now has a new main event.

“The Fighting Pride of Lubbock, Texas” Derek “The Stallion” Campos looks to continue his 3 fight win streak when he enters the cage to face off for the third time with the heavy-handed Division II All-American wrestler from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Brandon Girtz.

The bout takes place on Friday, July 14th at the WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma. Thackerville’s WinStar Casino has quickly become a mainstay for Bellator MMA. The last Bellator card held there was just in March of this year and this event will mark the 13th time that the promotion has held an event at WinStar since January 2013. The only city to host more Bellator shows is Uncasville, Connecticut.

Campos was originally scheduled to face Patricky Freire in a rematch of their 2014 fight that took place in the Semi-Finals of the Bellator Season Ten Lightweight Tournament. This is the third time that a rematch between the two men has been scrapped. The first was scheduled to take place in Torino, Italy at Bellator 152 in April of 2016 but was canceled because Campos suffered an injury to his knee during a last-minute sparring session less than a week before he was to board a plane to make the trip abroad for fight week.

The second planned rematch was also supposed to take place in Thackerville at Bellator 167 in December of last year but it was also called off, that time due to a Freire injury. While Campos and Freire are friends, this rematch was a fight that “The Stallion” has been wanting to come to fruition for quite some time. The reason for the switch this time around is that Scott Coker and company decided to move Freire into the headlining fight of Bellator 183 in San Jose, California on September 23rd against “Smooth” Benson Henderson.

Also taking place at that event in September will be the promotional debut of longtime UFC fighter Roy “Big Country” Nelson. He will square off against Javy Ayala, a man who delivered a knockout of the year candidate for 2016 in just 16 seconds when he tattooed Sergei Kharitonov to spoil the Russian’s Bellator debut at Bellator 163. Ayala was also removed from the Bellator 181 card in order to fight in San Jose.

You can watch that KOTY candidate here:

Kevin Jones of The Main Event on Double T 97.3 FM in Lubbock and MMA Latest News spoke with Derek Campos within hours of the announcement and the veteran of 12 Bellator fights, and former King of the Cage Junior Welterweight Champion, was not sweating the switch:

“Doesn’t phase me, I’m still gonna go to the WinStar and take care of business against Girtz. My goal is to get the title, and now Girtz is in my way. I’ll do what must be done to get the victory.”

This will be the third meeting between the two men who both share wrestling backgrounds but have shown a pension to stand and bang rather than take their opponents to the ground. The first meeting ended in with a unanimous decision victory for Girtz at Bellator 96 in 2013 in a bout that marked only the second Bellator appearance for both fighters. A rematch was originally scheduled for Bellator 113 in 2014 but those plans changed when the promoters decided to move Girtz into a fight which he lost via knockout against Derek Anderson, the last man that Campos beat on his current 3 fight win streak. A rematch did finally take place at Bellator 146 in November of 2015. In that rematch Girtz put a stop to Campos’ plans for redemption before the Texan ever had a chance to get into his groove, knocking him out just 37 seconds into the first round. That was the last time Campos tasted defeat inside of Bellator’s octagon. Girtz has yet to win a contest since that KO victory, dropping decisions to both 40 fight veteran Fernando Gonzalez and white-hot prospect Adam Piccolitte, a fighter who Campos has also voiced his interest in fighting.

Watch their second fight here: http://bellator.spike.com/fight/dvnibt/bellator-146-derek-campos-vs-brandon-girtz

The event also features the Bellator debut of former UFC strawweight Valerie Letourneau and the main card debut of Bantamweight knockout artist Steve “Mean Machine” Garcia who trains at Jackson-Winkeljohn MMA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Garcia takes on a familiar face to the Thackerville crowd and Bellator fans, former two-division champ Michael Chandler.

Also on this truly stacked card is undefeated former Legacy FC Middleweight Champion and Brazilian Jui-Jitsu Ace Rafael Lovato Jr., the always game Justin Lawerence, UFC vet and TUF season 3 winner Kendell “Da Spyda” Grove and hard hitting Portuguese Andre Fialho, who has never seen a fight go the distance.

Below is a full list of the fights at Bellator 181:

  • 155lbs- Derek Campos (18-6) vs. Brandon Girtz (14-6)
  • 185lbs- Kendall Grove (23-16) vs. John Salter (13-3)
  • 125lbs- Valerie Letourneau (8-6) vs. Emily Ducote (5-2)
  • 135lbs- Joe Warren (14-6) vs. Steve Garcia (7-1)
  • 145lbs- Justin Lawrence (9-4) vs. Treston Thomison (10-5)
  • 170lbs- Andre Fialho (7-1) vs. AJ Matthews (8-6)
  • 145lbs- Alexis Dufresne (6-3) vs. Amanda Bell (4-4)
  • 265lbs- Javy Ayala (10-5) vs. Valentin Moldavsky (5-1)
  • 185lbs- Rafael Lovato Jr (5-0) vs. Mike Rhodes (10-4)

WinStar, which sits about 70 miles North of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex area, is a fantastic venue to watch fights. There is literally not a bad seat inside of their ballroom, and both video and table games are only a short walk away from where all the MMA action takes place. If you are not a gambler you can be sure to get your money’s worth at the all you can eat buffet which serves King Crab legs. So if you can make it to the area there is a lot more to enjoy than just a great night of the fights. If you can not make it to Southern Oklahoma you can always tune in LIVE on Spike TV starting at 9:00 PM CST. The prelims will air on bellator.com starting at 6:00 PM CST.

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Saad Awad talks Zach Freeman, kickboxing, 165 lb division and more ahead of Bellator 186

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Long-time Bellator veteran Saad Awad takes on Zach “the Pico slayer” Freeman at Bellator 186. Awad is currently coming off of a unanimous decision win over Ryan Quinn back at Bellator 178. Awad looks to beat top prospect Freeman in an attempt to go on a two-fight winning streak, in a stacked lightweight division.

Speaking with MMA Latest, Awad let it known he believes Freeman has the better ground game. “I think he’s a solid fighter, pretty durable, obviously better on the ground, so I know I just have to be sharp, and be precise with my striking, and get ready for a good ground game.”

Freeman made his name by beating Bellator’s hyped prospect Aaron Pico back in June, Awad had the chance to give his thoughts on the fight. “I thought it was good, I thought it was a fast win, but he didn’t shy away from it, he didn’t let Pico come in and impose his will, he struck back when he needed to, and dropped him, and got a nice submission.”

With every win helping fighters get closer to a title shot, it’s unclear whether or not Awad is close to a title shot, but he hasn’t given up hope. “I’ve been with Bellator since 2012, I think, or 2013 and I haven’t got a title fight yet so I don’t know man. To be honest, it’s on Bellator and on me to go out there and preform. So I need to win as many fights as I can, so I can go out there and win it.”

For a long time, Awad has been known mostly as the man who knocked out former Bellator champion Will Brooks. Awad believes he’s moved past that fight and more importantly, has moved on from that title. “Definitely at the time I was that guy and I feel like Zach Freeman is that guy for Pico because Pico was pumped up, obviously more than normal. I had that title for a while, but Will Brooks did go off and win a title right after he lost to me, so he had his name buzzing for a while. I definitely think I’ve moved on from that and I’ve beaten some really good guys after that, and I’ve had some really good wars since that fight. I’ll never let one fight dictate who I am and I’m glad I’ve moved past that”

Awad comes into the fight back in the win column and up against an up and coming opponent, Awad details the amount of pressure he’s on. “You know what I always put pressure on myself. Whether I’m winning or losing, because at the end of the day you want to win, whether you’re coming off of a loss or you’re coming off a win. If you lose, you lose, and that’s it, you lost, so there’s always expectation with me and yeah if this time I lose, I could possibly get cut if I lose this one, because I just won my last one and I’m not trying to have a win one, lose, win one, lose one. So there’s still that pressure to perform, especially being that Zach has only one fight in Bellator and I’m probably ten fights in. So I do have some pressure behind me.”

Awad was unable to watch the Henderson-Pitbull fight, lucky, but he did have a theory on why it went the way it did. “You know what I didn’t even watch it, normally I watch all the lightweights but I missed that fight. I read it online, people were complaining saying they both weren’t doing as much, but I understand why Henderson probably wasn’t doing as much, because Patricky hits pretty hard and usually when someone hits pretty hard, you don’t want to go out there with that person and mix it up, because you don’t want to get knocked out. I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened, but I know it could’ve happened. So I take nothing from them because they’re both really good fighters and he won a split decsion so it was obviously close enough for them to go to a split decision.”

Awad also spoke about whether he preferred lightweight or welterweight, and why Bellator should consider a 165-pound weight class. “Honestly man I hate cutting weight. I hate cutting weight but I feel like I’m one of those guys that like if there’s a 165-pound weight class, that would fit me the best. I’m a huge lightweight but I’m a small welterweight, not small but I don’t cut that much weight like my normal walk around weight is probably 165 so you know I’m not the biggest welterweight so I prefer 165 if they added that weight class. If Bellator gets that weight I’d probably be one of the first in line to fight for it.”

With Bellator’s recent splurge on free agents and former UFC fighter’s, Awad believes it’s only helped make Bellator stronger. “I think its cool. No matter where they come from at the end of the day we’re fighters and whether we get cut or we opt to get out of our contracts, it’s because we want to make money, we want to get paid as much as we can, and sometimes we feel like we’re not respected and, were not getting paid what we think we’re worth. So sometimes you have to get out of a contract whether it’s with the UFC, ONE FC or Titan wherever the hell they’re at, or Bellator even. They leave because they want to get paid more. Even if they lost a couple fights, guys can have bad nights and they lose a couple and get cut. It doesn’t mean the guys suck. They could have had something going on or they just have bad match-ups and those guys could be still just as good and dangerous as they were when they first started. So I think nothing of them, I don’t look down on any of the fighters that come here, whether they were cut or opted to get out. At the end of the day, they’re still fighters so there’s respect for their abilities.”

Awad has also been training with Duane Ludwig ahead of this fight. “You know what Duane used to train with my coaches back in the day, I think back in ‘99, 2000 and so they have a really good relationship. He was out in Colorado and we had some teammates that would train with him. Now he’s back out here in Cali, so now we have some teammates going out and mixing it up with them. I’ve only met him once but the dude brings a different aspect to training and for me training with them I would definitely like to train with him more because, like I said, it opened up a whole new book in the chapter of training. I’ll definitely look forward to learning his style of standup because I think it would be good. I’m a big fan of Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing, and that’s how I’m going to end being the best I can possibly be, so I think that can add a lot to my arsenal.”

Speaking of kickboxing, Awad has also shown interest in participating on Bellator’s kickboxing cards. “You know what I did ask them, it kind of got shunned away because they’re keeping me busy with MMA. If they cant keep me busy next year I’ll definitely ask them to put me on one of those cards.”

Saad Awad takes on Zach Freeman on November 3rd, at Bellator 186. MMA Latest would like to thank Saad for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.

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Watch: Bellator 185 Prelims

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Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Complete Bellator 185: Mousasi vs. Shlemenko Fight Card:

Middleweight Main Event: Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (56-9, 1 NC)

Welterweight Feature Bout: Neiman Gracie (6-0) vs. Zak Bucia (18-8)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Heather Hardy (1-0) vs. Kristina Williams (Debut)

Lightweight Feature Bout: Ryan Quinn (13-7) vs. Marcus Surin (4-0)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Ana Julaton (2-2) vs. Lisa Blaine (1-0)

Preliminary Card:

Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Jordan Young (6-0) vs. Alec Hooben (5-3)

Middleweight Preliminary Bout: Costello van Steenis (8-1) vs. Steve Skrzat (8-9)

Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Vinicius de Jesus (5-1) vs. Joaquin Buckley (7-1)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: John Beneduce (2-1) vs. Dean Hancock (2-1)

Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Timothy Wheeler (1-4) vs. Pete Rogers (2-4)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Don Shainis (3-1) vs. Matthew Denning (5-6)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Frank Sforza (6-0) vs. Vovka Clay (3-2)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Kevin Carrier (Pro Debut) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (Pro Debut)

Flyweight Preliminary Bout: John Lopez

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*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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