The Rundown: Bellator Newcastle Preview
By Keith Neill
After a rollercoaster of a week for Bellator MMA, the North American promotion rolls into Toon on Saturday night at the recently rebranded Utilita Arena for the first event of a European Series that has caused a big splash on this side of the pond and has British fans of the sport excited about its future and the possibilities that lay ahead.
While the card itself was announced some time ago the big question of the TV broadcasting rights had gone unanswered and seemed to be stuck in the mud until earlier this week.
At a press conference in London this past Wednesday that was chock-full of big moments it was announced that Saturday’s event will be broadcast live on free-to-air network Channel 5.
This is a big step for the promotion which has struggled with tape-delay issues of its shows causing problems for fans in the UK and turning off potential followers.
More news regarding Bellator’s plans for broadcasting in the UK came out this week but for now let’s get stuck into the card as it has all the required ingredients to be a cracker.
Patricky Freire (BRA 20-8) vs. (ENG 11-1) Ryan Scope
The main event brings a legend to our fair city. Patricky ‘Pitbull’ Freire is an MMA icon and Bellator stalwart, debuting for the promotion back in 2012 and facing the likes of Benson Henderson and Michael Chandler in his storied career. He comes into this one on a run of four straight wins and will be confident of leaving the north-east with another victory.
He takes on Sunderland lad Ryan Scope who is making his debut for the promotion and while he has had a difficult year or so with injuries the former BAMMA lightweight champion will no doubt be buoyed by the chance to headline a big event so close to home and will have the crowd behind him.
A win over ‘Pitbull’, though tough to get, would be a huge statement and put him on the map internationally as a rising prospect in Bellator’s lightweight ranks.
Aaron Chalmers (ENG 4-0) vs. (USA 4-2) Corey Browning
Former reality TV star Aaron Chalmers returns to action in the co-main event and the Geordie has been in good spirits heading into his second fight in front of a hometown crowd after first appearing in Newcastle under the BAMMA banner in December of 2017.
Chalmers rides a run of four straight finishes including an impressive Bellator debut win over Ash Griffiths by guillotine choke in the first round and is talking like a man who oozes confidence knowing that a good portion of the attention paid to this card is because of him.
For his part, Corey Browning has been less boisterous in the lead up to the bout. His first time fighting in Europe, the Tennessee prospect appears to be taking in the experience and not jumping into verbal altercations with his more well-known opponent.
I spoke to Corey at the Bellator media day and he was surprised by the spotlight on this fight:
“He’s a lot bigger deal here than I thought he would be. Back home nobody knows who he is so it’s not a big deal. It’s just a fight to me. Maybe I’ll have some new fans after this but it’s just a fight to me.”
Whichever way this one goes it’s going to have a big impact. Both fighters have quickly become known for finishing fights early and I’d be surprised if we see this go too far beyond the first round.
For Chalmers, continuing his streak keeps his name on the rise as he steadily moves up in competition while for Browning it’s the chance at stopping a hype train that will bring more shine to his own.
One that’s sure to get the crowd buzzing no matter the outcome.
Terry Brazier (ENG 10-1) vs. (SCO 13-4) Chris Bungard
In what is easily the loudest fight in terms of build up, England meets Scotland as Brazier and Bungard both make their Bellator debuts on the main card.
Social media has been a battleground for the two in the time since the scrap was announced with the fighters trading verbal barbs and Bungard even stating he would retire if he lost, to which ‘The Dominator’ predictably responded that he would be happy to send him packing.
Hype and banter aside this is a high level contest in British MMA. Terry Brazier is unbeaten since 2015 and is a former BAMMA champion at both lightweight and welterweight while Bungard has lost just once in his last seven with five victories coming by finish.
Given the style of both fighters and their grizzled veteran status it’s difficult to imagine this one going the distance. Both are happy to go toe to toe and not be stuck playing a strategic game so expect this to be another entertaining one for the crowd.
Fabian Edwards (ENG 5-0) vs. (ENG 24-13-1 ) Lee Chadwick
Kicking off the main card is perhaps the most interesting bout from a sporting perspective as Fabian Edwards, brother of UFC fighter Leon Edwards who fights in London next month, looks to continue his rise on the regional scene as he faces a true British veteran in Lee Chadwick.
Edwards is not short on confidence, having called out Chadwick as well as the current middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi before landing the chance here to move himself to 6-0 and take out a bigger name as he seeks to make waves in the division.
Chadwick makes his Bellator debut after three straight wins in Cage Warriors and is enjoying something of a late career resurgence coming into 2019 while Edwards has finished all five of his professional wins so far and will be looking to make another statement on this historic card for the promotion.
The prelim portion of the card will be shown on the Bellator mobile app and features a whole host of names that will be familiar to British fans.
Reading almost like a classic BAMMA fight card there are a solid mix of veterans such as ‘Judo’ Jim Wallhead and Abner Lloveras as well as top British prospects looking to make a splash like Nathan Rose and Dominique Wooding.
With a dash of local flair mixed in for good measure the Newcastle crowd is sure to enjoy these scraps before the main course begins at 10pm.
The pick of the prelims for me is a potentially fight of the night bout between Sunderland’s Cal ‘Pacino’ Ellenor (7-2) and hotly tipped prospect Nathan Greyson (6-2).
Greyson, nicknamed ‘Violent Money’, is coming off a hugely impressive win over Sam Creasey at Cage Warriors 92 and is full of confidence heading into his Bellator debut, marking this fight as the beginning of a ‘Violent Money Tour’ he is seeking to stretch through 2019.
Ellenor, while less favoured and coming off a loss, is still a hugely interesting prospect to me. A debutant as well, he will gain a lot from appearing just down the road from his hometown and will have a solid amount of the crowd cheering him on.
He has always felt just one big win away from a great run and has never been finished while finishing each one of his wins.
Cal’s exciting style along with Greyson’s unmatched potential makes this one a must-watch pick of the undercard and I’ll be interested to see if Ellenor can finally make a long-awaited breakthrough here.
How to watch: Bellator Newcastle takes place on Saturday, February 9th at the Utilita Arena (Formerly Metro Radio) in Newcastle upon Tyne. The Preliminary card starts at 5pm GMT and will be shown on the Bellator app for UK and international fans. The main card will air on Channel 5 at 10pm GMT for UK fans while US fans can stick with the app.