This Weekend’s Warriors – Bellator Dublin

This Weekend’s Warriors – Bellator Dublin

What’s the craic?! It’s been a while since I’ve published this column, but I’m back with a bang for the massive Bellator Dublin card tomorrow night in The Point (or 3 Arena if we’re being pedantic). Here’s the score for anyone new to reading: this is a column focusing on Irish professional MMA fighters who are competing this weekend. This week there are…A LOT. Without further ado, let’s get down to it…

James Gallagher (SBG Ireland, 9-1) vs Roman Salazar (13-9)

“The Strabanimal” headlines his second Bellator Dublin event against ex-UFC fighter Roman Salazar. The Tyrone native was originally scheduled to face Cal Ellenor, but the Englishman was forced off the card due to an adverse finding in his Safe MMA brain scan. Gallagher is aiming to pick up his third win of 2019 after back-to-back victories over Stephen Graham and Jeremiah Labiano. Salazar is the most experienced opponent Gallagher has faced to date, and a win for the SBGi fighter will add to the ever-growing target on his back as fighters left, right and centre continue to join the queue to face the 22-year-old rising star. Win, lose, or draw, make no mistake that this is the Jimmy show.

Richard Kiely (SBG Ireland, 3-1) vs Michael Page (14-1)

“The Face of Bellator” has burst onto the scene and gone after every big name in his crosshairs. MVP took exception to Kiely trash talking him and his fellow London Shootfighters teammates, and here we are. Simply put, these two former WAKO kickboxers despise each other. While many fans may see Kiely as a significant step down in competition for Page, I think that this fight (and Kiely) may surprise everyone. Prior to the MVP-Daley contest, Kiely called exactly how the fight would play out. His insight into MVP’s elusive movement patterns can only benefit him going into tomorrow night. Yes, Kiely is a huge underdog. Yes, Page is a more decorated kickboxer. Yes, the uneducated fan sees this matchup as MVP being fed a “can.” However, please indulge me for a moment. Page has openly admitted that he is not taking this fight seriously. Is that true? Who knows, although I doubt it. But if it is, that’s a huge big misstep on his part, especially coming off a KO loss. On the other hand, Kiely is akin to a man possessed. He feels disrespected. He is angry at his naysayers (want proof? Watch him decimate Seán Sheehan here). He has proven that he has the stopping power. He is used to facing MVP’s striking style. Who will walk out of the Bellator cage victorious when it’s all said and done in the 3 Arena? I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that anyone outright dismissing Kiely’s chances here are foolish, none more so than Michael “Venom” Page.

Peter Queally (SBG Ireland, 11-5-1) vs Ryan Scope (11-2)

Coming into this fight, it’s easy to forget that Queally lost a close decision to Myles Price in his last fight. Between the goosebump-inducing walkout to The Cranberries’ “Zombie” and the public animosity that consumed the pre-fight buildup, it seems Queally’s stock is higher than ever. “The Showstopper” takes on Ryan Scope in what could very easily be a Fight of the Night contest. It’s all respect this time around, so much so that this fight changed from a lightweight to a welterweight fight overnight after DMs were exchanged between the opponents. Queally is known for traveling to distant corners of the world to fight, but he’ll be looking to implement his relentless pressure-heavy style to gain victory in front of an Irish crowd tomorrow night. Scope is coming off a split-decision loss to Patricky Pitbull, a result which many scored in favour of the Newcastle fighter. Fans can expect them to meet in the middle and trade hell for leather in what will likely be a bloody, gruelling matchup. While we’re here, I’d like to see the winner take on the winner of Soren Bak vs Terry Brazier later in the year.

Kiefer Crosbie (SBG Ireland, 6-1) vs Hugo Pereira (4-2)

The undefeated (in the same way that Jon Jones is) Kiefer Crosbie is simply a must watch fighter. Despite picking up a loss on his record, we all know that the “Big Daddy” train has been gradually accelerating from fight to fight. After a number of opponent changes, Portugal’s Huge Pereira is the man who will stand across from Crosbie in the cage in a catchweight 165lbs contest. Expect blood, violence, aggression, and a good chance that Crosbie’s signature elbows connect in devastating fashion. Don’t blink because I foresee an early finish here.

Will Fleury (SBG Ireland, 6-1) vs Norbert Novenyi Jr. (3-0)

Tipperary’s Will Fleury is riding high off back-to-back wins over Shaun Taylor and Antonio Jones and will look to make it three in a row with a victory over Novenyi Jr. The pair are familiar with each other, having previously trained together in London Shootfighters some years back when Will was living in England. Novenyi Jr. is the son of an Olympic wrestling champion, and I’m already looking forward to the grappling exchanges in this one. However, Novenyi Jr repeatedly predicted blood, and lots of it, at the media day yesterday. Additionally, if any of you watched the ceremonial weigh-ins earlier today, you now understand why Fleury is frequently described as a “Raw Bastard.” This is a big fight for Will “Fuckin” Fleury, one in which he has the opportunity to make a big statement to the rest of the division.

Leah McCourt (SBG Charlestown, 2-1) vs Kerry Hughes (3-4)

Leah McCourt is a former IMMAF world champion, and she has the potential to be a real threat in the women’s 145lb division. McCourt’s Bellator debut saw her dominate the grappling exchanges, taking full mount multiple times and winning by TKO after the first round due to doctor’s stoppage. “The Curse” has been sparring a lot with UFC flyweight Molly McCann, and I think that we will see a more aggressive and ruthless version of the Belfast native, allowing her to be more clinical once she gets to those dominant grappling positions.

Frans Mlambo (SBG Ireland, 7-4) vs Dominique Wooding (6-2)

Another former IMMAF world champion, Frans Mlambo is one to watch in the bantamweight division. After an up and down tenure at Brave CF, “The Black Mamba” has looked electric in his last couple of fights, most recently overcoming a massive challenge by submitting former Cage Warriors champion, Nathan Greyson. It’s out of the frying pan and into the fire in the 3 Arena tomorrow night though, as Mlambo faces hotly-tipped prospect Wooding, who is coming into the fight fresh off a 1st round knockout over David Khalsa. This is a high-level matchup and very deserving of the main card slot.

Danni Neilan (SBG Ireland, Pro Debut) vs Camila Rivarola (2-1-1)

Roscommon’s Danni Neilan is headlining the prelims section of the Bellator Dublin card in her pro debut. After narrowly missing out on a gold medal at the 2017 IMMAF world championships, Neilan bounced back with a final amateur win and now looks to make her name on the professional MMA circuit.

George Courtney (Next Generation I.M.M.A., 1-0) vs Ciarán Clarke (SBG Ireland, 1-0)

SBG vs Next Gen IMMA. Republic of Ireland vs Northern Ireland. Clarke vs Courtney. Both of these featherweight fighters have extensive amateur MMA careers under their belts. While Clarke’s record may not be as visually pleasing, he certainly has the edge on experience, and once you turn pro, that amateur record is wiped and immediately forgotten about. Courtney will be coming into the matchup confident after a 3rd round submission over SBG Charlestown’s Ian Cleary in his pro debut earlier this year. This is one of two matchups on this card that is almost a throwback to older days of Irish MMA.

Richie Smullen (SBG Ireland, 4-1-1) vs Seán Tobin (Trials MMA, 6-3)

Entering his 9th year as a pro MMA fighter, it’s somewhat surprising that Seán Tobin has as many pro fights. Inactivity is a dangerous game in MMA, and coming off a two-year absence from competition, Tobin may have his hands full with Richie Smullen. The Arklow man—known for his heavy grappling and footlock game—is relentless once he gets on top of you. After a brief stint in the UFC, Smullen got the better of Adam Gustab in his Bellator debut and likely goes into this fight against Tobin as a heavy favourite. Tobin is no stranger to the grappling department, but it will be an incredibly hard-fought victory if he is to get the better of the SBG Ireland man.

Ryan Roddy (SBG Ireland, 7-1-1) vs (Patrik Pietilä, 11-7)

Another Irish MMA fighter who has flown under the radar due to inactivity is Ryan Roddy. Roddy made his pro debut back in 2007 (yes, that’s 12 years ago). His only loss is to Paul “Redser” Redmond, and his most recent fight resulted in a draw against now UFC fighter Chris Fishgold. After a 4-year absence from MMA, it’s hard to tell what Ryan Roddy we will see, but I’m looking forward to seeing how he gets on against a tough opponent in Finland’s Patrik Pietilä.

Karl Moore (SBG Ireland, 8-2) vs Lee Chadwick (25-14-1)

I knew that this was a clash of the titans in the 205lbs division before, but after seeing both Moore and Chadwick in person today, believe me when I say that these are two BEHEMOTHS at light-heavyweight. Moore looked fantastic during his Cage Warriors 205lbs run before ultimately succumbing to defeat at the hands of Mauro Cerilli in his quest for heavyweight glory and the label of Cage Warriors “Champ Champ.” Moore has returned to 205lbs and is now training out of SBG Ireland. This is a massive test in his first outing under the Bellator banner as he faces easily the most experienced opponent of his young career in 40-fight veteran, Lee Chadwick. I hope that Bellator have secured the cage well because the big boys are coming to play!

Philip Mulpeter (SBG Portarlington, 9-6) vs Keith McCabe (3-4-1)

If ever there was a fight on this card that embodied an Irish MMA matchup, this is it. SBG vs Team Ryano. This, my friends, is going to be an absolute banger of a fight. There is no animosity or bullshit or anything like that coming in here. Paul Redmond said it best when he Tweeted “they’re gonna punch the nut off each other and go for a pint after” about this fight. If you want some insight into the type of warrior McCabe is, he detailed his extensive eye injuries to me in this interview. “The Butcher” had a detached retina that required multiple surgeries. He then fought to a draw in Lithuania and followed that up with a 3-round war with Galore Bafondo just a month later. On the other side of the matchup, Mulpeter has look rejuvenated in the most recent phase of his career. “Honeybadger” looked fantastic in his 1-1 run with Cage Warriors before signing with Bellator. Fans will want to get in early for this matchup as it’s one of the best on the card.

Blaine O’Driscoll (SBG Ireland, 7-2) vs Jake Hadley (4-0)

Forget about any analysis here for now. Go and watch the face-off between O’Driscoll and Hadley from the ceremonial weigh-ins earlier this evening. It was like watching two rams vying for alpha male status. This fight sells itself. WWFC flyweight champion vs EFC flyweight champion. Ireland vs England. Sign. Me. Up.

Dylan Logan (SBG Ireland, 3-3) vs Adam Gustab (4-4)

After a rocky start to his pro career, Dylan Logan got off to winning wars with an armbar finish in his Bellator debut. He looks to kick on from here against a familiar opponent in Adam Gustab, who fell to Logan’s teammate Richie Smullen. This is a must-win fight for Logan to start building some consistent momentum behind him.

Ian Coughlan (Team Ryano, 1-0) vs Constantin Gnusariev (SBG Ireland, 2-0-1)

Kicking off the Bellator Dublin event is another SBG vs Team Ryano showdown. Ian Coughlan is a third dan judo black belt, and every victory both his amateur and pro MMA careers has come by way of armbar. He faces off against Moldovan wrestler Gnusariev. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the grappling exchanges in this one. Will Gnusarieve impose his will from top position? Can Coughlan pull off another signature armbar once it goes to the deck? Will they nullify each other and let it play out on the feet? This is a fun style matchup to get the card off to a start!

Well, there you have it. I’m thoroughly exhausted after typing all this. In all seriousness, Bellator have brought a really deep card full of Irish talent. I’ve purely focused on the fights involving Irish fighters for this column, but you can find the full card listed below, including the times and broadcast details.

Follow myself (Andy Stevenson), Seán Sheehan, Patrick Sheehan, and Severe MMA for coverage LIVE from the 3 Arena in Dublin tomorrow night.

Enjoy the fights everyone, I know I will!

Andy is a multimedia reporter, interviewer, writer, with a strong focus on Irish MMA. Co-host of The Auld Triangle podcast. Follow Andy on Twitter (@andyste123) and Instagram (@andystevensonMMA).

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