By Daniel Galvan
This Friday, Bellator Strawweight Champion Zoila Gurgel will return to mixed martial arts after almost two years in her home state of Ohio at Bellator 78.
There’s only one glaring problem. She’s fighting on the undercard.
Regardless if it’s non-title fight or a squash match, the decision to put a titleholder on the under-card is asinine. By placing her on the non-televised portion of the event, Bellator is basically telling the viewing audience that Gurgel isn’t a star. Call me crazy, but that’s probably not the best decision when you look at it from a long-term perspective.
Nevertheless, on Spike.com you can check out one of the top women fighters on the planet. Zoila Gurgel will look to extend her six fight win streak against 34 year old Casey Noland. Gurgel is one of the best strikers in women’s MMA who likes to implore a body clinch on her opponents and bully them against the cage.
Casey Noland is no stranger to fighting Ohioans in their home town. At Bellator 51, Noland fought Ohio native Jessica Eye in her home state. Training at the Pit for over sixteen years, Noland is a true veteran of the sport, but that experience won’t be enough against her highly talented opponent. Despite her lackluster 27.3% rate, Gurgel should be able to finish Noland and keep her Bellator record unblemished.
While he waits for his eventual title shot against the victor of the Patricio Freire/Pat Curran winner, Season 6 Featherweight Tournament Champion Daniel Straus will keep himself busy against former UFC fighter Alvin Robinson.
Straus is a well-rounded, relentless grinder that has won sixteen of his last seventeen fights. Robinson is a BJJ black belt that lost three tough fights in the UFC against formidable challengers in Gray Maynard, Kenny Florian, and Mark Bocek. Robinson is a talented BJJ player, but his aggressiveness on the ground tends to get him in trouble as he has been submitted five times.
On the ground, Robinson certainly poses a submission threat, but Daniel Straus should be able to evade the attempts from Robinson. The spectacular wrestling ability of Straus should allow him to control where the fight plays out, and that’s why I think he will cruise to a rather convincing decision win.
In another non-tournament televised bout, the heavy handed Brian Rogers will take on Dominique Steele. Steele has power in his punches as well, but Rogers is a dangerously aggressive and explosive striker. This should be a fun, short fight that sees Rogers add another finish to his highlight reel.
The first set of semi-finals will also commence at Bellator 78 as the four welterweights remaining in the Season 7 tournament will compete in a pair of contests that will determine the finalists.
In a battle of highly respected strikers, Russian prospect (I feel like that’s the nineteenth time I’ve wrote that during this season of Bellator) Andrey Koreshkov will take on Marius Zaromskis.
Going into this tournament I was all in on Koreshkov, but his performance against Jordan Smith in the opening round didn’t exactly blow me away. While Koreshkov showcased the brilliant striking he has been touted to have, he weakened as the fight progressed, and Zaromskis should be able to expose that conditioning flaw and win the latter part of the bout
The fight between Koreshkov and Zaromskis should be a fun and close contest, but I think Zaromskis will be the one getting his hand raised after a grueling stand-up war.
Lyman Good, the inaugural Bellator champion at 170 pounds, will compete against Michael Tsarev in the other semi-final match-up. Good is a top-notch striker, while Tsarev is an above average grappler.
Tsarev impressed me with his suffocating, submission win against Tim Welch at Bellator 74, but I think he’ll run into trouble against Good. Good is absolutely locked in right now. I’ve never seen him fight better. His defensive wrestling should keep the fighting standing where he should be able to easily control the contest.
While it’s a shame that Zoila Gurgel isn’t on the main card, Bellator 78 still has a promising line-up set for MTV 2. Every fight card has potential either be an awesome three round war or an explosive highlight reel finish.
By Daniel Galvan