Bellator 233 “Salter vs. van Steenis” comes to WinStar World Casino and Resort in Thackerville, Oklahoma on November 8, 2019. Two of the promotion’s top Middleweights will meet in a quest to determine who moves closer to a world title shot.
Let’s break it down:
185 lbs.: John Salter (16-4) vs. Costello van Steenis (12-1)
“The Spaniard” Costello van Steenis has been quietly working his way up the ladder — so quietly you might have missed it entirely. The Dutch fighter has had four Bellator bouts but only half of them were in the United States and one win was a split decision. The bout that finally put him on the map was a brutal knockout via elbows at Bellator 223, securing himself a future Bellator main event and Middleweight title contention. With finishes in 75% of his wins (four knockouts, five submissions) he is a true danger to the whole division.
John Salter was once on the road to contender as well but a loss to future champion Rafael Lovato Jr. knocked him out of the lead and forced him to regroup. A dominant win over the lanky and dangerous Chidi Njokuani at Bellator 210 put him right back in the mix. Defeating a rising prospect like van Steenis may be the argument he needs to get a Lovato rematch. He’s certainly the best submission artist in the division NOT named Lovato. 56% of his wins (nine of 16) come that way, and if you judge only his Bellator MMA career the percentage is even higher. The bad news for van Steenis is Salter has faced and beaten much better foes.
Final prediction: John Salter via triangle choke in the first round
195 lbs.: Muhammed Lawal (21-9) vs. Andrew Kapel (14-6)
Retirements are a funny business in pro wrestling and mixed martial arts. Nobody’s ever really “done” unless they’re laying six feet under the ground. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal swears this is his last fight though, and if it is I certainly can’t blame him. Three straight knockout losses (two in Bellator and one in Rizin) have certainly given him reason to consider his health. I think he could have called it quits after the Liam McGeary fight myself, but considering the man is a former world champion and former grand prix champion, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt in one last bout.
He’s certainly not making it easy on himself by fighting Andrew Kapel, currently on a three fight winning streak, two of those wins coming by rear naked choke. In fact 64% of Kapel’s wins come by submission, but Lawal has never been tapped out before, so he probably feels that he’s invulnerable. Kapel lives and dies by that sword — his one big name fight to date was a rear naked choke loss to “Lionheart” Anthony Smith. This should work out in Lawal’s favor as long as he keeps the fighting standing, and with his outstanding wrestling ability, I see no reason his takedown defense won’t hold up.
Final prediction: Muhammed Lawal by third round TKO
145 lbs.: Leslie Smith (11-7-1) vs. Arlene Blencowe (12-7)
It would be easy to misjudge this fight based solely on their records alone. If on the other hand you’ve ever watched “The Peacekeeper” Leslie Smith or “Angerfist” Arlene Blencowe fight, you understand just how enticing this match-up is. Both women are the type to give you absolutely everything they have even in a losing effort, both are more than willing to stand in a phone booth and trade, and both have a high percentage of knockouts in their wins – 45% for Smith and 58% for Blencowe. Smith is on a two fight win streak, Blencowe three, and both are eyeing the winner of Julia Budd vs. Cris Cyborg in January. At 5’9” with a 67” reach Smith has both height and length on Blencowe (5’5” and 66”) and has really come into her own now that she’s fighting at Featherweight and not making drastic weight cuts.
Final prediction: Leslie Smith via unanimous decision
170 lbs.: Logan Storley (10-0) vs. E.J. Brooks (13-5)
With a new contract under his belt and an opponent signed for Friday, all Logan “Storm” Storley has to do is go out and dominate the competition. 70% of his wins are finishes in the first or second round, and he gets into those positions thanks to his amateur wrestling pedigree and high level training partners like Kamaru Usman and Michael Johnson at Hard Knocks 365. Since three of his last four fights have gone to the judges, some fans may have forgotten Storley is a proven finisher. E.J. Brooks won’t make it easy for him to find one since he’s on a five fight streak and ALL FIVE wins have gone to decision. Despite that I find the most telling fact is that Brooks only has one knockout and two submissions in his 13 wins, and Storley is “farm strong” in a way previous foes have been unable to handle given all seven of his finishes are by knockout.
Final prediction: Logan Storley via first round KO
265 lbs.: Tyrell Fortune (7-0) vs. Azunna Anyanwu (15-5)
Speaking of unnaturally strong wrestlers who successfully moved from amateur competition to MMA, former Olympic prospect Tyrell Fortune has rapidly moved up the ranks and dusted former collegiate rivals in the process. He can’t afford to get cocky and look past Azunna Anyanwu though, an opponent with significantly more experience plus a brief stint in UFC where he got bounced after one split decision went against him. Their loss may be Bellator’s gain as 60% of his wins come by knockout. It’s hard to pick against Fortune given how much improvement he’s shown in every Bellator fight, with the entirety of his career being fought inside their cage, but beating Anyanwu may require Fortune to push this one into deep waters and simply show off better cardio and conditioning. Then again he may simply pop Anyanwu with a big shot and have quick night. Predicting Heavyweights to go the distance is risky but it just happened to Derrick Lewis.
Final prediction: Tyrell Fortune via unanimous decision
That’s a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 233 tomorrow with a main card at 9 p.m. ET on Paramount Network and DAZN, with “Prelims” undercard bouts starting at 7 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.