Perhaps never before has Bellator MMA president Scott Coker's "tent-pole" event description been so accurate. The circus is in Houston on Friday, and no one is apologizing for it. A trilogy bout between two men with a combined age of 101? A battle for the streets, featuring two sluggers with a beef that dates back nearly a full decade? Hate all you want, but Coker dares you not to watch.
Bellator 149 will be alive and kicking at Toyota Center. Let's take a closer look at the two top fights involved. Don't agree with these picks? Let MMA Live analyst Brett Okamoto know on Twitter: @bokamotoESPN.
Odds: Shamrock -110; Gracie -110
How does one even try to handicap this fight? Good question. And it's one that I don't have a good answer to -- but the fight is upon us and picks are due, so here goes.
Let's start with Gracie. In another universe, it would have been fun to see if he could have developed a full repertoire of skills. As much as his legacy is based on the "smaller guy beats the bigger, more athletic guy" storyline, Gracie looked reasonably athletic in his 20s. He's lanky, which can be a benefit if you know how to use it. He's obviously a competitor. Go back and watch Matt Hughes nearly rearrange his arm from side control in 2006. Gracie just set his jaw and took his medicine. He was doomed in that fight, but he never quit.
As it is, however, Gracie is very one-dimensional. He's a legend and his grin belongs on the Mount Rushmore of MMA (would you build this already, America?), but he's bringing his Gracie jiu-jitsu against Shamrock, and that's about it. That and, I'm guessing, a far, far superior gas tank than Shamrock. And considering we're talking about two, how shall we say, elders, in this matchup, Gracie's cardio advantage might be the difference.
Shamrock is still the bigger man, as he was in 1993 and 1995. Maybe 20 to 25 pounds heavier in this openweight fight. It's probably safe to assume he has zero fear of Gracie's punches. This fight could start off with Gracie getting three free shots at Shamrock's chin, and I'm not convinced it would end there. That doesn't necessarily mean I favor Shamrock's striking; he's slow and will tire quickly. There's a decent chance Gracie could just maintain distance as Shamrock wears out, score a few leg kicks and win a terrible fight if it stays standing.
I don't think it will stay standing, though. These two were and are ground fighters. Shamrock might just try and duplicate what he did in their 1995 draw, back when Gracie had a gi on and Shamrock was allowed to wear shoes. Shamrock scored some takedowns, buried his head into Gracie's chest hair and took zero risks for the entirety of the fight. Back then, they called that a draw. Today, that's probably good enough for a win by decision.
We're all friends here. Let's talk frankly: This fight is gross. Shamrock should be favored basically on size alone. If he doesn't gas and/or fall apart physically, he should probably win this on paper. Of course, Gracie could catch him from the bottom early and we'd all have a fun time talking about the good old days, but Shamrock has had what, 22 years, to learn his lesson from the first time they fought? Chances are, if Gracie wins by submission, it'll be due more to Shamrock turning into dead weight than it will be a spectacular move.
PREDICTION: Gracie via second-round submission (with Shamrock exhaustion).
Odds: Slice -420; Harris +335
As head-scratching as Bellator's main event is this week, this co-main -- I mean -- this co-main is truly out of left field. Basically, if you didn't see the streetfighting documentary "Dawg Fight," you literally have no idea what is happening.
Let's assume you know the storyline (this one's for the streets!) and are here to talk matchup. Welp, basically, Slice should run away with this. Whatever you think of Slice as a mixed martial artist, he is far more fitting of that description than Harris, who has two awful-looking professional MMA bouts -- the most recent of which occurred five years ago.
Harris is a big dude. Force equals mass times acceleration. So, you get the idea. Weird things happen when big dudes swing hands with 4-ounce gloves on. But unless Harris is running a long con on us all, patiently showcasing poor standup for years in order to catch Slice off guard, there is no technique in what he's doing. He's just swinging in the general direction of his target.
This shouldn't be surprising, considering what Harris is. He's a backyard brawler and, at the very least, that puts pressure on an opponent. It leaves you wide open to getting hit. But what if Harris could overwhelm Slice? Graze him with a shot and let adrenaline do the rest? It's definitely possible, but Slice is pretty comfortable under fire at age 42. He'll be in better shape, he moves his head more, throws far more technical punches and in the .0001 percent chance this thing hits the floor? He'll actually have a big advantage.
If you really want to dig, we could discuss further. But truth is, this fight will probably be over in less time than it took for you to read this breakdown.
PREDICTION: Slice via knockout, early. Real early.