VERONA, N.Y. – It’s an interesting time to be a welterweight on Bellator’s roster.
Sitting atop the 170-pound chain, fresh off his Bellator 180 title defense over Lorenz Larkin, is champion Douglas Lima. Directly behind him sits former UFC title challenger Rory MacDonald – who, after stamping his Bellator title shot with a debut win over Paul Daley, already has addressed his impatience in waiting for a fight.
Below the “The Red King,” there’s a tight race. By pitting Chidi Njokuani’s unblemished Bellator record against an ex-champion in Andrey Koreshkov, Saturday’s Bellator 182 headliner, for instance, could very well determine a challenger.
But another welterweight competing on that same Bellator 182 card believes the winner of his own bout might end up cutting in line.
“There’s not really much rankings in Bellator – it’s more who can put on the best performance,” Fernando Gonzalez told MMAjunkie on Wednesday. “The way me and (Brennan Ward) fight – it’s going to be exciting, man. I’m more excited because of the matchup.
“I don’t really predict what’s going to happen next. But I know, if I had a prediction: I would say, if me and Brennan go out there and give the performance we know we’re going to, either one of us could get the title shot next. I know it’s going to be me, because I’ve trained my ass off for this fight and I’m going to get my hand raised.”
Gonzalez (26-14 MMA, 6-1 BMMA) and Ward (14-5 MMA, 9-5 BMMA) will co-headline Saturday’s card at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, N.Y. The 178-pound catchweight bout airs on Spike, along with the rest of the main card, following prelims on MMAjunkie.
Ward enters the cage looking for recovery after Paul Daley’s massive flying knee put a first-round stop to their Bellator 170 fight in January. Gonzalez, in turn, comes into Saturday’s bout off an important Bellator 174 decision win over Brandon Girtz.
It hasn’t been all positives for Gonzalez, though. This past November at Bellator 165, he dropped a tight split decision to undefeated and hyped prospect Michael Page. That meant not only a halt to a five-fight victorious momentum, but also Gonzalez’s first Bellator loss.
Still, as far as negative outcomes go, he doesn’t seem all that broken up about that particular one.
In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Against a creative and feared striker in Page, Gonzalez believes he was able to showcase a much different part of his game. And, while he didn’t quite agree with how the judges scored it, he was happy with the way he performed.
“When he walked into the arena, they were cheering for him,” Gonzalez said. “When we walked out, they were cheering for me. I walked out of there feeling like I got the victory. (You) can’t see it the way the judges do every time. But my job is to go out there and fight. The way I felt, (was) that I won the fight.
“So going into (the Girtz fight), I went in there with a lot of confidence knowing that I made someone that was hyped up to be a killer, I made him look ordinary. Everything (Page) did to other people, he couldn’t do that to me.”
On Saturday, Gonzalez takes on an opponent who hasn’t gone the distance in any of his 14 Bellator fights. And, as it turns out, Gonzalez is not expecting to be the first to do the honors.
“Honestly, I go off of what they give me,” Gonzalez said. “(Ward) is aggressive, so it could easily be a knockout or a submission, just because I do notice he tends to gas after a couple of punches. If he doesn’t land it, he’ll try to get you to the ground.
“It could easily be a submission or me catching him on the ground or me catching him on the chin as he’s rushing in.”
To hear more from Gonzalez, check out the video above.
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