Bellator 217 predictions, preview for ‘Gallagher vs Graham’

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Bellator 217: “Gallagher vs. Graham” take place this weekeend (Sat., Feb. 23, 2019) from 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland. It’s a show designed entirely around one local superstar, James Gallagher, getting his chance to shine in the main event against an opponent seemingly hand picked for him to face.

Let’s break it down:

135 lbs.: “Strabanimal” James Gallagher (7-1) vs. Steven Graham (5-3)

If you looked at this card and said, “Who in the blue hell is Steven ‘Golden’ Graham?” you’re not the only one. Despite a somewhat marginal overall record, there’s more to the man than meets the eye. He fights out of Kansas City for American Top Team HD under head coach Jason High, a long-time veteran with plenty of wisdom and experience to impart. Although Graham had an inauspicious 1-3 start to his career, he went on to reel off four straight wins from 2017-2018, including three guillotine chokes in a row. Not too shabby!

Irish eyes will be smiling on Gallagher though, the brash young man from nearby Strabane. Up until suffering his first professional loss in Aug. 2018, Gallagher had dominated his Featherweight competition to the degree he thought a drop to Bantamweight would be a breeze. Ricky Bandejas had other plans though, “stiffening him up” with a punch and a kick right on the chin. To his credit, instead of sulking about his loss he took his lumps and vowed to come back better than ever, and he’s staying at 135 pounds for this fight.

While Graham’s rapid improvement in the course of a couple of years suggests he’s not simply a pushover for the “Strabanimal” in Dublin, it’s not surprising that he drew an opponent with the same number of professional fights yet holds a less impressive win percentage. Have either of them fought the best in their weight class? In the cage that’s a no — they are both far too young in their careers for that to be true. In training though, being Conor McGregor’s training partner means that Gallagher has seen things even a veteran like James High can’t teach. On top of that, the kid’s a submission wiz, tapping out 85 percent of his opponents and 75 percent of his fights (six of eight) overall. If Graham thinks his guillotine choke is better than a guy who rolls with Dillon Danis I’ve got a feeling we’ll be sweeping cereal out of the cage.

Final prediction: James Gallagher wins via rear-naked choke in round one

155 lbs.: Peter Queally (11-4-1) vs. Myles Price (10-7)

Everyone on this card is getting the rub from Gallagher, with Peter Queally and Myles Price being no exception. Price, in particular, is a dubious selection, having lost three of his last five bouts, most recently falling to former UFC fighter “Stormin” Norman Parke by unanimous decision. Queally has only won two of his last four bouts (one was a draw), but has more upside out of the two. Like Gallagher, he’s a SBG Ireland prospect, and at 5’11,” he’s a tall drink for a Lightweight fight (although Price is actually taller at 6’1).” Queally is a Welterweight cutting down for this fight though, so he’s going to be the stronger man unless he has a very bad cut.

Final prediction: Peter Queally wins via knockout

145 lbs.: Richie Smullen (3-1-1) vs. Adam Gustab (3-2)

Outside of the hardcore European fan base these are not well recognized names. A few people might known Smullen from The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 27, but he lost his fight on the finale via guillotine choke in the first round and was promptly released. Like his opponent, Gustab only has one win in his past three fights, and his last loss in late 2017 came via flying knee — great for highlight reels, bad for your career. Maybe a year and change has given him some time to improve but if I’m going to favor anyone on a card in Dublin out of two middling fighters that would be the SBG Ireland fighter, and that’s Smullen.

Final prediction: Richie Smullen wins a unanimous decision

185 lbs.: Charlie Ward (5-3) vs. Jamie Stephenson (4-2)

Rounding out our list of fighters living in Gallagher’s coattails are SBG Ireland’s Ward and his hapless opponent Stephenson. I say hapless for two reasons — Ward has back-to-back knockouts in Bellator, and Stephenson has dropped two out of his last three and never fought anybody at the next level. Ward’s energetic striking and the enthusiastic support of Conor McGregor give him the potential to be a breakout star like Gallagher provided he doesn’t shit the bed on the big stage. This night could be the clean sweep SBG Ireland needs after a 2018, which went anything but their way.

Final prediction: Charlie Ward knocks Stephenson into next Tuesday

That’s a wrap! will deliver coverage of Bellator 217 this weekend with a main card on Paramount Network at 9 p.m. ET and DAZN fights 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.

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