Bellator 190: “Carvalho vs. Sakara” goes down this Saturday night (Dec. 9, 2017) at Nelson Mandela Forum in Florence, Italy, featuring a Spike TV-televised main event between hard-hitting Middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho (14-1) against local fan favorite, Alessio Sakara (19-11, 2 NC).
Sakara comes into the evening on a three-fight win streak — all three coming via (technical) knockout — and he left little doubt about his prodigious punching power when he flattened Joey Beltran in 80 seconds almost one year ago. In fact, 13 of his 19 professional mixed martial arts (MMA) wins have come via strikes (he has also 8-1 as a boxer with six wins by knockout).
Carvalho, meanwhile, is just as formidable … if not more so. His 14-fight win streak extends all the way to 2012, and in that time 11 of his 14 wins have come from a referee waving off the fight. Even though he’s undoubtedly trained extensively in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, we have yet to see him submit an opponent because, well, he simply hasn’t needed to.
“[My training was] all perfect. I know exactly what I need to do to keep my title as champion. Boxing is the only chance for Sakara to beat me. He had to shorten the distance and then suffer a terrible bombardment.”
Even though he wants to bombard Sakara with punishment, Carvalho is not motivated by any lack of respect for his opponent. In fact, he actually likes Sakara quite a bit.
“Sakara is a gentleman, yes, I respect him and I think he respects me, too. Let’s go in there and ‘kill us’ (each other) and deliver a great fight to Italian and worldwide fans — and then life goes on for each of us.”
He doesn’t have that same respect for “The American Gangster,” though. With the recent announcement of Bellator’s Heavyweight Grand Prix, the 6’3” Middleweight champion with a 78” reach was stunned Chael Sonnen was invited and not him.
“I did not understand why they did not call me. I love challenges and I’m ready if anyone gets hurt. Do you put Chael Sonnen in a (Heavyweight) Grand Prix, how can this be? (It) does not make sense! Sonnen is too weak to be there. There is still time to put me in this tournament.”
Not shocking perhaps given his feelings on Sonnen are well known. It seems like Carvalho is campaigning to be an alternate, but that’s not the only fight he is campaigning for. If Light Heavyweight champion Ryan Bader doesn’t advance in his bracket, Carvalho will be waiting.
“I (would) take the opportunity to challenge Ryan Bader. Hello Mr. Coker! Mr. Rich (Chou), I’m defeating Ryan Bader, champion against champion. I want to have both belts at the same time. Here the level is higher. Let me show Bader the power of the Bellator champions.”
As grand as these plans are there’s still the matter of Sakara first this weekend in Italy, and Carvalho is in no way looking past him or his rabid fan base.
“Italian fans are like Brazilian fans, they will push (Sakara) forward. Yes, Sakara’s boxing skill (is) untold, but that will not be enough for him. I’ll beat him by knockout.”
Indeed, since the last Melvin Manhoef fight Carvalho has been working hard on every aspect of his game.
“I tried to improve everything. I always try to improve fight after fight. I still think I’m far from reaching my limit in muay thai, boxing, wrestling and BJJ.”
Who knows what the upper limit is for Carvalho? He’s on a 14-fight win streak and he’s already a world champion … and neither of those things seem to pressure him.
“No, this is the result of my hard work.”
Short and to the point — just like much of his striking. On the subject of future opponent Gegard Mousasi, though, Carvalho has a lot to say.
“Gegard Mousasi has credits, but he does not deserve the chance, he lost to Shlemenko. For justice, it should be Shlemenko, but I’m ready for Mousasi. At the moment my thinking is for the dangerous Sakara.”
There’s no doubt he’s focused on “the dangerous Sakara,” but clearly he feels Shlemenko got robbed in Mousasi’s Bellator debut.
“(There’s no doubt) Shlemenko won. Mousasi converted the fight to where he was not in trouble, but Shlemenko did a lot of damage and won, the judges made a mistake.”
Carvalho is keeping his eye on the whole division, though, and not just these two men or his opponent on Saturday. He’s got a lot of respect for John Salter and Rafael Lovato Jr., too.
“Well, I believe Mousasi and Shlemenko are on a level above, but these two boys are growing rapidly. This is very good for the division.”
To see how much Carvalho has grown since his last title defense, you’ll have to tune in for Bellator 190 this Saturday evening. The show airs at a different start time than usual (8 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. CT), so if you’re out for the night set your DVR accordingly to ensure that you don’t miss it.
Complete coverage of “Carvalho vs. Sakara” resides here at MMAmania.com all week long.
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