Back due to necessity rather than popular demand, Rafael Carvalho, Bellator’s middleweight champion, faces Melvin Manhoef for a second time this Saturday (April 8) at Bellator 176 in Torino, Italy.
An important rematch, as opposed to one which gets pulses racing, the pair’s first fight, a five-rounder in Boise, Idaho last May, was far from a classic, yet ended with Carvalho holding on to his belt thanks to a rather fortuitous split-decision verdict. One judge scored the fight 49-47 to Manhoef, while the other two went for Carvalho by the same score. Most who endured the fight, though, believed Manhoef, the veteran globetrotter boasting just three wins from his previous seven fights, was hard done by and did more than enough to walk home as the new champion.
It wasn’t to be. Carvalho successfully, if not impressively, notched the first defence of a belt he won when stopping Brandon Halsey with a body kick in 2015, and Manhoef, 30-13-1, licked his wounds and hoped justice would prevail in the form of a rematch.
“It’s no excuse, but for that fight I had a very challenging training camp,” Carvalho, 13-1, told MMAjunkie. “I had one injury after another. I fought with my shoulder and lower back both hurt. And on fight day, I hurt my foot, so I fought per our strategy.
“I believe that I, as the champion, walk in with a certain advantage. I can fight within a very strict strategy. I watch that fight video every so often, and I don’t see how he did more to deserve to be champion.
“He threw strikes that didn’t connect. He circled. He moved forward very little. I dominated the center of the cage. I cut him off. I took him down.
“People may say that I didn’t fight as a champion, but Melvin didn’t do more than me to deserve victory. Now, when we meet again, it’s going to be a different story.”
Let’s hope so. Let’s hope for a different kind of story this weekend.
Whether a case of righting a wrong or merely confirming – with a bit more authority – the same result, there’s a definite sense Carvalho and Manhoef need to sort out their differences, establish some sort of clarity and settle this thing once and for all. Anyone who saw the first fight will know they aren’t reuniting in the name of entertainment or because of any burning desire on the part of fans. Instead, it’s happening because it must. Moreover, it’s happening because Manhoef, a well-travelled Dutchman who has represented pretty much every organization outside the UFC, deserves another chance, and because Carvalho, a champion debilitated mid-fight first time round, deserves the chance to show what he can do when fit and healthy.
Indeed, the rematch was originally slated for December 2016, again on Italian soil, but was scuppered on account of an injury to Carvalho. He’s over that now, he claims, repaired and ready to go, and has even gone as far as to say there will be no judges required for defence number two; he has guaranteed a knockout within the five rounds. One suspects 40-year-old Manhoef, too, will promise fireworks and a finish.
We only hope this time one of them is proved correct. For their sake. And for ours.
Today’s Bellator 176 weigh-in results:
Bellator 176: Carvalho vs. Manhoef II Main Card:
Middleweight World Title Bout: Rafael Carvalho (184.4 lbs.) vs. Melvin Manhoef (184.5 lbs.)
Women’s Catchweight Fight: Anastasia Yankova (133 lbs.) vs. Elina Kallionidou (131 lbs.)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Djamil Chan (156 lbs.) vs. Valeriu Mircea (153.5 lbs.)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Samba Coulibaly (155.25 lbs.) vs. Mihail Nica (153.5 lbs.)
Bellator Kickboxing 5 Main Card:
Lightweight Feature Fight: Giorgio Petrosyan (153.34 lbs.) vs. Amansio Paraschiv (153.78 lbs.)
Women’s Flyweight World Title Bout: Denise Kielholtz (123.2 lbs.) vs. Martine Michieletto (123.86 lbs.)
Catchweight Feature Fight: Nando Calzetta (154.88 lbs.) vs. John Wayne Parr (160.38 lbs.)
Welterweight Feature Fight: Mustapha Haida (157.52 lbs.) vs. Enriko Kehl (157.3 lbs.)
Featherweight Feature Fight: Gaston Bolanos (146.08 lbs.) vs. Luca D’isanto (142.56 lbs.)