Fresh off scoring a candidate for “knockout of the year” in his last Bellator MMA appearance, Hisaki Kato will enter the cage tonight at Bellator 146 to face one of MMA’s most decorated Muay Thai specialists.
However, unlike that shocking win over Joe Schilling at Bellator 1309 back in June — this time, Kato (pictured to the right) is the favorite, as he faces veteran Dutch kickboxer Melvin Manhoef (left) in tonight’s main event.
Kato, a 31 year old with an MMA record of 5-1, also has a very different motivation tonight than he had that evening.
A resident of Nagoya, Japan, Kato was actually born in Paris, France — and his sister was among the survivors of the city’s recent terrorist attacks.
“I’m just more motivated for this fight,” Kato said in a recent interview with MMA Fighting. “Even if I don’t do good, I want the Parisian people to be proud of me… if I win, of course, I have a flag. I will show the flag to the world.”
According to odds-makers at BestFightOdds Kato is as much as a -155 favorite to defeat Manhoef, who has struggled in recent bouts in both kickboxing and MMA after a career that spans nearly 100 fights.
In his last Bellator appearance back in February of this year, Manhoef was knocked out by Alexander Schlemenko — but the result was overturned after Schlemenko tested positive for anabolic steroids. Last November, Manhoef scored two early knockdowns in an MMA bout against Joe Schilling, but was knocked out in round two.
The 39 year old Manhoef has no plans to retire, however.
“I love competing,” Manhoef told MMA Fighting in a recent interview. “I love fighting. I love showing up in the gym. Do you do what you like to do? Because that’s what you should do in life. Do the things that bring you happiness.”
Bellator 146 airs on Spike TV at 9 pm ET/PT, 8 pm CT.