Bellator 226 kicks off the featherweight grand prix and the heavyweight title is on the line in the main event. Cageside Press’ picks are below.

Staff Writers
Bolanos vs. Carey
Sicilia vs. Carvalho
Claxton vs. Sanchez
Curran vs. Borics
Straus vs. Campos
Bader vs. Kongo
Jason Payne (138-60)
Heath Harshman (132-66)
Keith Shillan (91-48)
Ryan Fortune (90-49)
Jay Anderson (124-74)
Dan Doherty (123-75)
Gabriel Gonzalez (119-79)
Mike McClory (75-50)
Paarth Pande (97-65)

The main event of Bellator 226 features Ryan Bader defending one of his two belts against top heavyweight contender Cheick Kongo. Bader is undefeated at 5-0 since signing with the promotion, winning both the light heavyweight and heavyweight titles. Kongo has basically forced his way into a title shot, winning eight consecutive fights. The champion was picked by six of nine writers.

The co-main event is between featherweight mainstays Derek Campos and Daniel Straus. Straus has been with Bellator since 2010 and held the featherweight title twice, but never successfully defended it. Campos debuted in 2012 and is looking to bounce back from losing his last three fights. Seven of nine writers went with the former champion.

It’s old guard vs. new guard in the first round of the tournament, as Pat Curran faces Adam Borics. Curran debuted for the promotion in 2010 and was the champion twice, with two defenses to his name. He’s won three of his last four fights. The 26-year-old Borics has been beyond impressive in his career, going 13-0 and finishing his four Bellator opponents in exciting fashion, including a flying knee KO of Aaron Pico. Borics was slightly favored, with five of nine picks going to him.

Tywan Claxton looks to stay undefeated in his young career against Emmanuel Sanchez. Claxton is 5-0 with four finishes, and looks to be a featherweight of the future. Sanchez is an impressive 10-3 in the promotion, with the only loss in his last six fights being a title fight against Patricio Pitbull. Sanchez got the nod with five of nine picks going to him.

Sam Sicilia takes on rising prospect Pedro Carvalho. Carvalho is 3-0 since joining Bellator with an impressive win over Derek Campos. Sicilia is 2-1 since leaving the UFC, also defeating Campos in his last fight. Another close pick, as Sicilia got five to Carvalho’s four.

Opening the main card is a prospect showcase as Gaston Bolanos takes on Daniel Carey. Bolanos is a Muay Thai specialist with a 5-1 MMA record and all of his wins coming by KO. Carey is an even 2-2 with the promotion. Bolanos was unanimously picked.