Bellator MMA and UFC are presenting a double dose of action this week. Bellator 289 and UFC 282 wield roughly 25 fights across Friday and Saturday, respectively. Sift through the sand and you will find a few nuggets of gold.
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Bellator 289 showcases the semifinals of the Bantamweight World Grand Prix on Friday with interim bantamweight champion Raufeon Stots vs. Danny Sabatello atop the marquee. Bellator’s solid presentation also features a rematch between reigning women’s flyweight champion Liz Carmouche and former champion Juliana Velasquez.
UFC 282 takes over on Saturday with a fight for the vacant light heavyweight title. Former champion Jan Blachowicz and oncoming contender Magomed Ankalaev graduated to the main event after Jiri Prochazka voluntarily gave up his championship due to injury. Paddy Pimblett, the week’s biggest star, is nestled just underneath Saturday’s headliner.
Looking beyond the three titles at stake and there are an equal number of fights still worth your attention from both promotions. Take a look at three fights, plus a number of honorable mentions, to dig into on Friday and Saturday.
Paddy Pimblett vs. Jared Gordon
Pimblett and Gordon are on opposite ends of the personality scale. Pimblett is an all-action, memeable trash-talking Scouser. Gordon is a stone-cold survivor of drug addiction with a no-nonsense approach to the fight game. Pimblett quickly emerged as a UFC star on the strength of fun fights and his unique personality. Pimblett notched performance bonuses in his first three UFC fights, but found himself in serious trouble early against low-level UFC fighters Luigi Vendramini and Kazula Vargas. Gordon has only mustered one finish in seven UFC fights. Despite an uneven 7-4 Octagon run, Gordon is battle-tested against a murderer’s row including Charles Oliveira, Carlos Diego Ferreira and Grant Dawson. Look for Pimblett to begin his take over in 2023 with a win on Saturday.
Patchy Mix vs. Magomed Magomedov
Stots vs. Sabatello headlines Bellator 289, but it is not the only semifinal matchup of the Bantamweight World Grand Prix set for Friday night. The other end of the bracket features Mix vs. Magomedov with the winner meeting Sabatello or Stots for the interim bantamweight championship and a $1 million prize. Jiu-jitsu specialist Mix grounded and disabled tournament favorite Kyoji Horiguchi in the opening round. Magomedov tapped out Enrique Barzola, bouncing back from a three-round decision loss to Stots. Their respective ground skills could produce dynamic grappling exchanges or negate each other and lead to a fun stand-up battle.
Bryce Mitchell vs. Ilia Topuria
Mitchell and Topuria are two of the most promising featherweight contenders inhabiting the lower half of the rankings. Mitchell’s sublime grappling and Topuria’s wicked power could really shake up the 145-pound division. Their penchant for action should produce an exciting contest and set up the winner to fight someone in the top half of the division. Mitchell (15-0) is coming off a win over veteran striker Edson Barboza and boasts a rare twister submission victory against Matt Sayles. Topuria (12-0) has knocked out three of his four UFC opponents: Damon Jackson, Ryan Hall and Jai Herbert.
Honorable mentions: Edmen Shahbazyan vs. Dalcha Lungiambula, Raul Rosas Jr. vs. Jay Perrin, Chris Curtis vs. Joaquin Buckley and Billy Quarantillo vs. Alexander Hernandez