Bellator MMA had a very big year in 2020. Despite having to shutdown for a few months due to the pandemic, they accomplished some great things. From the first major MMA event in France to transitioning to CBS Sports Network.
It’s been a very good year for Bellator. However, despite those accomplishments, it’s the additions that Bellator has made in 2020 that really stand out to me. Specifically the additions to the light heavyweight division.
The UFC parted ways with three top level fighters in 2020. Those fighters being Corey Anderson (14-5), Yoel Romero (13-5), and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-6). Bellator pounced on those three immediately and scooped them up.
Anderson asked for his release earlier this year after he felt he wasn’t getting paid enough. Once released, Bellator signed him to a deal where he was making more. Yoel Romero was recently cut from the UFC. However, he fought for the middleweight title in his last fight.
Once on the market, Bellator signed him for the light heavyweight division. Rumble Johnson’s UFC return was much anticipated, but the two sides decided it would be best to part ways. Once on the market, Bellator signed Rumble as well.
Bellator’s Light Heavyweight Division in 2021
When the year started, Ryan Bader (27-6, 1 NC) held both the Bellator light heavyweight and heavyweight titles. However, he hadn’t defended his light heavyweight title since 2017. That changed at Bellator 244 when he fought Vadim Nemkov (12-2).
While there was a lot of hype surrounding Nemkov, many believed it would be another win for Bader. However, Nemkov proved the doubters wrong by stopping Bader in the second round. Nemkov is now the light heavyweight king and he’s 5-0 in Bellator.
The next title defense isn’t clear for Nemkov. There’s talk of a potential rematch with Bader, but there is also talk of him facing either Phil Davis (22-5, 1 NC) or Corey Anderson. Davis is riding a three-fight winning streak and just defeated Lyoto Machida (26-10) in September.
Anderson made his Bellator debut in November when he smashed Melvin Manhoef at Bellator 251. In my opinion, Bader should fight at heavyweight next and let Nemkov take on either Anderson or Davis.
The fight everyone wants to see is the potential matchup between Romero and Rumble. In all honesty, it’s bigger than the champion Nemkov facing off against any of those top contenders I mentioned.
Rumble – Romero is one of the biggest matchups Bellator could make in 2021. There have been whispers of a potential Grand Prix, but nothing is official. What we do know is that the light heavyweight division is stacked. Nemkov is going to have his hands full this upcoming year.