Jeremy Stephens no longer with the UFC; Officially a free agent

Jeremy Stephens

One of the more tenured fighters in the UFC is no longer with the promotion. Today, promotional officials confirmed with MMA Fighting that “Lil Heathen” Jeremy Stephens (28-19, 1 NC) is no longer with the promotion.

Stephens fought out his contract and his deal expired at the end of 2021. With the news today, we know that the UFC is not going to be bringing Stephens back and one of the more entertaining fighters over the last fifteen years is officially a free agent.

Stephens made his UFC debut back in May of 2007 when he fought Din Thomas. He was submitted in that first fight and the loss sent him back to the regional circuit. However, after one more win there, the UFC brought him back.

Once back in the UFC, Stephens won his first two fights including a TKO win over Cole Miller. It’s been quite the run for Stephens inside the octagon. Not many people can say they stay with the promotion as long as Stephens was able to.

Life Post UFC

Some of the highlight moments for Stephens in the UFC included a knockout of Rafael Dos Anjos and a big knockout over current top contender Josh Emmett. However, most of Stephens UFC career will be remembered as a guy who could get close to the top, but couldn’t quite summit the mountain.

Some might only remember him for being the guy who was mocked by Conor McGregor at a press conference. However, Stephens was always a ton of fun to watch in the UFC and he always kept you on the edge of your seat due to his raw power.

Now, he’s moving on. At just 35 years old, Stephens has plenty of fight left in him. I expect him to be pursued by both the PFL and Bellator. However, something tells me that PFL might have the inside track.

PFL is constantly looking to bring in more mainstream guys for their seasons. Stephens would bring in really solid name recognition and he has a great history with the UFC. He would be a very exciting addition to the 2022 lightweight season.

Time will tell, but this is definitely not he last we’ve seen of Jeremy Stephens.

Bellator books title fight between Yaroslav Amosov and Michael “Venom” Page

Bellator has booked a big time welterweight title fight that will go down in a few months. The promotion took to Twitter this morning to make the news official that Yaroslav Amosov (26-0) will be defending his welterweight title against Michael “Venom” Page (20-1).

The matchup will take place on May 13th and it will take place in London. MVP is finally going to get another crack at becoming Bellator’s welterweight champion. Last week, we published an article talking about how 2022 could be a massive year for Michael “Venom” Page. 

MVP enters 2022 and will enter this title shot having won six fights in a row. His last loss came against Douglas Lima back at Bellator 221. However, he’s been on an incredible run since winning six straight fights and finishing four of those opponents.

The last time we saw MVP was at Bellator 267 when he had his rematch with Douglas Lima. He edged out Lima to win a very close split decision. There was talk of the trilogy happening next, but Bellator opted to book the title fight for London instead.

Bellator champion’s first defense

The man who will be looking to spoil MVP’s homecoming in May is the current Bellator welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov. Amosov made his debut with the promotion back in 2018 and he’s been nothing but dominant since arriving.

Overall, Amosov is 7-0 in Bellator. The last time we saw him was back in June at Bellator 260 when he got his shot against Douglas Lima. Lima was the welterweight champion and was extremely motivated after he lost a title fight in the middleweight division.

However, that motivation couldn’t overcome the steady attack of Amosov. Amosov dominated the grappling on his way to becoming Bellator’s undisputed champion. Now, he gets a massive fight against MVP. If he can win this one, it’s hard to see someone taking that title away from him. Should be a good one in May.

Bellator fights that need to happen in 2022

In just a little under two weeks, Bellator will be back for the first time in 2022. It should be an exciting year for the promotion who has some big plans for this year. Obviously, one of the bigger items planned is the bantamweight grand prix.

In addition to that, Bellator will also conclude their light heavyweight grand prix when Corey Anderson and Vadim Nemkov square off. That fight is expected to take place in the first quarter of this year. Many exciting things are planned but there’s still a lot of speculation about the upcoming year.

Scott Coker has teased a couple of big fights that could be coming up. For example, Michael “Venom” Page might be getting his Bellator welterweight title shot in London. Fedor Emelianenko could be getting a heavyweight title fight for his retirement fight.

With so many things up in the air, let’s take a look at a few Bellator fights that need to be booked in 2022.

Bellator fights that need to be booked

AJ McKee – Patricio Pitbull 2

The first fight that Bellator has to make this year is the rematch between AJ McKee (18-0) and Patricio Pitbull (32-5). These two fought in the finals of the featherweight grand prix back in July and McKee stunned everyone when he stopped Pitbull in under two minutes.

Pitbull had done nothing but dominate the featherweight division for years. However, McKee made it look easy when he rocked Pitbull on the feet then choked him out in the first. Scott Coker has already said that the promotion will likely run things back and this is a must for Bellator fans.

Cris Cyborg – Kayla Harrison

This next matchup would pair two of the  very best women in the world against each other. If I’m Bellator, a fight that I have to book this year is Cris Cyborg (25-2) against Kayla Harrison (12-0). Harrison is the hottest free agent on the market and she’s still unsigned.

The two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and PFL champion hit the open market after capturing her second PFL title in 2021. One of her first stops after she won her title was watching Cris Cyborg defend her Bellator featherweight title. This would be a massive fight for Bellator and one they should be going all out for.

Fedor Emelianenko – Heavyweight Champion in Russia

The last fight that I really want to see Bellator book is the retirement fight of Fedor Emelianenko (40-6, 1 NC). However, it can’t just be any ordinary fight. This fight needs to be for the Bellator heavyweight championship and it needs to take place in Russia.

Fedor is coming off of two straight knockout wins that have put him right back in the title picture. In two weeks, Ryan Bader and Valestin Moldavsky will battle it out for the undisputed heavyweight title. Whoever wins that fight should fight Fedor in Russia in the Last Emporer’s final fight.

2022 could be a huge year for Bellator’s MVP

If you look at Bellator‘s roster as a whole, there aren’t many fighters who have more of a superstar quality than Michael “Venom” Page (20-1). The personality along with the flashy striking style makes him someone that fans are always paying attention to.

2021 was a big year for MVP as he continued down the path towards the Bellator welterweight title. He started his year with a stoppage over Derek Anderson and then he had his highly anticipated rematch with Douglas Lima. In a razor close fight, Page was able to avenge his only career loss.

Entering 2022, there were options out there for MVP. Page is the number one contender for the Bellator welterweight title. While the title is appealing, he’s said to also be really interested in the third fight with Douglas Lima. The two are 1-1 so far in their series.

While there are options out there, Scott Coker recently laid out the plans for MVP. In speaking to MMA Junkie, Coker said that Bellator is currently working on a welterweight title fight between Page and the champion, Yaroslav Amosov (26-0).

Bellator’s Plans for MVP

According to Coker, the fight is being targeted for Q2 and will take place in London. Coker said that Page expressed interest in fighting Lima again as mentioned above. However, the promotion pitched the idea of striking while the iron is hot in terms of his title shot against Amosov.

Now we know that Page is next for the title. It’s currently unknown how many fights MVP has left on his current deal with Bellator. However, we do know that his contract is going to come to an end sooner than later. Page has made it no secret that he plans on testing free agency.

Let’s say that Page has two fights left on his current Bellator deal which could be accurate. In an ideal world, he could win the title and defend it against Douglas Lima this year. If he does that and goes 2-0, he becomes even more appealing to the UFC. MVP has said in the past that he would love to test himself in the UFC. 

Right now, the UFC’s welterweight division has a champion who is starting to lap everyone in Kamaru Usman. A guy like MVP could provide fresh meat for the UFC’s champion which makes him even more appealing.

While there’s a long ways to go before reaching that point, it’s clear that this year is a massive one for MVP. This year could feature capturing a Bellator title, completing a trilogy, and hitting the open market. Exciting times if you’re an MVP fan.

Bellator 272 Preview: Sergio Pettis – Kyoji Horiguchi

Tomorrow night in the main event of Bellator 272, we will see a battle for the bantamweight title. The champion Sergio Pettis (21-5) takes on the former champion Kyoji Horiguchi (29-3). Horiguchi will be looking to regain the title that he never lost inside the cage.

Back in 2019 at Bellator 222, Horiguchi captured the bantamweight title when he defeated Darrion Caldwell by decision. That win made him a two-promotion champion between Bellator and RIZIN. However, Horiguchi never ended up defending his Bellator title.

Horiguchi went back to RIZIN and lost to Kai Asakura. He ended up relinquishing the Bellator title and secured a rematch with Asakura where he was able to avenge the loss back in December of last year. Horiguchi won by knockout.

The loss that he suffered was his first loss since 2015 when he lost to Demetrious Johnson for the UFC flyweight title. There are a lot of people betting on Horiguchi tomorrow, but he’s going to have his hands full with Sergio Pettis.

Sergio Pettis has gotten off to a blistering start since jumping from the UFC. After a solid run in the UFC which included wins over Joseph Benavidez and Brandon Moreno, Pettis made the jump to Bellator in 2020.

So far, he’s gone a perfect 3-0 with the promotion which includes capturing the bantamweight title. In May he took the title away from Juan Archuleta when he was able to outpoint him over the course of five rounds.

Bellator 272 Prediction

This is such a fantastic matchup and I really can’t wait for this Bellator title fight. I’m expecting this fight to take place on the feet and it will be really interesting to see who is able to utilize their gameplan the best.

For Pettis, the key is going to be keeping the fight tactical from range. I really like the development I’ve seen in his striking and if he can make it a point fight, he’s going to be in good shape. I also like his ability to take things to the ground and use his ground game if need be.

That said, the former Bellator champion has a lot of pop in his hands and that power could prove to be a big advantage. Horiguchi can end this fight with his power and I think his power has the ability to throw Pettis off and make things difficult for the current champion.

I’m expecting both men to find success in this one. I think Horiguchi is going to rock Pettis in the early rounds, however, I think Pettis will come on strong in the later rounds. This fight is going to the cards and I think the judges might event be split. In the end, I see Sergio Pettis keeping his title and remaining Bellator’s best.

Prediction: Sergio Pettis by Split Decision

After UFC release, what’s next for Kevin Lee?

Today there was stunning news in the UFC. Former interim title challenger and top lightweight contender Kevin Lee (18-7) was released by the promotion. MMA Fighting was the first to report the release earlier this afternoon.

The news seemingly came out of no where. Recently, we learned that Lee was given a suspension for taking ADHD medication. The offense gave Lee a six month suspension that he’s currently serving.

This suspension came on the heels of back to back losses for the Motown Phenom. A few years ago, Kevin Lee looked like he could become a star for the UFC. After Lee defeated Michael Chiesa, his stock really took off.

Lee was 16-2 and after having a verbal back and forth with Tony Ferguson, the UFC gave Lee an interim title shot against El Cucuy. When they fought at UFC 216, Lee started out doing very well.

However, he ultimately gassed and was submitted by Ferguson. Starting with that loss, Lee has gone 2-5 in his last seven fights. After the recent skid and the issues with USADA, the UFC decided to part ways.

After UFC release, what’s next for Lee?

As mentioned, the Lee release caught many off guard and you can imagine that the former UFC title challenger will be a hot name on the free agent market. My guess is that Lee’s reps have already been reached out to by Bellator and PFL.

Lee’s brother currently fights for Bellator so that could be a spot for him. However, I think we might end up seeing Lee join the PFL. There’s no inside information here, it’s simply a hunch.

The PFL has been really trying to add to their lightweight division over the past couple of years. Former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis signing with them sent waves throughout MMA.

I can really see PFL going hard after Lee to try and secure him for their 2022 lightweight season. By the time the season rolls around, Lee’s suspension will be up and he will be ready to fight.

Did Cyborg’s performance at Bellator 271 sway Kayla Harrison?

MMA, PFL

This past weekend at Bellator 271, one of the greatest female fighters of all time returned to defend her featherweight crown. Cris Cyborg (25-2) headlined the event when she took on Ireland’s Sinead Kavanagh (7-5).

Of course, Cyborg was a massive betting favorite and nobody really gave Kavanagh a shot at Bellator 271. In fact, the biggest storyline of the main event was more about who was sitting front and center to watch the event.

Kayla Harrison (12-0) is the hottest free agent in the sport right now. The two-time PFL champion and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist was there to watch Cyborg as Harrison is currently trying to figure out where she wants to go next.

Cyborg’s job was to make Harrison interested in fighting her. Harrison is someone who always wants to take on the best and maybe that fueled Cyborg. In her last few Bellator appearances, Cyborg has been much more calculated and measured than we’ve seen her in the past.

However, all of that went out the window at Bellator 271. Cyborg ran through Sinead Kavanagh and threw caution to the wind. The champion was able to land a clean right hand just over a minute in that knocked Kavanagh out.

Harrison to Bellator?

Kayla Harrison got the free agent treatment at Bellator 271. She was shown at the broadcast and Big John McCarthy asked Cyborg about Harrison in her post-fight interview. During the question, the camera panned to the two-time PFL champion who had a big smile on her face.

To me, the race for Harrison is going to come down to PFL and Bellator. I don’t see the UFC getting involved at a high level due to the fact that there’s only one real top fight for Harrison right now. That fight would be with Amanda Nunes who is her teammate and close friend.

With that, I think Harrison is zeroing in on PFL and Bellator. PFL has made her a star and they are going to do everything they can to keep her. However, the competitor in her might want to jump over to Bellator to take on the likes of Cris Cyborg.

From the beginning, I’ve favored Bellator in her free agency. I think they can pay her a very good wage and I think the competition is there. However, this is something that is extremely fluid and until Harrison signs, I wouldn’t be shocked by anything.

Bellator 271 Preview: Aaron Pico – Justin Gonzales

Tonight on the main card of Bellator 271, one of the biggest prospects in all of MMA will be making his 12th appearance. Aaron Pico (8-3) is back tonight as he takes on the unbeaten contender series veteran in Justin Gonzales (12-0).

Let me just get this out of the way, Justin Gonzales is no joke. Gonzales is a former LFA champion and he won his fight on Dana White’s Contender Series. After that shot on the Contender Series, he won his title in LFA before being picked up by Bellator.

Gonzales made his Bellator debut back in June with a split decision win over Ty-Wan Claxton. In his last seven wins, Gonzales has gone on to finish his opponent. That said, he has an extremely tall order in front of him at Bellator 271.

Aaron Pico was the most hyped prospect MMA has ever seen. Olympic level wrestling with sensational boxing and a ton of power, Pico was instantly signed by Bellator before fighting a single amateur fight. Pico crashed to earth when he was stopped quickly in his debut.

It’s been an up and down story so far for Pico, but he’s finally reaching his potential at the young age of 25. Since making the move to Jackson-Wink, Pico has gone 4-0 with four stoppages in his last four Bellator appearances. He’s getting closer and closer to title contention.

Bellator 271 Prediction

On paper, this is not a tough matchup to predict and it’s really tough when you start to look at both of these fighters. Justin Gonzales is incredibly gritty and he has really good kickboxing with solid grappling. He will be comfortable wherever the fight goes at Bellator 271.

The same can be said for Aaron Pico. Pico has really turned the corner since making the move to Jackson-Wink and he continuously gets better and better. Early in his career, he got in trouble when he would try to brawl with opponents.

Now, he’s much more measured and he will take the fight to wherever he has the advantage. If he’s not doing well in standup, he can take it down. If he’s doing well on the feet, he can keep it standing. Pico will dictate this matchup at Bellator 271.

Most are prediction another Pico finish, but it’s hard for me to pick a guy to get stopped when he’s never lost. I think Gonzales is game and I think he will have success in this fight. However, he won’t have enough success to get over the mountain that is Aaron Pico.

Prediction: Aaron Pico by Unanimous Decision

Bellator 271 Preview: Cris Cyborg – Sinead Kavanagh

Tonight in the main event of Bellator 271, the women’s featherweight title is on the line. One of the best to ever do it, Cris Cyborg (24-2), is back to defend her featherweight crown. Standing across the cage from her will be Ireland’s Sinead Kavanagh (7-4).

Kavanagh got off to a really good start in her MMA career. She won her first three fights which earned her a shot with Bellator. She won her debut to start out 4-0, but since then, it’s been a mixed bag in terms of results.

Kavanagh lost two in a row before getting a first round knockout win and then dropping two fights in a row again. However, since that last losing streak, Kavanagh bounced back well winning two straight. Her last win came in October of 2020 in the form of a decision over Katharina Lehner.

There might not be a more fitting name in all of MMA than Cyborg for Cris Justino. Cyborg has been nothing short of dominant since starting in MMA. After losing her debut, she’s gone 24-1 with her lone loss being to the GOAT, Amanda Nunes.

She’s been a UFC champion, Strikeforce champion, and now Bellator champion. Since jumping to Bellator, she’s 3-0 with three knockout wins. She’s a staggering -1600 betting favorite for tonight’s main event.

Bellator 271 Prediction

Let’s be honest, it’s going to be a very steep mountain to climb for Sinead Kavanagh tonight at Bellator 271. She does have good boxing and we’ve seen her put her opponents away in the past with her hands. However, Cyborg is just another animal and she has the ability to dictate where the fight takes place.

There’s a huge difference in terms of the power. Cyborg has the advantage on the feet, but even if Kavanagh landed something big to get the attention of Cyborg, Cyborg can just take the fight to the ground with her incredible grappling.

Kayla Harrison is going to be cageside for Bellator 271 and I think Cris Cyborg is going to send a message to the hottest free agent in MMA. I expect a very dominant yet methodical performance from Cyborg. Expecting a masterclass in the first round before a brutal stoppage in the second.

Prediction: Cris Cyborg by TKO – Round 2

Kayla Harrison to be cageside for Bellator 271 headlined by Cris Cyborg

MMA, PFL

Tonight in the headliner of Bellator 271, one of the greatest female fighters of all time will be defending her title. Featherweight champion Cris Cyborg (24-2) will be defending her title against Ireland’s Sinead Kavanagh (7-4).

Like with virtually any Cris Cyborg fight, the champion is a massive favorite to retain her title at Bellator 271. While most would be focused on the action tonight, there is one storyline outside the cage that is getting more and more attention.

Sitting cageside for tonight’s event will be two-time PFL champion and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Kayla Harrison (12-0). A couple of weeks ago, Harrison stopped Taylor Guardado in the second round to capture her second PFL title.

That fight was the final one on the contract for Harrison and she is now the most highly saught after free agent in MMA. Bellator is already very interested in bringing Harrison in and Scott Coker said this week that they are planning on having some dialogue with her.

Harrison to Bellator?

It’s going to be very interesting to see the path that Harrison takes with her free agency. Since becoming a free agent, she’s appeared at UFC 268 in New York and now she’s going to be cageside scouting Cris Cyborg at Bellator 271.

Harrison is making the rounds and I would expect that her free agency will end before too long. Make no mistake about it, PFL is going to try everything to bring Harrison back. They even imported former Bellator champion Julia Budd to try and provide more challenges in that arena.

However, PFL is a been there done that for Kayla Harrison at this point. Yes, they’ve been extremely good to her and helped make her a star, however, there’s nothing left for her to prove. Bellator on the other hand provides big opportunities.

There’s good competition in Bellator and the Cris Cyborg fight is something that Harrison wants. Harrison was vocal about being frustrated when PFL didn’t sign her. Now, Harrison has the chance to get that fight if she jumps to Bellator.

Of course, you can never rule out the UFC, but given her relationship with Amanda Nunes, I don’t think the UFC is as appealing right now. If I had to handicap her free agency, I would say that Bellator is the favorite right now.

Harrison looks very interested in jumping ship to fight Cyborg. If she fights Cyborg and wins, she will immediately jump towards the top of the pound for pound rankings. In speaking about a potential fight with Cyborg, Harrison has no doubts she would win.

“I think I would dominate,” Harrison said this week.