Bellator announces move to Showtime and Light Heavyweight Grand Prix

Bellator MMA has been relatively quiet since the calendar moved over to 2021. However, they’ve been making big moves behind the scenes that would further the promotion’s vision in 2021.

Today, Bellator announced that they have agreed to a deal with Showtime and Showtime will now become the exclusive home for their events. Just last year, Bellator announced they had a deal with CBS Sports Network, but the Viacom promotion is shifting gears.

Showtime decided to get involved and both sides agreed that it would be best to move the promotion to Showtime. Bellator will also be moving their events back to Friday nights after a brief stint on Thursdays.

In addition to announcing the new deal with Showtime, Scott Coker announced some exciting news in terms of the light heavyweight division. By far, the light heavyweight division is the best that Bellator has to offer.

They made some huge signings in the last year and they are ready to capitalize. Coker announced today that Bellator would be starting a Light Heavyweight Grand Prix that will start on April 9th.

Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix

The Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix will kick off on April 9th. In the first quarter final matchup, Corey Anderson (14-5) will be taking on Bellator newcomer, Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (18-5-1).

Also on April 9th in the main event of the evening, Ryan Bader (27-6) will be taking on Lyoto Machida (26-10). Bader is the Bellator heavyweight champion and just lost his light heavyweight title last year to Vadim Nemkov (12-2).

Of course, the matchup everyone wanted to see takes place on April 16th. Yoel Romero (13-5) and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-6) will battle it out. However, despite the hype behind this matchup, it will not serve as the main event on April 16th.

Instead, that honor will belong to the Bellator Light Heavyweight champion, Vadim Nemkov. Nemkov will be competing in the tournament and defending his title against Phil Davis (22-5, 1 NC). An absolutely stacked field and fight fans should be very excited about this Grand Prix.

Corey Anderson says Bellator is better than the UFC at light heavyweight

Corey Anderson

2020 turned out to be an eventful year for Bellator‘s Corey Anderson (14-5). When the year started, Anderson was one of the top contenders in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. He appeared to be one win away from a title shot.

However, Jan Blachowicz (27-8) starched Anderson in February to claim that top contender status. After Anderson was knocked out, he had a series of health concerns that kept him from competing. These health scares also had him reevaluate his career.

Anderson decided to go to the UFC and ask for more money. When the promotion wasn’t willing to, he asked for a release to be able to look around in the market. The UFC released Anderson and Bellator signed him almost immediately.

It turned out to be the first of several moves like this for Bellator. After signing Anderson, Bellator would go on to sign Yoel Romero (13-5) and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-6) after they were released from the UFC.

Those top three contenders join the likes of Vadim Nemkov (12-2), Ryan Bader (27-6, 1 NC), and Phil Davis (22-5, 1 NC). It’s safe to say that Bellator’s light heavyweight division has never been better.

In fact, it’s so good that Anderson believes it’s the best on the planet. Anderson told MMA Fighting, “I just feel right now Bellator has the upper hand. Jones has left. They’ve got these hype trains. These young guys UFC has coming in they’re trying to hype up but I feel like their legitimacy aren’t like the vets that were there that are in Bellator now.”

Bellator or the UFC?

If we are going to go on pure name recognition, it’s hard to argue Corey Anderson’s point. Bellator has some serious name power in their light heavyweight division. However, it is the best in the sport?

In all honesty, if you’re looking at the totality of their top five, it might be. The UFC’s top contender is Glover Teixeira (32-7) who was knocked out in 14 seconds by Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.

Then again, there’s also Dominick Reyes (12-2) and Jiri Prochazka (27-3-1) in the UFC’s top five. Prochazka stopped Bellator’s champion, Vadim Nemkov, when the two of them faced off a few years ago.

Another interesting wrinkle to throw into things is the light heavyweight debut of Israel Adesanya (20-0). Stylebender is fighting Blachowicz for the UFC light heavyweight title in March.

Anderson definitely has an argument that Bellator is just as good if not better at 205 than the UFC. However, I believe the best light heavyweight in the world right now is Jan Blachowicz with Jon Jones moving up.

Overall, the UFC has a deeper division due to the amount of fighters on the roster and they have younger contenders. While Bellator is right there, I would still give the advantage to the world’s premier mixed martial arts organization, the UFC.

Bold 2021 predictions for Bellator MMA

Patricio Pitbull Freire

2021 is already promising to be a massive year for Bellator MMA. The promotion made some major progress in 2020 despite having to shut down for a few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bellator put on some tremendous fights in 2020. However, it was their string of signings in the second half of the year that had the MMA world buzzing. Bellator really stacked their light heavyweight division.

Bellator added Yoel Romero (13-5), Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-6), and Corey Anderson (14-5) to their light heavyweight division. All of the former top UFC contenders parted ways with the UFC this year.

As soon as they hit the open market, Bellator scooped them up. In doing so, the promotion has put together a light heavyweight division that is certainly capable of competing with the UFC’s light heavyweight division.

There are so many things to watch for with Bellator in 2021. I wanted to do some bold predictions for the promotion for what will happen in 2021. If these predictions come true, there are going to be some shocked MMA fans.

2021 Bellator Bold Predictions

Patricio Pitbull leaves 2021 without a title

For my first bold prediction I’m looking at Bellator’s two-division champion, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (31-4). Pitbull is widely considered to be the best fighter that Bellator has on the roster. He’s arguably the best fighter in the promotion’s history.

He currently is the Bellator lightweight and featherweight champion. However, there has been whispers of him vacating the lightweight championship. Pitbull became the lightweight champion when he defeated Michael Chandler (21-5) in 2019.

However, Pitbull is small for the weight class. He mainly moved up to lightweight to challenge Chandler to avenge his brother’s (Patricky Pitbull) knockout loss to Chandler. He has yet to defend the lightweight championship.

I’m going to say that Patricio Pitbull vacates the Bellator lightweight championship to focus on featherweight. However, I think that this is going to be the year that Pitbull is dethroned at featherweight.

The most exciting prospect in Bellator is AJ McKee (17-0). The Mercenary has fought all seventeen of his professional fights under the Bellator banner. They’ve brought him along the right way and he’s on the verge of superstardom.

McKee has already earned a spot in the finals of Bellator’s featherweight Grand Prix. The other spot will go to the winner of the fight between Patricio Pitbull and Emmanuel Sanchez (20-4).

I believe that Pitbull is going to defeat Sanchez when they fight setting up a fight between him and McKee. I’m going to say that McKee not only wins the Bellator featherweight title, but finishes Patricio Pitbull. With that, cementing himself as the superstar that Bellator needs.

Vadim Nemkov remains the light heavyweight champion

As mentioned above, the Bellator light heavyweight division is completely stacked at the moment. All of those signings are incredibly exciting and I didn’t even mention the promotion’s light heavyweight champion, Vadim Nemkov (12-2).

Nemkov knocked out Ryan Bader (27-6, 1 NC) to capture the Bellator light heavyweight championship back in August. Nobody has been able to stop Nemkov since he made his debut with the promotion in 2017.

With the additions made to the light heavyweight division, many are saying Nemkov will not leave 2021 as the champion. However, my bold prediction is that the belt stays with the Russian as we enter 2022.

As things currently stand, there are three front runners to face Nemkov whenever he defends his title. Those contenders being Corey Anderson, Phil Davis (22-5, 1 NC), and a rematch with Bader.

Something tells me that Nemkov is just going to fight twice in 2021 with both of his fights coming from that group of three. Nemkov has already defeated Davis and Bader on his way to the title.

Corey Anderson is definitely a tough challenge, however, I think Nemkov can beat him. While everyone will want to see Anthony Johnson or Yoel Romero challenge for the Bellator title next year, I’m not convinced it happens.

Something tells me that Nemkov is going to have a rematch with Ryan Bader next. Scott Coker said that they are looking into this. I believe that Nemkov will beat Bader again to retain the Bellator title.

Perhaps on the same card, I believe we will see a matchup between Davis and Anderson as a title eliminator. I also see Nemkov defeating the winner of that fight. So my prediction is when all is said and done, Vadim Nemkov is still the light heavyweight champion after 2021.

State of the Bellator light heavyweight division entering 2021

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.

Cheick Kongo looking to come up big in home debut at Bellator 248

Today, Bellator will make history. They will be the first major MMA promotion to host an event in France. Arguably the biggest name on the card is one of the most famous MMA fighters to ever come from France in Cheick Kongo (30-10-2, 1 NC).

Kongo will be taking on Tim Johnson (14-6) at Bellator 248 in Paris. The two men fought about two years ago at Bellator 208. That night, Kongo knocked out Johnson in the first round of their heavyweight contest.

Kongo is looking to get back on track in this fight. Prior to his title fight against Ryan Bader at Bellator 226, Kongo had won eight consecutive fights inside the Bellator cage. That warranted him a title shot, but the shot was cut short after an accidental eye poked stopped the action in the first round.

Kongo believed that he deserved an immediate rematch with Ryan Bader given the way the first fight ended. However, Bellator had other plans and booked Kongo against Johnson. Tim Johnson has had a fantastic year in 2020.

After suffering back to back knockout losses, Johnson has won two consecutive fights by knockout. He’s knocked out Matt Mitrione and top Bellator prospect, Tyrell Fortune. This is a big fight if he has championship aspirations.

Bellator 248 Prediction

For Johnson to be successful in the rematch, he’s going to have to grapple with Kongo. He doesn’t want to stand at range and trade with the French striker. That will be a ticket to a quick exit for Johnson. I expect Johnson to come out aggressive looking to tire Kongo.

When it comes to these two, I just believe that they are on different levels. Despite being 44, Kongo looked sensational leading up to that title match against Ryan Bader. I’m expecting Kongo to come out looking very good in Bellator‘s Paris debut.

Expect some early grappling, but I think eventually Kongo is going to be able to catch Johnson with something big. I think it’ll actually come relatively early with Kongo getting the finish in the first. Expect him to call out Ryan Bader once the fight is over.

Prediction: Cheick Kongo by KO – Round 1

Bellator 245 Preview: Phil Davis and Lyoto Machida go head to head again

Phil Davis, MMA, UFC

Bellator MMA returns tomorrow night with a solid lineup of fights for their Friday night fight night. In the main event of the evening, Phil Davis (21-5, 1 NC) takes on Lyoto Machida (26-9) for the second time in a light heavyweight main event.

With Vadim Nemkov having just knocked out Ryan Bader at Bellator 244, this is a big fight to determine the next title contender. In addition to this fight, Bellator recently signed Corey Anderson to it’s growing light heavyweight division.

Phil Davis vs Lyoto Machida 2

The two men in Bellator 245’s main event do have some history. The history dates back to UFC 163 where Phil Davis was able to win a unanimous decision over Machida in Brazil. The fight was controversial as all 13 media members scored the fight for Machida.

Machida outstruck Davis the entire fight, but Davis landed a takedown at the end of the first two rounds. Those takedowns were enough to win him the fight on the three judges scorecards. Now, these two will rematch seven years later.

Davis has been very good since making the move to Bellator. In ten fights, Davis is 8-2 with his only losses being to Nemkov and Bader. Both of those fights were razor close split decisions.

With Davis you know what he’s going to do. He can strike, but he mainly uses his striking as a way to setup his tremendous wrestling. He will be looking to secure takedowns to defeat Machida once again.

Machida is moving back up to light heavyweight after fighting Gegard Mousasi at Bellator 228 last September. Machida lost a close decision in that contest. The dragon is looking for one final run towards a world title.

The former UFC light heavyweight champion is known for his karate striking. His unique blitzing style stifles many opponents that step across the cage from him. He will be looking to use that striking to outpoint and defeat Davis.

When it comes to a prediction, I think that this fight is going to be razor close. The only way it’s not is if Davis gets Machida down and holds him down. Machida is 42 years old, and I think Davis is much improved from their first fight, but it’s still going to be close.

Prediction: Phil Davis by Split Decision

Rest of Bellator 245

There are more solid fights on the card for Bellator 245. Cat Zingano (10-4) is making her debut against Gabrielle Holloway (6-5). This is the first time we’ve seen Zingano since her fight with Megan Anderson where a head kick went right into her eye which stopped the fight.

Another fight that is worth tuning into is the middleweight matchup between Ed Ruth (8-2) and Taylor Johnson (5-1). Bellator 245 doesn’t have the biggest names on the card, but it’s a night that should be filled with some solid fights.

Does Bellator have a better light heavyweight division than the UFC?

UFC, Dana White

Last week, Bellator President Scott Coker made some pretty bold statements about his promotion’s light heavyweight division. He said that they had the best light heavyweight division in the world after Jon Jones vacated his UFC light heavyweight title to move to heavyweight.

After Vadim Nemkov knocked out Ryan Bader at Bellator 244, Coker doubled down on his claim that they were better than the UFC. “When Jon Jones moving up to heavyweight, clearly we have the best division.”

Bellator’s claim

The UFC also had an event this weekend. After the event, the media asked UFC President Dana White about Coker’s claims that Bellator had the better light heavyweight division. With a big smile, White replied to the media, “Isn’t he cute?

Bellator has some very solid guys in their light heavyweight division. Nemkov, Phil Davis, Corey Anderson, Lyoto Machida, and others. You can throw Bader in too although I’m sure he’s going to be sticking to heavyweight after that fight.

Those are all very solid fighters, but the UFC president made a point that rings very true about their light heavyweight division. He stated, “Everyone they have in their light heavyweight division, we let go of. That’s like the dumbest f–king thing I’ve ever heard.”

Anderson, Machida, Bader, and Davis were all former members of the UFC that the promotion let walk. I understand what Scott Coker is trying to do with making his statement. However, I’m not sure the statement holds a lot of weight.

The UFC is better at the top

The UFC doesn’t have the same stacked light heavyweight division they once had, but it’s still the best game in town. Corey Anderson was ranked fourth in the UFC prior to him being signed by Bellator, but he was just starched earlier this year by Jan Blachowicz.

I believe that Dominick Reyes is better than anyone in Bellator. I also believe that the best version of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is better than anyone inside of Bellator’s light heavyweight division.

If the four best UFC light heavyweights (Reyes, Blachowicz, Johnson, Thiago Santos) fought the four best Bellator light heavyweights (Nemkov, Anderson, Davis, Bader), would you favor any of the Bellator guys?

The answer to that question is probably no. Bellator has a good light heavyweight division, but it is not better than the UFC‘s. This round goes to Dana White and the guys in the UFC.

Vadim Nemkov knocks out Ryan Bader to become Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion

Bellator 244 featured the return of double champion, Ryan Bader (27-6, 1 NC). He returned to the light heavyweight division for the first time in almost three years to defend his title against Vadim Nemkov (12-2).

Early on, it appeared that Bader was really struggling to deal with the speed of Nemkov. Bader was clearly used to the speed of the heavyweights. In the second round, Nemkov landed a massive head kick that spelled the end of Bader’s title reign.

Bellator’s New Champion

The win tonight was Nemkov’s seventh straight victory. He’s 5-0 since joining Bellator back in 2017. Only one of his Bellator fights have gone to the scorecards.

Nemkov just turned 28 years old, and it’s clear that he could become a new face for Bellator. He’s exciting to watch, very dynamic on his feet, and he’s got a great killer instinct. He trains under the great Fedor Emelianenko.

After this victory, Nemkov might be taking on for UFC top contender Corey Anderson in his first title defense. Anderson recently just signed with Bellator after asking for his release. That should make for an excellent matchup. Nemkov really looks like he can become a star for Bellator. I’m excited to watch his career progress.

For Bader, he’s still the Bellator heavyweight champion. I wondered how this cut back to 205 would impact his performance tonight. It was clear from the start that he wasn’t comfortable in there. I think tonight was the last time you’ll ever see Ryan Bader at light heavyweight.

There are plenty of exciting options for Bader in the Bellator heavyweight division. He could always run things back with Cheick Kongo after the way their last fight ended. The eye poke robbed fans of a really good fight. Bader is not done, but it’s clear he’s not at his best in the light heavyweight division.

Bellator 244 Preview: Ryan Bader looks to continue his reign against Vadim Nemkov

Ryan Bader

Bellator makes it’s return tomorrow night with another Friday night fight night. In the main event of the evening, double champ, Ryan Bader (27-5), will be defending his light heavyweight crown against Vadim Nemkov (11-2). Let’s take a dive into the four main card fights that will be on the Paramount Network.

Ryan Bader looks to continue Bellator dominance

Since getting knocked out by Anthony Johnson in the UFC back in early 2016, Ryan Bader has been on an incredible run. He knocked out two straight opponents before jumping to Bellator. Since joining his new promotion, he’s gone 5-0, 1 NC on his way to capturing two titles.

This will be Bader’s first fight back at light heavyweight since 2017 when he kncoked out Linton Vassell in his only title defense. Bader is incredibly strong with very good power and good wrestling. I’m very curious to see how he looks back at 205 pounds.

Vadim Nemkov is no joke. He trains under the great Fedor Emelianenko and he comes into this contest riding a six fight winning streak. He’s 4-0 since joining Bellator with wins over Liam McGeary, Phil Davis, and Rafael Carvalho.

There is really not a spot in the fight where Nemkov won’t be comfortable. He’s got good grappling, he’s got good submissions, and he has solid power. I think this is a very dangerous matchup for Ryan Bader.

The public sees this as an easy Bader win, but the odds are close for a good reason. Nemkov can easily win this, and I’m wondering just how much the cut to 205 will hurt Bader. I think this fight goes the distance and the judges won’t be unanimous, but I think Bader keeps the belt.

Prediction: Ryan Bader by Split Decision

Julia Budd vs Jessy Miele

In the co-main event of the evening, we see a women’s featherweight contest between Julia Budd (13-3) and Jessy Miele (9-3). Budd is coming off a title loss back at Bellator 238 against Cris Cyborg.

Prior to the Cyborg loss, Budd was completely dominant in the promotion. The former featherweight champion was 7-0 with a few finishes. Budd is a very solid overall fighter, she just got overwhelmed by Cyborg.

In this contest, she will look to get back to a Cyborg rematch. I don’t see an incredibly deep talent pool at 145 in Bellator, but I believe that a rematch between Budd and Cyborg would garner some attention.

Jessy Miele is going to look to spoil the party. Miele is a very solid grappler who comes into this contest riding a four fight winning streak. She won her Bellator debut over Talita Nogueira.

Miele has got to make this an ugly fight. I think she needs to make it a grappling heavy contest and get the better of the positions if she hopes to take it. I think the winner is next in line, and I think ultimately we are going to secure the rematch tomorrow night.

Prediction: Julia Budd by Unanimous Decision

Roy Nelson vs Valentin Moldavsky

The second fight on the main card pairs “Big Country” Roy Nelson (23-18) against Valentin Moldavsky (9-1). Nelson is looking to turn things around in his Bellator career.

Since making the jump from the UFC, things have not been smooth sailing for Big Country. Nelson is just 1-4 since joining Bellator and that one win came in his debut.

Nelson is still as tough as they come, but he’s just been outworked for the most part. The 44 year old veteran seems to be a one trick pony these days trying to land his signature overhand right. The problem for Nelson is he hasn’t knocked anyone out in four years.

The Fedor protege, Moldavsky, enters the cage tomorrow night riding a four fight winning streak. At 4-0 in the promotion, Moldavsky might only be a win or two away from getting the shot at the heavyweight crown.

Moldavsky has very good overall skills, but really does a good job of using his grappling and good pace to outwork his opponents. I think both of those things are really going to help him here. As long as he avoids that massive right, I think this is pretty easy to predict.

Prediction: Valentin Moldavsky by Unanimous Decision

John Salter vs Andrew Kapel

Kicking off the main card is a middleweight matchup between John Salter (17-4) and Andrew Kapel (15-6). Both of these men come into this Bellator middleweight contest riding multiple fight win streaks.

This is your classic striker versus grappler matchup. For Salter, he’s won two straight and he’s 7-1 since joining the promotion back in 2015. Out of his 17 victories, only one of them has gone to the scorecards. Salter is slick on the ground and has nine submissions.

Kapel comes into the fight riding a five fight winning streak that includes his knockout over King Mo Lawal back in November. That knockout came in Kapel’s Bellator debut. Kapel has very smooth striking skills due to his muay thai background. He does have ten submissions, but those are usually setup through hurting his opponents standing.

This is a very good matchup, and I think the winner could be close to a middleweight title shot. I’m going to go with John Salter in this one. I think it’s back and forth, but Salter catches a late submission to secure the win.

Prediction: John Salter by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) – Round 3

Bellator Outlook

Bellator is really starting to pick up some momentum after returning. They have put together a few solid cards and this week they announced some big fights for September. I think this every other week cadence. I think you’ll see Bellator really do some big things the rest of the year.

BREAKING: Corey Anderson has signed with Bellator MMA

Corey Anderson

There has been a massive shakeup in the light heavyweight division for both the UFC and for Bellator. News just broke via Ariel Helwani that Corey Anderson (13-5) asked for his release from the UFC and has signed with Bellator.

What’s it mean for Bellator and the UFC?

The move is a bit of a head scratcher. Anderson was currently ranked as the fourth best light heavyweight in the UFC. There had been no recent news of rifts between Anderson and the UFC.

After UFC 244, Anderson did come out and say that he wanted to be released if he didn’t receive a title shot. Anderson took a fight with Jan Blachowicz instead and he was knocked out in the first round.

After hitting that roadblock, it looks like Anderson was ready to move on. The UFC’s loss is Bellator‘s gain. Bellator doesn’t have the deepest talent in the division, but Anderson will truly bolster their roster.

I wouldn’t be shocked to see Anderson get a shot at the title in his first fight with the promotion. Bellator is known for rushing former UFC fighters.

If not his first fight, you might see him take on someone like the winner of Phil Davis/Lyoto Machida in his first fight. The Bellator champion, Ryan Bader, is currently scheduled to fight Vadim Nemkov at Bellator 244.

Given the timeline of the Machida – Davis fight, don’t be shocked if Anderson gets a shot right out of the gate. What do you think of Corey Anderson’s move to sign with Bellator?