Illness forces Rumble Johnson out of Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix

Anthony Rumble Johnson

Bellator 268 was dealt a major blow today. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (23-6) announced via his Instagram page that he is incredibly sick and he’s having to pull out of the fight next month. Rumble was set to take on the light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov (14-2).

Johnson said today, “Really wish I could go into detail about how ill I really am. Just know I need as many prayers as I can get and I’ll see you in 2022 God Willing. Never been this afraid of anything in my life but I’ve remained strong with the support of friends and family.”

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Rumble who is clearly dealing with a tremendous illness. At this point, there’s no telling on when or if he will be able to return to Bellator. This is a massive blow to the promotion who had built so much hype surrounding Rumble in this tournament.

This is the second time that Bellator has had to alter their plans. Originally, they wanted Rumble to face Yoel Romero in the opening round of the Grand Prix. However, Romero had to pull out of the fight after failing to pass medicals. Now, Rumble’s illness is taking him out of the Grand Prix as well.

Bellator’s Next Steps

At this point, there is no word on what Bellator is going to do. They are planning on having Vadim Nemkov defend his title and compete, but there has not been a decision made on who will fight him. My guess is that they will wait until tonight’s main event concludes.

Tonight at Bellator 266, Yoel Romero and Phil Davis will battle it out. Davis lost to Nemkov in the opening round of the Grand Prix while Romero wasn’t able to compete as mentioned above. If Romero wins tonight and comes out clean, I could see Bellator asking him to step in to face Nemkov on short notice.

However, if Davis wins, I find it unlikely that they will ask him considering he’s already lost twice to Nemkov and lost to him in the opening round. Another option could be Jose Augusto Azevedo who lost to Rumble in the opening round. Time will tell, but this is a big blow to the Bellator Grand Prix.

State of the Grand Prix after Bellator 258

This past weekend at Bellator 258, we saw the final quarterfinal matchup in the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (23-6) took on Jose Augusto (7-3, 1 NC) for a shot at the light heavyweight title.

The winner of Bellator 258 would fight Vadim Nemkov (13-2) in the semifinals, but the light heavyweight title would be on the line. Originally, Yoel Romero was going to fight Rumble Johnson, but he didn’t pass pre-fight medicals.

With that, Augusto stepped in. In a shocking turn of events, Augusto dropped and hurt Rumble badly in the first round. For a moment, it appeared that Augusto was going to pull off the massive upset.

However, Rumble recomposed himself and got back in the fight. In the second round, Rumble landed a massive straight right hand that put Augusto out cold. With that, Rumble made a successful Bellator debut and he moves forward to the semifinals.

Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix

With Rumble’s victory at Bellator 258, the two semifinal matchups are now set. Vadim Nemkov and Rumble will fight for the light heavyweight title on one side of the bracket.

Nemkov defeated Phil Davis by unanimous decision last month to retain his title and punch his ticket to the semifinals. On the other side of the bracket, we are going to see an incredible matchup between Ryan Bader (28-6, 1 NC) and Corey Anderson (15-5).

Bader is the former Bellator light heavyweight champion and he’s the current heavyweight champion. He lost his light heavyweight crown to Vadim Nemkov and instead of moving back to heavyweight, he chose to compete in the Grand Prix to get his belt back.

Bader put on a great performance against Lyoto Machida in the first round. Since making his Bellator debut last year, Corey Anderson has looked incredibly dominant. He has two fights and two finishes thus far.

Despite Bader being the former champion, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Anderson as the betting favorite. Bellator is currently targeting July for the semifinal matchups. From there, October is the target date to crown the Grand Prix champion.

Bellator 257 Preview: Vadim Nemkov – Phil Davis 2

In the main event of Bellator 257, we will see another quarterfinal matchup in the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix. However, in this matchup, the light heavyweight title is on the line.

Bellator‘s light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov (12-2) takes on Phil Davis (22-5). This fight is a rematch from Bellator 209 back in 2018. That night, Nemkov was able to edge Davis by split decision.

Vadim Nemkov joined Bellator back in 2017 and he’s been perfect with the promotion. The Russian who trains under the great Fedor Emelianenko appears to be someone who can be a face for the promotion moving forward.

Since making his Bellator debut, Nemkov is a perfect 5-0 with only the Davis fight going the distance. Everything culminated for Nemkov at Bellator 244 when he stopped Ryan Bader to become the light heavyweight champion.

Phil Davis made the jump from the UFC to Bellator back in 2015. Since making that jump, Davis has gone 9-2 with his only losses coming to Nemkov and Ryan Bader. Both of those losses were split decision losses.

Heading into Bellator 257, Davis has now won three fights in a row. His last victory was a split decision over Lyoto Machida, but prior to that win, he had back-to-back TKO victories.

Bellator 257 Prediction

When it comes to tonight’s main event at Bellator 257, I think Phil Davis has the much tougher task. I believe Vadim Nemkov is the much better fighter on the feet which is where I think this fight will primarily take place.

Davis does have the wrestling skills to get the Bellator champion down, but Nemkov is an extremely good grappler as well. Even if Davis can land a takedown, I’m not convinced he can keep the Russian down.

With that, I think we will primarily see these two striking in the Bellator 257 main event. I love the kicks of Nemkov and I think he’s going to utilize those to his advantage. Phil Davis is a crafty striker so I’m expecting him to have his moments.

However, if Phil Davis wants to win tonight, he has to be active and push the pace. If he’s at all passive against Nemkov, this fight isn’t going to be close. Ultimately, I think that Nemkov is going to remain the Bellator light heavyweight champion tonight.

Prediction: Vadim Nemkov by Unanimous Decision

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.

Bellator’s Fighter of the Year in 2020

It’s been a big year for Bellator MMA. Despite the craziness in the world, the promotion has made waves with big signings, a historic event in France, and a ground breaking new deal with CBS Sports Network.

All of this in addition to putting on some fantastic fights. This year, Bellator has seen a number of new champions crowned. One of the new champions that sticks out is the new light heavyweight champion, Vadim Nemkov (12-2).

Nemkov has looked like a destroyer since making his promotional debut in 2017. Nobody has been able to stop him since he’s joined the promotion and he had one fight in 2020 that took place at Bellator 244.

That night, Nemkov challenged Ryan Bader for the light heavyweight champion. Bader was the two-division world champion, but Nemkov ran him over. Nemkov stopped Bader in the second round to capture the light heavyweight title.

Another new champion that was crowned was Juan Archuleta (25-2). Archuleta got his start back in January when he defeated Henry Corrales. Then he got his shot against Patchy Mix at Bellator 246 for the bantamweight title.

After some early adversity, Archuleta went on to control the fight and win the vacant title. A very impressive 2-0 campaign from Archuleta which made him my runner up for Bellator Fighter of the Year.

Bellator Fighter of the Year

After going back and forth, I ultimately made the conclusion that the Bellator Fighter of the Year in 2020 was Cris Cyborg (23-2, 1 NC). Cyborg made her Bellator debut back in January after signing with the promotion in 2019.

In her first fight of the year, Cyborg took on the long-reigning Bellator champion, Julia Budd. Budd hadn’t lost a fight since 2012 and looked like she would be a tough challenge for Cyborg in her Bellator debut.

However, like many opponents before her, Budd had no answer for the power of Cyborg. Cyborg won the Bellator featherweight championship by stopping Budd in the fourth round of their title fight.

She then had her first title defense back in October against Arlene Blencowe. From the opening bell, Cyborg completely dominated the fight and ended up picking up her first career win by submission at Bellator 249.

After going through the roster, Cyborg deserved the distinction as Fighter of the Year. She made her debut by dethroning a long-reigning champion and she defended the title successfully. Those two things make her the Bellator Fighter of the Year in 2020.

Bellator: Who should get the next shot at Vadim Nemkov?

This past weekend at Bellator 251, Corey Anderson made his promotional debut against Melvin Manhoef. Anderson was a top ranked light heavyweight in the UFC before making the promotional jump. Many believe he can be champion inside of Bellator.

Anderson completely dominated the fight from the opening bell to the finish. Manhoef truly had no answer for Anderson’s superior wrestling. In the second round, Anderson got Manhoef to the ground and blitzed him with elbows leading to a TKO victory.

The performance was so impressive that many think he should be next for the Bellator light heavyweight champion, Vadim Nemkov. Nemkov just won the title back in August when he knocked out former champion, Ryan Bader, at Bellator 244.

Nemkov is unbeaten in his Bellator career at 5-0. He’s already taken out the likes of Liam McGeary, Phil Davis, and Rafael Carvalho. He is the cream of the crop when it comes to Bellator’s light heavyweight division.

A matchup between Nemkov and Anderson would be something fresh for the promotion’s light heavyweight division. However, there’s a familiar opponent for Nemkov that might be in front of Corey Anderson for a title shot.

What should Bellator do?

The fighter that I’m referring to is former Bellator light heavyweight champion, Phil Davis. Since making the jump to Bellator in 2015, Davis has only lost two fights. He lost to Ryan Bader and he lost a split decision to the current champion.

Other than that, it’s been smooth sailing for Davis. Davis is coming off of a split decision victory over Lyoto Machida back in September. While the performance wasn’t sensational, it was still the third straight victory for Davis since his loss to Nemkov.

Bellator is in a very interesting position. Anderson’s dominant performance put the division on notice. A fight between Nemkov and Anderson would be something new for the division. However, can they ignore the longevity of Davis’ run in Bellator?

If I had to guess, I think that the promotion will lean towards giving the fight to Davis with Anderson fighting the winner. I could be wrong, but Anderson’s post-fight interview may have told us the future. He called out both Nemkov and Davis in his interview.

Corey Anderson dominates Melvin Manhoef in Bellator debut

Corey Anderson

Tonight at Bellator 251, Corey Anderson (14-5) made his debut with the promotion. He took on famed striker Melvin Manhoef (32-15-1, 2 NC) in the main event. The fight was a good way for Anderson to get his feet wet with Bellator.

When the matchup was booked by Bellator, many knew how Anderson would have to win the fight. Anderson is a strong wrestler while Manhoef is known for his world class striking. Anderson was going to need to go back to his routes to win this one.

The last we saw Corey Anderson in a cage, he was knocked out by current UFC light heavyweight champion, Jan Blachowicz. Anderson admittedly said that he had fallen in love with striking, but he can’t get away from his wrestling base.

Tonight, he went back to what he did best. In the main event of Bellator 251, it was all Corey Anderson. Anderson shot in immediately in the first round and took Manhoef down. Manhoef didn’t have any answers for Anderson’s wrestling attack all night.

After spending the majority of the first round on top, Anderson struck a little in the second. However, it was all just to keep Manhoef guessing. Anderson took Manhoef down in the second and with a brutal flurry of elbows finished the fight.

What’s next after Bellator 251

Tonight was the perfect Bellator debut for Corey Anderson. The matchmakers did a really good job of giving Anderson an opponent that could really showcase what he does best. Anderson delivered to the max with his performance tonight.

After this, there are no questions about what should be next for Anderson. Corey Anderson should be challenging for the Bellator light heavyweight championship. Now, there’s no guarantee that Anderson will get the next shot.

Phil Davis is also deserving of the next shot at the Bellator light heavyweight champion, Vadim Nemkov. Bellator’s light heavyweight division is looking pretty good with those three at the top of the division.

If I had to guess, I think that Nemkov will likely defend his title against Phil Davis. However, Anderson will be the first in line for the winner of that fight. Anderson called out both of them after his successful Bellator debut.