Bellator has truly made the most of a sour year, staging some of their most fun events to date and adding more talent to their roster. Strengthening their divisions has led to titles changing hands and setting the table for prospects to flourish and rise in the ranks.
With that said, we’ve reached the final Bellator event of 2020, with a title at the top, prospects duking it out and some very fun matchups. The event still took some major hits with fight cancellations that could have added a lot to this event. Goiti Yamauchi missed weight and will not be able to compete against Nate Andrews, which is highly unfortunate. Sambo menace Marina Mokhnatkina was set to face Jessica Borga, but that fight was also cancelled.
What remains is still solid action, and ought to make for very enjoyable viewing nonetheless. The main event between undefeated workhorse Juliana Velasquez (10-0) and stellar champ Ilima-Lei MacFarlane (11-0) has fireworks written all over it.
Velasquez started her Bellator run back in 2017 with a submission win over Na Liang, followed by a brutal TKO over Rebecca Ruth. Her strong Judo base and improved striking have helped her find entries for her striking or create openings to work takedowns. Her top control remains very solid and she’s also quite capable off her back with a very active guard.
And she’ll need every tool in her kit to pull this one off, because MacFarlane has also evolved with her striking and her ground skills are a pleasure to witness. Outworking Emily Ducote twice was impressive, but her gritty duel against Valerie Letorneau and the final stanza of their fight showed great fight IQ. This will not disappoint.
Magomed “Tiger“ Magomedov (16-1) is one of the most admirable signings Bellator has made as of late, one of the most interesting Russian prospects to be signed stateside in some time. Armed with a vicious submission pedigree, he’s got an amateur win over Said Nurmagomedov, along with pro wins over Bruno Dias, Damian Stasiak, Oleg Borisov, and went 1-1 against current UFC champion Petr Yan. This is a powerful injection of talent for Bellator’s bantamweight division.
Across from him will be another standout fighter, Matteus Mattos (12-1, 1 draw). A former Ultimate Fighter Brazil participant, his only professional loss was also against Petr Yan in what was then ACB three years ago. An opportunistic submission hunter that loves the quick snatch-and-attack and excels at quick setups, he’s also got a dynamite right hand and a sharp finishing instinct.
It’s important to note here that neither fighter has fought since 2018. Just putting that out there.
Linton Vassel (20-8) has been a mainstay for Bellator’s light heavyweight division, making waves early with his ground strikes and dogged submission approach. Having only lost to the best fighters in that division, he’s now 1-1 at heavyweight after taking down and big brothering Sergei Kharitonov. He’s up against former UFC and PFL talent Ronny Markes (19-7), who has struggled to find fights since last year and has had a string of cancelled bouts. A hard hitter with good top pressure and a technically sound submission game, Markes has been hounded by inconsistency in his performances, but he can be a tough challenge here for Vassel if he’s on his A-game.
Robson Gracie Jr. (3-0) meets Billy Goff (2-2) at welterweight, while Romero Cotton (4-0) squares off against New England’s Justin Sumter (7-3).
You can watch the weigh-ins right here:
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (124.8) vs. Juliana Velasquez (124.4) - Bellator flyweight title fight
Magomed Magomedov (136) vs. Matheus Mattos (135.2) - Bantamweight
Linton Vassell (239) vs. Ronny Markes (252.1) - Heavyweight
Davion Franklin (264) vs. Anthony Garrett (241) - Heavyweight
Robson Gracie Jr. (170) vs. Billy Goff (169.8) - Welterweight
Kenny Champion (144.7) vs. Cody Law (145) - Featherweight
Romero Cotton (185.1) vs. Justin Sumter (184.7) - Middleweight
Kemran Lachinov (170.9) vs. Shamil Nikaev (170.3) - Welterweight
Maurice Jackson (201.3) vs. Grant Neal (204.9) - Light heavyweight
Bellator 254: MacFarlane vs Velasquez takes place this Thursday night with prelims starting at 8:00pm EST on Bellator’s YouTube channel. Main card starts at 10:00pm on CBS Sports.