The Spike/Paramount/DAZN saga is over.
Bellator is now streamlining distribution and will be focused on staging shows on Showtime (with prelims on YouTube) in the United States. Working deals in other hotspots such as Ireland and the UK has led to more stability than they’ve had in a long time for fans to access their product, even if sometimes (like in he BBC iPlayer situation) it may lead to some minor quibbles.
All of this combined with a lengthy hiatus has allowed for the company to reorganize and emphasize on what makes them great, and their 2021 debut on Showtime is a grand opportunity to set a new tone.
There may be no better way for them to do that than this card. From a purely action standpoint, this is set to deliver. From a merit and competition standpoint? It’s also just as good and just as compelling.
The main event is not only a rematch between longtime workhorse Emmanuel Sanchez (20-4) and dual champion Patricio Pitbull (31-4), but the winner meets AJ McKee for tournament supremacy and the million dollar jackpot. Sanchez has gone 3-0 since his decision loss to Pitbull, with great victories over Georgi Karakhanyan, Daniel Weichel and a sensational submission win over Ty-Wan Claxton. Pitbull’s won six in a row, including demolishing Pedro Carvalho and a knockout over current UFC title contender Michael Chandler.
Sanchez is still a talented striker from range that’s able to pick apart opponents with high and low mixups and a lot of patience. His defensive grappling is good, and his takedown defense is mostly very good as well. He withstood the big power in their first fight, but will have to mind his use of open space and prevent getting crowded yet again. If Pitbull manages to cut him off and press against the cage, it’s going to be hard for Sanchez to gain any favor with the judges.
Neiman Gracie (10-1) has won every fight except one by submission, including his heel hook finish of Jon Fitch in his last outing. He now meets Jason Jackson (13-4), who’s racked up three in a row with decision wins against Benson Henderson, Jordan Mein and Kiichi Kunimoto.
Tyrell Fortune (9-1, 1 no contest) returned from his knockout loss to Timothy Johnson to face Jack May, but that fight ended in a no contest due to accidental low blows. A decision win over Said Sowma put him back in the win column, but now he’s up against May (11-7) in a rematch after Fortune’s original opponent Matt Mitrione had to withdraw. We just hope this doesn’t continue the way Eric Prindle and Thiago “Big Monster“ Santos’ series did.
Japan’s Kana Watanabe (9-0, 1 draw) has been a marvel on the Japanese scene while fighting for DEEP JEWELS and RIZIN. Her Bellator debut had her controlling and displaying a fair amount of her well-rounded game. Her opponent this time will be former title challenger Alejandra Lara (9-3), who has only lost to former champ Ilima Lei-MacFarlane, current champ Juliana Velasquez and the UFC’s Sabina Mazo. With back to back wins and a crafty striking game in her pocket, this should be an excellent stylistic matchup with the winner possibly getting at title shot.
Usman Nurmagomedov (11-0) hopes to keep the family name in good standing as he faces Mike Hamel (7-4). Meanwhile, former ACB bantamweight champ Magomed Magomedov meets Cee Jay Hamilton (15-7) in a fight that had hilariously lopsided odds earlier in the week.
Tristar’s Mandel Nallo (7-1) returns with his fun action style against Brazil’s Ricardo Seixas (9-2), while former MMA poster boy Roger Huerta (24-12, 1 draw) is back against Team Alpha Male’s Chris Gonzalez (5-0).
One that is going under the radar is Khalid Murtazaliev (14-2) taking on Fabio Aguiar (17-1), a fight that really ought to be showcased on the main card. Both are ready for prime time with Murtazaliev lighting up the Russian scene at Fight Nights Global (and his one-time UFC appearance against CB Dollaway) while Aguiar has been sneaky good on the Brazilian circuit.
Here’s the weigh-in video for Bellator 255, which had a bit more color and flair than usual:
Here’s the weigh in results themselves:
Patricio Pitbull (144.1) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (144.5) - Featherweight title bout
Neiman Gracie (170) vs. Jason Jackson (170.9) - Welterweight
Tyrell Fortune (251.2) vs. Jack May (264.3) - Heavyweight
Usman Nurmagomedov (155.2) vs. Mike Hamel (155) - Lightweight
Alejandra Lara (124.2) vs. Kana Watanabe (124.8) - Flyweight
Magomed Magomedov (135) vs. Cee Jay Hamilton (134.4) - Bantamweight
Mukhamed Berkhamov (173.8)** vs. Herman Terrado (169.5) Welterweight, cancelled
Mandel Nallo (154.9) vs. Ricardo Seixas (154.9) - Lightweight
Fabio Aguiar (187.7)* vs. Khalid Murtazaliev (183.6) - Catchweight
Roger Huerta (159.4) vs. Chris Gonzalez (159.2) — Catchweight bout, 160lbs
Jose Augusto (203.2) vs. Jonathan Wilson (204.2) - Light heavyweight
Roman Faraldo (171.1)* vs. Trevor Gudde (170) - Catchweight
Jordan Newman (185.1) vs. Branko Busick (183.8) - Middleweight
All fighters indicated with an asterisk missed weight. A bout between Herman Terrado and Mukhamed Berkhamov was cancelled after Berkhamov missed weight as well.
Bellator 255 begins the new Showtime era this Friday night with the prelims starting at 6:00pm on YouTube and the main card airing exclusively on Showtime at 9:00pm.