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Bellator 256 preview: Ryan Bader vs Lyoto Machida 2 kicks off light heavyweight grand prix

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Bellator continues to build with familiar names and faces while bolstering up and coming talents.

UFC on FOX: Machida v Bader
Nine years later, a rematch no one saw coming is about to take place. Wild.
Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

After their return to Showtime last week, Bellator is back with a more expanded card and a very similar focus: competitive matchups, recognizable figures and exposure for unheralded talent.

This event has most of the prospects on the undercard, and once again it’s got a lot going for it from a competitive standpoint. The time off has really benefitted Bellator and allowed them to carefully craft events in a more even fashion.

The main event is a strange one, though. Ryan Bader (27-6) is still heavyweight champ and is in the light heavyweight tournament to recapture what was once his. He’s had enough time away since his loss to Vadim Nemkov, and finds himself in a rematch against former UFC champ Lyoto Machida (26-10). Machida is back at light heavyweight, and has unfortunately dropped two straight to Phil Davis and Gegard Mousasi by split decision. Bader’s a much smarter fighter than when they first clashed, and has dramatically improved his striking and transitions from one phase of the fight to the other. Machida still has his crafty striking and takedown defense, even if he can be overpowered at times and have his low striking volume exploited.

Former UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche (14-7) made the most of her Bellator debut defeating DeAnna Bennett by submission, and now faces former Invicta queen Vanessa Porto (22-8). Porto has had a quietly successful career with a solid resume due to her well-roundedness and durability. She’s going to need every ounce of grit to avoid getting grounded out against Carmouche, while Liz will need to pressure Porto heavily to cut down her volume and be mindful of Porto’s counterstriking.

Canada’s Jeremy Kennedy (16-2) left PFL with a 3-0 record with 1 draw, turning some heads in the process. After a decision win over Matt Bessette in his Bellator debut, he meets former featherweight tournament phenom Adam Borics (16-1). While Borics’ momentum was halted against Darrion Caldwell, he’s earned solid back to back decisions against Mike Hamel and Erick Sanchez. Borics has unpredictability and hard strikes with wild accuracy on his side, but Kennedy’s got combinations and an underappreciated submission game in his back pocket. This should be a very, very good encounter to watch.

Cat Zingano (11-4) returns to the Bellator cage after her successful promotional debut against Gabrielle Holloway last September. She’ll be up against Tennessee’s Olivia Parker (4-1). Goiti Yamauchi (25-4) returns for the first time since December of 2019 against former UFC fighter Dan Moret (14-6) while riding a three-fight win streak.

Wildman Cass Bell (5-1) is also back in action against Jornel Lugo (5-0), while BJJ ace Talita Nogueira (7-2) takes on “Black Widow” Jessica Borga (3-2).

You can check out the ceremonial weigh-ins here:

Weigh-in results:

Ryan Bader (205) vs. Lyoto Machida (204.6) - Light heavyweight tournament quarterfinal

Liz Carmouche (125.4) vs. Vanessa Porto (126) - Flyweight

Adam Borics (145.8) vs. Jeremy Kennedy (145.7) - Featherweight

Cat Zingano (145.2) vs. Olivia Parker (145.4) - Featherweight

Goiti Yamauchi (155.8) vs. Dan Moret (155.6) - Lightweight

Nathan Ghareeb (143.8) vs. Cody Law (145.2) - Featherweight

Talita Nogueira (146) vs. Jessica Borga (145.2) - Featherweight

Diana Avsaragova (125.8) vs. Tara Graff (125.2) - Flyweight

Cass Bell (135.6) vs. Jornel Lugo (135) - Bantamweight

Nainoa Dung (155.9) vs. Izzy William (156) - Lightweight

Dalton Rosta (185.5) vs. Tony Johnson (185.2) - Middleweight

Jaylon Bates (136) vs. Jeffrey Glossner (137.8)* - Bantamweight

John Douma (135.4) vs. Will Smith (134.6) - Bantamweight

*Glossner missed weight.

Bellator 256 takes place this Friday night with prelims streaming live starting at 6:00pm EST via Bellator’s YouTube channel, and the main card starting at 9:00pm exclusively on Showtime.