While fans are no doubt disappointed that Anthony Johnson vs. Yoel Romero is no longer happening on next week’s Bellator 258 card, at least ‘Rumble’ will remain on the card.
ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported on Friday that Johnson will take on Team Pitbull member Jose Augusto Azevedo Barros. Romero was forced to withdraw from the tournament after not passing his pre-fight medicals. Helwani reported that an unspecified eye issue is what ended Yoel’s tournament before he could even begin.
Johnson (22-6) is not only making his Bellator debut but also his return to MMA competition after four years away from the sport. He surprisingly retired after a title fight loss to then champion Daniel Cormier in 2017, but he re-entered the USADA testing pool two years later. Ultimately the UFC released him from his contract late last year, allowing him to sign with Bellator. You have to go back to August 2016 for his last win, which was that brutal KO of Glover Teixeira at UFC 202.
Barros (7-2, 1 NC) has never gone the distance in his brief MMA career. He’s currently on a six-fight unbeaten streak (which started with an NC due to a cage door malfunction), having triumphed in his Bellator debut last month against UFC veteran Jonathan Wilson. This is obviously both a massive step up in competition for Barros and a major opportunity to make a name for himself at 205 lbs.
Julius Anglickas, the tournament alternate, was not available for this fight on such short notice, hence Barros gets the call-up.
The winner of Johnson vs. Barros will take on reigning champ Vadim Nemkov in the tournament semifinals. Ryan Bader and Corey Anderson are set to square off on the other side of the bracket.
Bellator 258 is headlined by a bantamweight title fight between champion Juan Archuleta and Sergio Pettis. The main card airs live on Showtime.