Bellator has had some very well-assembled events so far this year, and we’re not going to sugarcoat it - this one’s a bit odd.
There’s not that much star power, and there’s not much in terms of ranked fighters or major progression potential in any particular division. That said, there’s a few prospects getting some development, which is great. That’s aided by the co-main being a potential banger between two explosive athletes and a title fight that seems primed to deliver.
Featherweight prospects Johnny Soto (4-1) and Adil Benjilany (5-3) could turn in a fun performance against each other. Bellator appears to have plans for Diana Avsaragova (3-0), and she’ll be facing submission specialist Gabriella Gulfin (2-2). Cody Law (3-0) will be up against Theodore Macuka (1-0). That’s all good and well, it’s just a bit early to gauge where most these fighters are right now.
While a fight between Linton Vassell and Marcelo Golm was cancelled, the rest of the more recognizable names have some stiff tests ahead. Arlene Blencowe (13-8) always brings raw power, and she’ll be meeting another strong featherweight in Dayana Silva (9-6), while former Ultimate Fighter contestant and ACB talent Mattheus Mattos (12-2, 1 draw) faces Georgia’s own Cee Jay Hamilton (15-8).
The co-main should be fun. Tyrell Fortune (10-1, 1 no contest) followed up his lone MMA loss against Tim Johnson with a no-contest due to low blows against Jack May, but managed to defeat Said Sowma and put a definitive stamp on Jack May in a rematch. Now he’s up against Matt Mitrione (13-8, 1 no contest), a savvy and experienced heavyweight that loves to strike and can close the distance with the quickness. Mitrione’s also been on a bit of a skid with three losses and one no contest. Mitrione’s strength and athleticism have carried him very far, but it’s not easy to read how well he jives stylistically against other fighters. If he manages to connect first, he’s ahead of the game by a lot. And he’s got a striking advantage over Fortune as well as servicable takedown defense. How long that will keep him upright is major question, and he’s also capable of getting rocked and dropped.
Meanwhile, Fortune has proven himself to be a force with his wrestling, but he’s also capable of getting dropped on the way in. Tim Johnson exploited that in their fight, and Mitrione will most likely be hunting for an opportunity to deliver in the same way. Mitrione’s cardio has also been better than most of his opposition, but at age 43, it may not be holding up as well.
As for the main event? It’s a good one, and it’s getting slept on. That’s a shame because there’s a lot to like here. Denise Kielholtz (6-2) came into Bellator with a wealth of kickboxing experience and an 0-1 MMA record. Since then, she’s made the most of every opportunity that has come her way utilizing her striking as well as her Judo background. The only knock on any of that is the fact that she’s faced mostly overmatched competition.
Yet the same could be said about some of the names that Juliana Velasquez (11-0) has faced, and she managed to defeat Ilima-Lei MacFarlane. Velasquez also has a Judo foundation and has shown a lot of growth in her overall game. Her timing in particular has been her biggest asset with her striking, and folding it into grappling transitions makes her a major threat to anyone in the division.
You can watch the weigh-ins here:
Full card is as follows:
Flyweight: Juliana Velasquez (125) vs. Denise Kielholtz (124)
Heavyweight: Tyrell Fortune (233.5) vs. Matt Mitrione (261)
Bantamweight: Matheus Mattos (135.75) vs. Cee Jay Hamilton (135.5)
Featherweight: Arlene Blencowe (146) vs. Dayana Silva (146)
Middleweight: Johnny Eblen (186) vs. Travis Davis (186)
Heavyweight: Said Sowma (245) vs. Ronny Markes (252)
Featherweight: Cody Law (145.75) vs. Theodore Macuka (146)
Flyweight: Diana Avsaragova (126) vs. Gabriella Gulfin (124.75)
Featherweight: Johnny Soto (145.75) vs. Adil Benjilany (145.75)
Lightweight: Charlie Campbell (155) vs. Nick Giulietti (156)
Bellator 262 takes place this Friday night with prelims starting at 6:30pm EST on YouTube and the main card on Showtime starting at 9:00pm.