Romero (13-5) was originally scheduled to enter the light heavyweight tournament against Anthony “Rumble“ Johnson back in May, but unfortunately he was not medically cleared for that bout.
Four months later, the Olympic wrestling standout is a little more grizzled but still willing to face any challenge. This matchup is of particular interest for multiple reasons, as the Olympian meets the NCAA champion. Romero’s boxing gets a lot of praise, and that’s for good reason. That along with his massive strength, his penchant for flying knees, and his ability to turn things around late in a fight are a sneaky combination of factors to keep in mind.
Davis (22-6) remains one of the toughest puzzles to figure out at 205, and has put together a more impressive arsenal as time goes on. From his headkick finish in enemy territory against Linton Vassell, to handling of Lyoto Machida en route to a decision win, he’s tied together his wrestling and his striking to look markedly different from his UFC days.
So Davis will have to stay vigilant for the mostly unpredictable Romero, but at 44 years of age, Romero may also finally be at the point where his age and fighting miles finally take a toll on his body. Will he still have his much-celebrated speed an explosiveness, or will Davis slow him down and end up pouring on the pressure late to negate a comeback? It’s an excellent way to open this portion of the tournament, and it happens right here.
Neiman Gracie (10-2) makes no bones about what he’s bringing to the table. Grappling and submissions, but with some new wrinkles and a lot of finesse. He’ll be looking to apply that same mindset against the up and coming Mark Lemminger (12-3). Lemminger had impressed in his Bellator debut with a win via ground strikes, but dropped two straight against Yaroslav Amosov and Jaleel Willis. He rebounded in a monstrous way with a knockout win over Demarques Jackson back in June, and hopes to make the most of this short turnaround with his wrestling and power striking game.
Former title challenger Alejandra Lara (9-4) has her rangy kicks and use of distance with her hands to fall back on, all while putting her submission game to good use. This time around, she meets the very tough DeAnna Bennett (10-7, 1 draw). Bennett works best inside, can wrestle well and soak up a lot of time by striking on the ground after takedowns. The winner here may not get a title shot right away, but it certainly inches them closer to it.
The dynamic Georgi Karakhanyan (31-11, 1 draw) is a tough out for anyone at lightweight, and he meets the UK’s Saul Rogers (14-4) in what is very likely to be a very entertaining bout. Surging light heavyweights Grant Neal (6-0) and Alex Polizzi (8-1) face each other in another very interesting bout between two fighters that have had impressive finishes on their records.
Relson Gracie’s son Rhalan makes his return to MMA after a 14-year hiatus as he meets Shane Keefe (1-0).
You can check out the weigh-ins here:
Phil Davis (206) vs. Yoel Romero (205.4)
Neiman Gracie (170.6) vs. Mark Lemminger (169.9)
DeAnna Bennett (129.2)** vs. Alejandra Lara (125.2)
Georgi Karakhanyan (155.6) vs. Saul Rogers (155.7)
Grant Neal (204.1) vs. Alex Polizzi (204.9)
Rhalan Gracie (171) vs. Shane Keefe (169.1)
Bellator 266 starts this Saturday night with the prelims on YouTube at 7:00pm EST, and the main card exclusively on Showtime starting at 10:00pm.