Bellator brings the fireworks back to the West Coast with a banger of a card packed with quality fights.
Patricio Pitbull (33-5) remains at the top of the mountain and holds the featherweight title yet again. He had his seven-fight streak ended by AJ McKee, but managed to get the belt back in the rematch back in April. Now he meets Adam Borics (18-1), who won four straight. Borics made a name for himself with some jaw-dropping finishes, but his recent streak was all decision wins. That’s an indicator of his growth and development, he’s not just hunting for highlight reel moments. The patience and versatility he has displayed has been a boon to keep his winning ways active, and it all leads to him fighting what could be Bellator’s most successful fighter in the history of the company.
Speaking of AJ McKee (18-1), he’s decided to finally move up to lightweight and will be welcomed by a very gritty tough fighter in Spike Carlyle (14-3). McKee had his mammoth undefeated record snapped as mentioned above, and now looks to put his weight cut woes behind him and let his grown man frame fill out a little to start in a new division. And perhaps it’s for the best, as he won’t be as depleted and his athleticism and technique can still be just as effective at 155.
Since his exit from the UFC, Carlyle has racked up five straight wins. All of them were finishes against good opposition, such as JJ Ambrose, Dan Moret and Koji Takeda. His wrestling is still good, but it’s his submission sequences that really gave him the edge. Against McKee, we get two opportunistic submission fighters that can crack and have some off-the-charts fast-twitch muscle reactions.
Jeremy Kennedy (17-3) is now 2-1 in Bellator, his lone loss is to Borics (which is a good loss) and he has wins over Emmanuel Sanchez and Matt Bessette. He now meets Aaron Pico (10-3), who has won six straight and is clearly moving up in competition yet again. Kennedy’s got the experience with great top control and very good kick setups, and Pico still has the power in his hands to go with his wrestling to be a problem for anyone.
Enrique Barzola (18-6, 2 draws) had a barnburner with Magomed Magomedov that ended with a heartbreaker of a stoppage when he was submitted. He’s still got dogged determination to fuel his high-pressure wrestling game and his chin to get in some firefights while standing. He meets Juan Archuleta (25-4), who’s had an exceptional career until some recent stumbles. Dropping two straight isn’t good, but at least it was to Sergio Pettis and Raufeon Stots, elite talents that he could reasonable be facing in rematches quite soon.
Islam Mamedov (21-12, 1 draw) had a setback against crafty vet Benson Henderson, but has looked great otherwise. He takes on ferocious LFA vet Nick Browne (13-1), who has won five straight that includes victories over Arthur Estrazulas and Mandel Nallo.
Jay Jay Wilson (8-1) remains a prospect to watch very closely, and he’s not getting any gimmies here as he faces dangerous Vladimir Tokov (6-1). Khadzhimurat Bestaev (11-4) is slotted into what could be the fight of the night against Khalid Murtazaliev (15-3) in an under the radar middleweight banger.
Sumiko Inaba (4-0) could be the new ‘it girl’ for Bellator, and she’s scheduled to fight Nadine Mandiau (2-5), while Lance Gibson Jr. (6-0) takes on the more experienced Dominic Clark (15-12). Max Rohskopf (7-1) retired in 2020 but came back to win two straight under the Cage Warriors banner. Now he makes his voyage over to Bellator and meets Mike Hamel (9-5), who just won two straight against Killys Mota and Bryce Logan.
Finally, Keoni Diggs (9-2) reps Hawaii hard in each outing and will try to get back in the win column after dropping two straight when he meets finisher Ricardo Seixas (9-3).
Main SHOWTIME card:
Patricio Freire (144.6) vs. Adam Borics (145.0) – Bellator featherweight title
Spike Carlyle (156.6)* vs. A.J. McKee (155.8) - Lightweight
Jeremy Kennedy (145.0) vs. Aaron Pico (144.6) - Featherweight
Juan Archuleta (141.0) vs. Enrique Barzola (137.4) – 141lb catchweight
Prelims YouTube card:
Nick Browne (156.0) vs. Islam Mamedov (155.2) - Lightweight
Vladimir Tokov (154.6) vs. Jay Jay Wilson (156.0)- Lightweight
Khadzhimurat Bestaev (185.2) vs. Khalid Murtazaliev (186.0) - Middleweight
Sumiko Inaba (124.8) vs. Nadine Mandiau (125.8) - Flyweight
Weber Almeida (144.6) vs. Ryan Lilley (144.0)- Featherweight
Dominic Clark (158.2)* vs. Lance Gibson (155.4)- Lightweight
Mike Hamel (155.6) vs. Max Rohskopf (155.4)- Lightweight
Cee Jay Hamilton (135.2) vs. Richard Palencia (136.0)- Bantamweight
Keoni Diggs (155.6) vs. Ricardo Seixas (156.0)- Lightweight
Miguel Peimbert (131.8) vs. Bobby Seronio III (136.0) - Bantamweight
Bellator 286 takes place this Saturday night live from the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center in Long Beach, California. Prelims start at 7:00pm EST and stream live on Bellator’s YouTube channel. Main card starts at 10:00pm exclusively on Showtime.