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Bellator 288 preview: Pitbull to battle Nurmagomedov, Nemkov and Anderson run it back

Bellator gives us plenty to be thankful for before the holiday week kicks in with two title fights and some lovely showcases.

MMA: Bellator 183-Pitbull vs Henderson
That guy got some hang time on that one.
Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports

Patricky Pitbull remains the most iconic name under the Bellator banner and for good reason. A longtime champion and star for the organization, he’s become iconic and arguably one of the faces of the promotion.

That said, it’s a little strange he’s relegated to co-main event for this week’s event. But at least this card has plenty to offer. The main event will instead be the light heavyweight tournament final for all the marbles, as current champ Vadim Nemkov (15-2) faces Corey Anderson (16-5) in the finals. This is a rematch of their previous battle, which ended via no-contest due to a clashing of heads.

Nemkov remains a stellar fighter with great timing on his strikes and good takedown defense paired with vicious kicks. But Anderson is clearly at the height of his powers right now, utilizing both his explosive takedown shots and his use of range. Add to that a newfound refinement of his boxing technique as well as some major power behind it, and you’ve got a dangerous contender. His departure from the UFC may have been for the best, as his performances and focus have been greatly improved. It’s not a fluke that he’s been 3-0 (1 NC) since then and is within distance of getting a shiny new belt for his efforts.

Circling back to Pitbull (24-10), he really did a lot with his last outing in which he not only avenged his loss to Ireland’s Peter Queally, but captured the then-vacant lightweight title in the process. Now he makes his first defense in this reign against surging phenom Usman Nurmagomedov (15-0). Another fighter under Abdulmanap’s lineage, he’s undefeated with only two decision wins. He’s got an impressive record in terms of performances and his technique is absolutely there. Problem is his level of competition isn’t anywhere near what Pitbull’s has been.

MMA Math notwithstanding, he might pull off a pretty shocking upset here. His wrestling and submission game are what you’d expect from anyone with the Nurmagomedov name. His striking is also pretty good, but he may be susceptible to Pitbull’s counterstrikes and power.

Daniel Weichel (42-13) remains one of the least recognized mainstays for Bellator, despite having some very impressive performances. He’s been alternating wins and losses since 2018, but made a statement in his last win against Rob Whiteford this past May. He gets to welcome Timur Khizriev (11-0). Khizriev is a submission terror that manages to be pretty great at everything else, too. Having a debut against an established veteran like Weichel is a statement in itself and a testament to his talent and the expectations Bellator has for him. But it might be a bit much given the experiment gap. It should be plenty of fun as both are well-rounded and have devastating submission games.

Tyrell Fortune (12-2) is still quietly chugging along as part of the Bellator homegrown project, which is going well in his case. He had a great outing against Rakim Cleveland in his last bout, and now meets expert ground striker and heavy hitter Daniel James (13-6).

Roman Faraldo (8-0) has been dynamite for Bellator thus far, as the American Top Team member has had some showstopping performances. Now he gets a step up against Georgian Levan Chokheli (10-2), who has had a bit of a rough go of it in Bellator after having a sensational record elsewhere.

Imamshafi Aliev (8-0) and Sean Fallon (16-7) will make their Bellator debuts against each other. Aliev has a strong foundation despite fighting somewhat inexperienced opposition, while Fallon has looked good against some not-so-impressive opposition. That doesn’t mean he’s a pushover, he could absolutely spoil the coming out party for Aliev here.

Finally, Killys Mota (13-3) meets fellow Brazilian Jairo Pacheco (7-0), while up and comer Archie Colgan (5-0) looks to keep his undefeated streak going against Jesse Hannam (2-1)

You can check out the weigh-ins here:

Main card:

Vadim Nemkov (203.8) vs. Corey Anderson (204.2) – Light heavyweight tournament final, for Bellator light heavyweight championship

Patricky Freire (154) vs. Usman Nurmagomedov (154.8) – Bellator lightweight championship

Timur Khizriev (146) vs. Daniel Weichel (145.2) - Featherweight

Tyrell Fortune (257.2) vs. Daniel James (264.8) - Heavyweight

Levan Chokheli (170.6) vs. Roman Faraldo (170.8) - Welterweight

Prelims:

Imamshafi Aliev (185.8) vs. Sean Fallon (185.6) - Middleweight

Killys Mota (155.6) vs. Jairo Pacheco (155.6) - Lightweight

Archie Colgan (154.8) vs. Jesse Hannam (155.8) - Lightweight

Sullivan Cauley (205.6) vs. Jay Radick (205.6) - Light heavyweight

Jordan Newman (185.6) vs. Jayden Taulker (185.6) - Middleweight

Laird Anderson (145.6) vs. Rob Fenicle (146.0) - Featherweight

Isaiah Hokit (145.4) vs. Matias Nader (144.0) - Featherweight

Wladmir Gouvea (265.8) vs. Kory Moegenburg (246.2) - Heavyweight


Bellator 288: Nemkov vs Anderson takes place this Friday night with the prelims streaming live and free on Bellator’s YouTube channel starting at 6:00pm EST. The main card starts at 9:00pm and airs exclusively on Showtime.