Things kick off on Friday with Bellator 215. This event is being headlined by Matt Mitrione vs Sergei Kharitonov. It’s safe to say that both men have found the right opponent to stand and trade with. Mitrione spent his last two fights battling wrestle-heavy strategies against Roy Nelson and Ryan Bader. Fighting an experienced striker will be a refreshing change of pace. Though Mitrione has heavy-hands and impressive athleticism, he will have his hands full while striking with the Russian veteran.
Main Card Fun
This card also includes the return of the much talked about bantamweight, Mike Kimbell. Kimbell is now 2-0 as a professional, with his last fight ending via knockout in just six seconds. He’ll be taking on John Douma, who will be making his Bellator debut with a 3-1 record. All three of his victories have come via finish.
Austin Vanderford—AKA Paige VanZant’s husband–will also be making his Bellator debut. He meets Cody Jones. Jones’ professional record is 6-2, with all but one of his victories coming via finish. Since his rear naked choke victory on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, Vanderford went on to win his next bout via KO at 1:38 of the first round. He steps into the Bellator cage undefeated at 6-0.
Moving onto Saturday, Bellator is treating fight fans to yet another event. Bellator 216 will feature the uncomfortably tense grudge match between Paul ‘Semtex’ Daley and Michael ‘Venom’ Page. Both British standouts have proven their ability to be devastating on the feet. ‘Semtex’ has finished opponents with strikes in over 30 of his professional MMA bouts. He also holds several knockout victories as a kickboxer. He has finished opponents in Strikeforce, UFC, BAMMA, Bellator, and several other fight promotions.
‘MVP’ has a perfect professional record in kickboxing (1-0), boxing (2-0), and MMA (13-0). He is well known for toying with his opponents by dancing while thoroughly outclassing them. Twelve of his thirteen wins have been finishes, including the time he quite literally smashed Evangelista ‘Cyborg’ Santos’s skull. Sometimes grudge matches don’t live up to the hype. The hatred can paralyze both combatants, each with fear of losing to their mortal enemy. Despite the inherent risk, this isn’t a match-up to miss. If you can watch it, then do it.
Heavyweight Title Implications
In the co-main event, former Bellator heavyweight champion, and undefeated Russian finisher, Vitaly Minakov will be re-matching Cheick Kongo. These two initially met about five years ago. After winning the title by finishing Alexander Volkov, Minakov successfully defended the belt against Kongo in 2014. Almost five years later, Minakov returns to Bellator to run it back with Kongo. Currently, Minakov is 21-0 with 20 of his victories coming via finish. His only decision was against Cheick Kongo. Kongo is 9-1 since losing to Minakov. At the present time, he is riding a seven-fight win streak. The Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader will probably be watching this fight closely. Whoever wins will be next in line for a shot at his heavyweight belt.
Another heavyweight bout with potential title implications comes in the form of Mirko ‘Cro-Cop’ Filipovic vs Roy Nelson. This bout is also a rematch from a clash that originally took place in 2011. Nelson won the fight via knock out. This fight will double as Filipovic’s much-anticipated Bellator debut. Along with wanting to rectify one of his previous losses, Filipovic probably wouldn’t mind eventually adding a Bellator heavyweight belt to his collection. With one or two wins, a title shot against Ryan Bader becomes a real possibility for the Croatian.
Another Bellator debutant to keep an eye on is Erick Silva. Though in recent years, he has had trouble with staying in the win column, Silva has proven on multiple occasions that he can bring excitement and danger to the cage. A new promotion will serve as an opportunity for Silva to start fresh. It won’t be an easy entry though. Silva takes on undefeated 20-0, Yaraoslov Amosov. Amosov made his Bellator debut with a decision victory over Gerald Harris.
The final installment of this UFC and Bellator weekend extravaganza will be a rare Sunday card hosted in Phoenix, Arizona. UFC Phoenix will be on ESPN and it will feature the long-awaited return of Cain Velasquez. He takes on the frighteningly powerful Francis Ngannou. Velasquez has had to overcome a slew of injuries since winning the belt over Brock Lesnar back in 2010. Though often dominant when competing, the injuries for Velasquez would worsen over time. Consequently, he has only competed in the octagon twice in the last five years. He last stepped into the cage 2 ½ years ago at UFC 200. He quickly TKO’d Travis Browne and was subsequently scheduled for a championship rematch against Fabricio Werdum. The fight would never come to fruition as more injury complications arose.
Velasquez returns to a much different heavyweight division on Sunday. His close friend and training partner, Daniel Cormier knocked out Stipe Miocic to win the title. Fabricio Werdum, the man who originally took his belt, was recently suspended by USADA after testing positive for trenbolone. He is currently serving out a two-year suspension. Then there’s the man welcoming Velasquez back to the UFC, Francis Ngannou. Just 3-0 in the UFC when Velasquez last competed, Ngannou is now 7-2 in the promotion with all of his victories coming via some form of stoppage. This will be a battle between two of the most common characters to appear in your nightmares. It’s a shame this fight takes place on Sunday. If either of these men is able to do what made them so terrifying in the first place, viewers aren’t likely to sleep much afterward.
UFC Phoenix also features James Vick and Paul Felder both looking to get back on winning track. Given the fighting style both men bring to the table, Felder and Vick are expected to deliver. Kron Gracie is also making his UFC debut against Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres. Of note, Gracie will be cornered by none other than Nate Diaz. A veteran like Diaz will come in handy for the Gracie standout. He will be entering the octagon with an undefeated record of 4-0. Also on the Sunday UFC card is a clash of undefeated prospects as Manny Bermudez (13-0) takes on Benito Lopez (9-0).
Not including the fights mentioned above, the Bellator and UFC events have a combined 29 additional bouts scheduled for this upcoming weekend. This includes names such as Renan Barao, Jessica Penne, Bryan Barberena, Cortney Casey, Cynthia Calvillo, Andre Fili, Myles Jury, Jimmie Rivera, Aljamain Sterling, Andrea Lee, Scott Holtzman, Eduardo Dantas, and more.
And if all of that wasn’t enough, ONE Championship, Invicta FC and Cage Fury will also be hosting events this weekend.
Sometime’s it feels good to be an MMA fan. Enjoy the fights.