Bellator 217: Fighters to Watch

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The Bellator cage returns to Dublin, Ireland on the 23rd of February at the 3Arena for Bellator 217. This is undoubtedly an opportunity to expose a wider audience to the MMA sensations that Ireland is producing. It is also another chance for non-MMA fans to experience the sport, as it is the second card shown on Sky Sports, following MVP vs. Daley last weekend.

Fighters to watch

James Gallagher

If you haven’t heard of James ‘The Strabanimal’ Gallagher, where have you been? The young Irishman stormed onto the MMA scene, making his promotional debut in 2016. In the featherweight division, he went 4-0, notching three RNC victories in a row.

Gallagher isn’t short on confidence, and comparisons between him and Sraight Blast Gym teammate Conor McGregor are often made. However, he insists his personality is all self-made. The ‘Strabanimal’ is coming off his first loss, a KO defeat to fellow prospect Ricky Bandejas at Bellator 204. This was Gallagher’s bantamweight debut, and the Irishman will once again be down at 135 in Dublin.

He claimed in an interview with MMAJunkie that the loss ‘didn’t set me back at all’, and that it was the ‘best thing’ that’s ever happened to him (speaking to MMAFighting).

Gallagher faces promotional debutant Steven ‘Golden’ Graham, who himself is on a five-fight winning streak. Will ‘The Jimmy Show’ end with Gallagher back the win column, or will he slip to defeat in his hometown?

Peter Queally

Peter ‘The Showstopper’ Queally will take part in his promotional debut in the co-main event in Dublin. The ‘Showstopper’ is a seasoned veteran of Irish MMA and is famous for his ‘anytime, anywhere’ philosophy. This was evident in his last bout, where faced David Khachatryan in Russia at Fight Nights Global 87. He won by KO early in the first round on this occasion. Going into enemy territory to get the job done is what the Irishman thrives on. This time, however, he will get to fight at home in Ireland for the first time since 2016.

It’s been billed as the ‘biggest domestic fight’ in Irish MMA history by coach John Kavanagh, head of SBG. Queally will face Myles Price on Feb. 23.

Price, the former SBG Ireland man, trained at AKA alongside Khabib Nurmagomedov before his UFC title bout with Conor McGregor. Naturally, this angered teammate Queally, who branded Price a traitor and a ‘rat’. Stating he will be ‘cold’ and detached from ‘any emotions’, come fight night, Queally is determined to settle the feud inside the cage. Come fight night we can expect fireworks out of the two Irish natives. This grudge match will come to fruition back where it all began in Dublin.

Kiefer Crosbie

Undefeated SBG prospect Kiefer Crosbie will be making his second appearance for Bellator in Dublin. Making his debut at Bellator 211 in Italy, Crosbie cruised to a fairly routine UD victory over Orlando D’Ambrosio.

If anyone has seen the way ‘Big Daddy’ fights, you will know he comes to entertain. Arguably this is no more evident than in his fight against Josh Plant at BAMMA 35. The one round slug-fest saw both men leave everything in the octagon, with Crosbie eventually coming away with the TKO victory. This fan favourite is a consistent face on the mats at SBG and will be looking to kick on to 2-0 inside the Bellator cage.

Crosbie is set to face Daniel Olejniczak, who recently suffered a loss to SBG teammate Cian Cowley at Brave CF 13. Olejniczak boasts an impressive 9-0 amateur record, and a 3-2-1 pro record, he will be a decent test for Crosbie. Can ‘Big Daddy Kiefer’ pick up another win in Dublin and improve to 6-0, or will the Polish national pull off the upset?

Charlie Ward

For good or for bad, you’ve probably heard of Charlie Ward. The Irish middleweight has a 5-3 professional record, including two fights in the UFC. His first fight for Bellator, as some may remember, caused controversy for all the wrong reasons.

He picked up the TKO victory at Bellator 187 and was congratulated by teammate Conor McGregor in the cage. McGregor and referee Marc Goddard then got into a large confrontation inside of the cage, arguably taking the light away from Ward’s victory. Despite this, the hard-hitting Irishman was back in the Bellator cage at Bellator 200, once again winning in the first round and improving to 2-0 under the promotion.

Ward takes on Brit Jamie Stephenson in Dublin, who has been out of action since 2017. Stephenson, however, has never gone to the judges in his six MMA bouts. With both Ward and Stephenson’s history of finishing fights, we can expect this affair to be an exciting one.

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Frazer Krohn has been with MMASucka for nearly 5 years. He is the host of the MMASucka podcast, which is released every Monday. He's the author of a series of six books about MMA, which were published in 2023.

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