Bellator has seen quite the shake up in the upper echelons of several weight classes this past year. In May, Sergio Pettis outclassed Juan Archuleta to be crowned the Bellator Bantamweight Champion. A month later, Yaroslav Amosov outwrestled Douglas Lima for the better portion of 25 minutes to win the Bellator Welterweight World Championship. In July, A.J. McKee stunned Bellator MMA Legend Patricio Pitbull to earn the 145 lb. title and in November Patricky Pitbull became the top man at 155 by stopping Peter Queally for the vacant lightweight championship.
Here are three fighters who could earn the top spot of their division in 2022.
With the MMA world witnessing perhaps the biggest upset in the history of the sport with Julianna Pena submitting Amanda Nunes at UFC 269, one can only imagine the next big upset. Cat Zingano could pull off one against current Bellator Women’s Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg. Cyborg, who has been unstoppable since her loss to Nunes at UFC 232, snagged Bellator’s 145 lb. crown when she finished Julia Budd at Bellator 238.
Zingano, who currently sits as the #2 ranked fighter in the featherweight division, defeated Amanda Nunes seven years ago at UFC 176. “Alpha” has been perfect since her arrival to Bellator in 2020 last competing at Bellator 256, where she submitted Olivia Parker in the first round.
With Cyborg having already defeated the current #1 ranked fighter in that of Arlene Blencowe at Bellator 249, this fight is more than likely the one to be made. Who takes this featherweight clash?
The Bellator middleweight division is one of the more intriguing weight classes in Scott Coker’s brand. Atop this division sits the #1 ranked fighter Austin Vanderford. Perfect as a professional, “The Gentleman” last stepped into the cage at Bellator 259 where he defeated Fabian Edwards in a pivotal title eliminator match.
Vanderford is expected to challenge current champ Gegard Mousasi for the 185-lb. title at Bellator 274. Mousasi, a mixed martial arts legend, picked up his 48th career victory at Bellator 264 when he TKO’d John Salter in the third round.
This will be one of the biggest fights of the year for middleweight MMA competition. Vanderford, who has been utterly dominant in his rise to title contention, will clash with Mousasi, a man who has defeated the likes of Douglas Lima, Chris Weidman, and Dan Henderson. Vanderford is a wrestler who utilizes smothering techniques to overwhelm and exhaust his opponents. Mousasi is a conventional striker who also is dangerous on the mat and has twelve submission victories to his credit.
Does Austin Vanderford derail Gegard Mousasi to win the middleweight title?
A 𝖒𝖊𝖌𝖆 Middleweight title clash awaits in 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣2️⃣
— Bellator Europe (@Bellator_Europe) December 12, 2021
“Nurmagomedov” is a name that many MMA fans associate with ideas of the ‘elite’, ‘greatness’, and ‘champion’. These ideas stem from the in-cage work of that of Khabib Nurmagomedov. Usman Nurmagomedov, the younger cousin of Khabib, is looking to build his own legacy of greatness and that legacy has started in his rise to the Bellator lightweight rankings.
Although stylistically different than that of his retired cousin, Usman Nurmagomedov has jumped out to a similar record of perfection as a professional with fourteen wins and zero losses. Nurmagomedov last competed at Bellator 269 where he utterly dismantled Patrik Pietila via first-round submission. Currently, Usman resides at the #3 spot in the 155-lb. division, sitting behind Brent Primus and Sidney Outlaw. With Patricky Pitbull eyeing his first title defense in 2022, Nurmagomedov could find his way to a title shot with a win over a top #5 opponent.
Who does Usman Nurmagomedov do battle with next? How does the 23-year-old prospect square up against Patricky Pitbull? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions must sit on the back burner until Nurmagomedov’s legal issues get resolved. In November, Nurmagomedov was arrested for his alleged involvement in an incident that occurred at a Moscow airport. See the full story details here.