Fighters with the Most at Stake at Bellator 273

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Pursuant to the UFC’s heavyweight title unification bout last Saturday, MMA fans will witness Bellator Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader put his title on the line against interim champion Valentin Moldavsky tonight at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. With so much on the line in the main event, here are five combatants with the most at stake at Bellator 273.

Fighters with the Most at Stake at Bellator 273

  1. Ben Parrish

Ben Parrish may have had one of the most memorable Bellator debuts in recent history. At Bellator 266, “Big Tuna” would square off with the highly touted prospect Christian Edwards in a light heavyweight contest. Entering the bout as a heavy underdog, Parrish would shock the world when he would stop Edwards early in the first round, delivering a highlight reel knockout.

Now making his second appearance under the Bellator banner, Parrish will dawn the blue gloves in his fight against Sullivan Cauley in their preliminary matchup. Cauley, just 2-0 professionally, has earned TKO victories in both of his professional fights. Last competing at Bellator 268, Cauley finished Deon Clash in the first round.

With momentum on his side, Parrish could really make a name for himself in the 205-lb. and, with another spectacular performance, could soon find himself in the light heavyweight rankings.

  1. Saad Awad

At the age of 38, Saad Awad has not yet given up on his dream of holding Bellator gold. A veteran of 38 fights, Awad has inched towards this dream a few times, but has never quite made it to the top of his 155-lb. class.

The “Assassin” made his Bellator debut in 2009 at Bellator 10 against Diego Garijo in a losing effort. Awad would return to Bellator to participate in the Season 8 Lightweight Tournament where he would place second after falling to Dave Rickels in their tournament final matchup. From 2014-2016, Awad would go 3-3, earning two finishes over Joe Duarte and Evangelista Santos. In 2017, Awad would start a four-fight winning streak, propelling forward his lightweight title hopes. However, at Bellator 208 Benson Henderson would derail Awad’s hopes of title contention. Awad would go on to lose his next three fights dropping losses to Brandon Girtz, Goiti Yamauchi, and Paul Daley.

At Bellator 249, Awad would look to turn things around against Mandel Nallo. Unfortunately, Awad would suffer an accidental groin strike and would be rendered unable to continue and the fight would be determined a no contest.

Finally, at Bellator 259 Awad would win his first fight in nearly three years, finishing Nate Andrews in the first round. Awad will face Chris Gonzales, a Team Alpha Male prospect, in a 155-lb. clash tonight. After taking two steps forward and three steps back his entire career, Awad will look to make it two in a row and find his way back to the top of the lightweight division.

  1. Darrion Caldwell

With one of the best nicknames in mixed martial arts, Darrion “The Wolf” Caldwell will look to break his two-fight losing skid against Enrique Barzola.

As a dominant collegiate wrestler, Caldwell quickly jumped to the top of the bantamweight division-winning seven of his first eight fights under the Bellator banner. At Bellator 184, Caldwell would outshine Eduardo Dantas in their 25-minute matchup to earn the Bellator Bantamweight World Championship. The 34-year-old southpaw would face Kyoiji Horiguchi at Rizin 14 for the inaugural Rizin Bantamweight Championship but would be caught in a guillotine choke in round three forcing a tap. The bantamweight stars would fight yet again at Bellator 222, this time for Caldwell’s Bellator bantamweight strap. Again, Caldwell would fall short against Horiguchi, this time losing via unanimous decision and losing the title.

At Bellator 228, Caldwell would enter the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix, defeating Henry Corrales in the opening round. Caldwell would submit Adam Borics in the quarterfinals but would be stopped by the eventual the grand prix winner, A. J. McKee in the semifinal round. In his last outing, Caldwell would suffer a split decision loss in his rematch against Leandro Higo at Bellator 259.

  1. Islam Mamedov

Hailing from Derbent, Dagestan, Russia, Islam Mamedov made his Bellator debut by defeating former Bellator Lightweight Champion Brent Primus at Bellator 263. Prior to his promotional debut, Mamedov competed most notably under the Professional Fighters League and formally World Series of Fighting. In 2018, Mamedov failed to make the PFL playoffs, but was undefeated during the regular season. During the 2019 season, Mamedov would make the playoffs, but would fall out of tournament contention when his fight with Loik Radzhabov would be declared a majority draw.

The Russian grappler will look to rag doll Smooth” Benson Henderson in their lightweight contest tonight. Henderson, who has virtually nothing to lose, will be the hometown favorite. If Mamedov can defeat the former WEC and UFC lightweight champion, the soon to be thirty-two-year-old Russian will certainly find himself closer to 155-lb. title contention.

  1. Ryan Bader

There is nothing bigger than a title fight. Ryan Bader will welcome an incredibly tough Valentin Moldavsky in a potential twenty-five-minute contest for the 265-lb. crown. Bader, who fell short in his redemption effort to resecure the Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship via the Bellator Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix, will defend his heavyweight title for the first time since his bout with Cheick Kongo in September 2019.

His opponent, Valentin Moldavsky will certainly look to utilize his Sambo background to outwrestle Bader as he did Tim Johnson to win the interim title. Bader, in his own right, is no grappling slouch. “Darth” Bader has utilized his collegiate wrestling background throughout his MMA career to secure wins over MMA greats like Lyoto Machida, Antônio Rogério Nogueira, and Phil Davis.

This is a truly interesting matchup. Arguably, Bader and Moldavsky cancel each other out on the mat. Bader is the better striker and has so much more experience. Yet, Moldavsky is a heavy betting favorite entering the fight. Does Bader pull off the upset and retain his heavyweight championship or does Team Fedor’s Moldavsky outwrestle Bader to become the undisputed Bellator Heavyweight World Champion?

Featured Image from Bellator Twitter

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Brian Knight is a contributing writer and active editor for MMASucka since November 2020. He is currently authoring his first book.

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