The most anticipated Bellator fight card of 2022 takes place this weekend at the SAP Center at San Jose in San Jose, California. The fight card will be headlined by a rematch between former Bellator featherweight champion Patrício Pitbull challenging the unbeaten, newly-minted champion A.J. “The Mercenary” McKee at Bellator 277.
The featherweight strap will not be the only title up for grabs; however, as Bellator light heavyweight world champion Vadim Nemkov is set to defend his title against former UFC contender Corey Anderson with an additional one-million dollar grand prize up for grabs in the light heavyweight grand prix finals.
Bellator 277 Main Event: Rematch in the Bay Area
Friday evening’s main event is a rematch from last summer, when McKee brought an emphatic end to the four-plus year reign of Pitbull as the featherweight champion. The unbeaten 27-year-old stunned the Brazilian with a head kick followed by a flurry of punches that knocked the former champion down into a seated position against the cage. McKee followed up the flurry by catching Pitbull in a guillotine choke on his way back up, becoming the first man to ever finish what many consider to be the greatest fighter in Bellator history.
McKee earned the initial shot at Pitbull with one of the greatest Bellator grand prix runs in recent memory. “The Mercenary” recorded three consecutive stoppage wins over the likes of Georgi Karakhanyan, Derek Campos and Darrion Caldwell, becoming the owner of the Bellator record for consecutive wins while being tied with Pitbull and former lightweight champion Michael Chandler for most stoppage victories (13). McKee, who is the son of UFC veteran Antonio McKee, has spent his entire career in Bellator and has grown and matured inside the circular cage.
All of these things make McKee a natural threat to not only the fighter standing in front of him on Friday, but the legacy of one of the most accomplished competitors in the history of the promotion. Prior to last July, Pitbull had recorded victories in each of his previous eight fights, half of which came by way of finish. His most recent came in the form of a technical submission (guillotine choke) victory over Emmanuel Sanchez. The 34-year-old is also a former Bellator lightweight world champion, but vacated the title last year which is currently in possession of his brother, Patricky Pitbull.
McKee’s power wound up being too much for Pitbull the first time around; however, Pitbull has shown an ability to take the fight into deep waters with a 9-3 record when the fight goes to the judges scorecards. McKee, meanwhile, is 5-0 when the fight goes the distance, but either way, the Brazilian legend will look for a better result than last July when McKee sat him down less than two minutes into the five-round fight.
If Pitbull can work the leg kicks early, he might stand a better chance of getting an extended fight out of McKee, who is yet to experience the rigors of a five-round fight in his unblemished career. He will, however, need to eventually close the distance if he wants to hurt the champion, who will enjoy an eight-inch reach advantage and a four-inch height advantage.
Current betting odds have McKee pegged as roughly a 3-1 favorite, while Pitbull can be had as roughly a +250 underdog.
Light Heavyweight Championship Up for Grabs in Co-Main Event
McKee vs. Pitbull II will not be the only title fight coming to San Jose on Friday night. Vadim Nemkov, Bellator’s prolific light heavyweight champion, will defend his title against Corey Anderson in the co-main event.
The fight figures to be Nemkov’s toughest test since becoming the light heavyweight champion back in August 2020. Anderson is not only yet to taste defeat since coming to Bellator, he is yet to see the scorecards with all three of his wins coming by way of TKO. The results have been a marked change for Anderson, who earned something of a reputation for being a point fighter during his rise up the UFC light heavyweight rankings between 2018 and 2020. The Rockford, Illinois native does hold a win over current UFC light heavyweight champion Glover Teixeira and should be well-equipped to compete with the champion, no matter where the fight ends up.
As for Nemkov, the Russian holds a 7-0 record in Bellator with notable wins over Phil Davis, Ryan Bader, and Davis again in a fight that went the full five rounds. Like Anderson, Nemkov should be comfortable no matter where the fight plays out, but will likely look to test the chin of Anderson, who has taken four of his five defeats by way of knockout, including most recently against former UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.
Both fighters have been tested throughout their careers at the highest level, with credits against some of the elite 205-pound fighters from around the world. Their experience, combined with their all-around nature should make this a barn-burner. After McKee vs. Pitbull II, Nemkov vs. Anderson is one of the very best fights Bellator is capable of putting on right now and the action itself should deliver in spades.
Betting odds currently favor Nemkov in the -170 range, while Anderson will enter Friday as the likely underdog currency floating around a +140 price point.
The Best of the Rest
Homegrown Bellator favorite Aaron Pico was originally scheduled to take on Canadian Jeremy Kennedy in a battle of big-time featherweight prospects; however, Kennedy was forced to pull out over the weekend for undisclosed reasons. Pico will now be fighting North Carolina-native Adli Edwards who most recently fought for XMMA. Pico is looking for his 10th win inside the Bellator cage and will be heavily favored to do just that.
Rounding out the main card is a battle between heavyweights on two different trajectories. Linton Vassell will put his three-fight winning streak on the line against Timothy Johnson, who is coming off a loss to Fedor Emilianenko at Bellator 269 in Moscow. Both men represent the only two MMA losses for heavyweight prospect Tyrell Fortune, who will be competing on the prelims of this card against veteran Rakim Cleveland. Other featured preliminary bouts include Brazilian Rafael Carvalho taking on Turkmenistan’s Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov at light heavyweight, along with former Oklahoma State University wrestler Kyle Crutchmer taking on American Top Team’s Michael Lombardo in a battle of prospects.
The main card of Bellator 277 is set to begin at 10 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. PT, while the prelims will get underway at around 7 p.m. ET/ 4 p.m. PT. The full card can be found below, and as always, be sure to stay locked in to MMASucka.com for up-to-the-minute results on Friday evening.
Main Card (10 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. PT – SHOWTIME)
Bellator Featherweight World Championship: A.J. McKee (C ) vs. Patricío Pitbull
Bellator Light Heavyweight World Championship (Grand Prix Final): Vadim Nemkov (C ) vs. Corey Anderson
Featherweight: Aaron Pico vs. Adli Edwards
Heavyweight: Linton Vassell vs. Timothy Johnson
Prelims (7 p.m. ET/ 4 p.m. PT – YouTube/Pluto TV)
Heavyweight: Tyrell Fortune vs. Rakim Cleveland
Light Heavyweight: Rafael Carvalho vs. Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov
Catchweight (140 lbs.): Gaston Bolanos vs. Daniel Carey
Welterweight: Kyle Crutchmer vs. Michael Lombardo
Bantamweight: Bobby Seronio III vs. Calob Ramirez
Welterweight: Rhalan Gracie vs. Tyson Miller
Flyweight: Edwin De Los Santos vs. Alberto Mendez
Featherweight: Socrates Hernandez vs. Rogelio Luna
Featherweight: Laird Anderson vs. JT Donaldson
Light Heavyweight: Theo Haig vs. Alan Benson
Main Image via Bellator MMA.