Bellator’s first event of 2021 will see the return of their top champion Patricio Pitbull, who will fight Emmanuel Sanchez as part of the promotion’s ongoing 145-pound tournament. The fight headlines Bellator 255, which is scheduled to take place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, USA.
Here’s a full preview of the card.
Preliminary Card (6:00PM EDT / 5:00PM CDT) (Youtube)
Bellator’s preliminary card lost a bout on Thursday, as the promotion announced that a bout between Mukhamed Berkhamov and Herman Terrado would exit the lineup.
Bout 1: Jordan Newman (2-0) vs. Branko Busick (2-1) (Middleweight)
Undefeated Bellator prospect Jordan Newman will return to the cage when fighting Branko Busick in the first bout of the evening. Newman had a strong rookie year as a pro, earning two victories under the Bellator banner in 2019. Now after a year outside of the cage, he looks for his third win.
Busick is coming back from an even longer layoff, fighting for the first time since late 2018.
Bout 2: Roman Faraldo (4-0) vs. Trevor Gudde (2-1) (Welterweight)
Roman Faraldo will get his second Bellator bout when fighting Trevor Gudde on the prelims. Faraldo won his Bellator debut in November, scoring a flying knee win over Pat Casey. Prior to then, Faraldo had three wins from 2019 to 2020.
Gudde is getting the call back to Bellator after scoring an upset win against Khonry Gracie last year. The fight saw Gudde hurt Gracie with strikes, eventually stopping him in the third round.
Faraldo missed weight for the bout on Thursday, just slightly going over the non-championship limit for welterweight.
Bout 3: Jose Augusto (6-2) vs. Jonathan Wilson (9-3) (Light Heavyweight)
In a fight that was added to the Bellator card on short notice, former UFC fighter Jonathan Wilson will face Jose Augusto on the prelims. Wilson competed in the UFC from 2015 to 2017, earning one win and three losses before departing the promotion. He has earned two wins since then on the regional scene.
Augusto is getting his shot at Bellator after going on a four-fight win streak as a pro.
Bout 4: Roger Huerta (24-12-1) vs. Chris Gonzalez (5-0) (Catchweight 160 lbs)
In a classic matchup of veteran versus up-and-comer, Roger Huerta will fight undefeated talent Chris Gonzalez on Friday.
Gonzalez has picked up three wins via decision since joining the Bellator roster in 2019. His last fight was in August, where he handed Vladimir Tokov his first loss in a split decision fight.
Huerta has yet to win since starting his current Bellator stint. He has lost three fights since 2018, although they have come against high-level talent like Benson Henderson and Patricky Pitbull.
Bout 5: Fabio Aguiar (17-1) vs. Khalid Murtazaliev (14-2) (Middleweight)
Both getting a start on their Bellator careers, experienced middleweights Fabio Aguiar and Khalid Murtazaliev will meet on the prelims.
Murtazaliev will be competing for the first time since his one-fight UFC run in 2018. He won his sole UFC bout by stopping CB Dollaway after a round. Murtazaliev then departed the roster after facing a USADA suspension.
Aguiar is getting the Bellator shot after a long win streak from 2015 to 2018. He missed weight for the bout on Thursday, missing the mark by nearly two pounds.
Bout 6: Mandel Nallo (7-1) vs. Ricardo Seixas (9-2) (Lightweight)
Attempting to return to the win column after two fights that resulted in a loss and no contest, Mandel Nallo will fight short-notice opponent Ricardo Seixas.
Nallo was given his first pro loss in 2019, getting stopped by Killys Mota with leg kicks. He has fought since then, although his fight lasted less than two minutes as an unintentional groin shot forced his fight to end in a no contest.
Nallo was first scheduled to fight Keoni Diggs, but he has since been paired against Ricardo Seixas instead. Seixas won his first Bellator bout early last year, stopping Dominic Clark in less than a minute at Bellator 238.
Bout 7: Magomed Magomedov (17-1) vs. Cee Jay Hamilton (15-7) (Bantamweight)
After a successful Bellator debut last year, Magomed Magomedov will look for his second win in the promotion when fighting Cee Jay Hamilton. Magomedov fought to a unanimous decision win against Matheus Mattos in December, scoring his fourth consecutive win since 2017.
Hamilton enters Bellator after an experienced MMA career that includes wins in Combate Americas, LFA and Titan FC. He has won his last two bouts prior to Friday.
Main Card (9:00PM EDT / 8:00PM CDT) (Showtime / Youtube)
Friday’s main card will be Bellator’s debut on U.S. TV channel Showtime. Also, in a rare occurrence, the main card will also be streamed for free on their Youtube channel as well.
Bout 8: Kana Watanabe (9-0-1) vs. Alejandra Lara (9-3) (Flyweight)
Undefeated flyweight Kana Watanabe will make her U.S. debut when fighting Alejandra Lara in the first bout on the main card.
Watanabe has fought since a pro since 2017, putting together wins in regional Japanese promotion DEEP Jewels and top promotion in the country, RIZIN. She had her first Bellator appearance in late 2020, defeating Ilara Joanne in a collaborative card between Bellator and RIZIN.
Like Watanabe, Lara will be fighting for the first time in a year. Her last two fights were in 2019, where she defeated Taylor Turner and Veta Arteaga. The bouts put her back to her winning ways after losing to Ilima-Lei Macfarlane, the person who was the Bellator champion at the time, and Juliana Velasquez, who has since claimed the belt.
Bout 9: Usman Nurmagomedov (11-0) vs. Mike Hamel (7-4) (Lightweight)
After winning his first 11 fights as a pro, Usman Nurmagomedov gets the Bellator call-up on Friday against Mike Hamel. Nurmagomedov’s Bellator debut comes after a strong 2020 that saw him score three stoppage victories.
He now fights Hamel, who is looking to bounce back after a split decision loss to Adam Borics from August.
Bout 10: Tyrell Fortune (9-1) vs. Jack May (11-7) (Heavyweight)
While Tyrell Fortune wasn’t originally scheduled to fight Jack May on Friday, the short-notice booking provides for an interesting storyline.
Fortune was first set to face UFC and Bellator vet Matt Mitrione, although plans changed in the days leading up to the fight. May has since taken Mitrione’s place, stepping in on days notice to compete.
May has fought Fortune before, as the heavyweights battled back in September. Nobody prevailed in that contest, as an early groin shot to May caused an end to their fight in the first round. Now fighting a second time around, both fighters have another chance to see how the matchup plays out. Since that fight, May has competed on a regional card, losing a split decision to Kyle Noblitt.
Fortune has also returned to the cage in that time, as he picked up a unanimous decision win against former Titan FC Heavyweight Champion Said Sowma.
Bout 11: Neiman Gracie (10-1) vs. Jason Jackson (13-4) (Welterweight)
After attaining a strong three-fight win streak in the past two years, Jason Jackson has been matched with former title challenger Neiman Gracie in the co-main event of the card.
Returning after losing a title fight to Rory MacDonald in 2019, Gracie scored a heel hook submission against Jon Fitch in September. The win was his 10th as a pro and his ninth via submission.
Bout 12: Patricio Pitbull (31-4) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (20-4) (Bellator Featherweight Championship)
The main event of the card will see two-division champion Patricio Pitbull rematch Emmanuel Sanchez. The matchup is for the Bellator Featherweight Championship, and the winner of it will go on to fight AJ McKee in the grand finals of Bellator’s ongoing featherweight tournament.
The first meeting between Pitbull and Sanchez was in 2018, where they fought to a unanimous decision after five rounds, which saw Pitbull retain in the end. Pitbull then climbed up a division to stop Michael Chandler and become the promotion’s lightweight champ.
Pitbull’s run through the featherweight grand prix has been harder than others. While 14 fighters fought three-round bouts in the opening part of the bracket, Pitbull, being the champion, had to fight a five-round bout in the first round. He won that bout, defeating Juan Archuleta in 2019. His win in the second round was quick, as he stopped Pedro Carvalho with strikes in November.
Sanchez picked up a submission in the opening round of the tournament, submitting then-undefeated Ty-wan Claxton with a triangle choke in 2019. Sanchez showed his toughness through five rounds in the quarter-finals, fighting to a decision win against Daniel Weichel last year.