Bellator will kick off their eight-man light heavyweight tournament on Friday night, presenting a rematch between veterans Ryan Bader and Lyoto Machida. The bout headlines a busy 13-fight card from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, USA.
Here’s a full preview of the show.
Preliminary Card (6:00PM EDT / 5:00PM CDT) (Youtube)
Bout 1: John Douma (4-2) vs. Will Smith (3-2) (Bantamweight)
Bantamweights John Douma and Will Smith will both look to return to the win column when matched on the opening bout of the prelims. Douma has been inactive for over a year now, with his last fight dating back to 2019 where he lost a match against Jornel Lugo.
Smith was finished in his last fight, getting stopped by undefeated prospect Lucas Brennan in August.
Bout 2: Diana Avsaragova (2-0) vs. Tara Graff (1-2) (Flyweight)
Undefeated flyweight Diana Avsaragova will step into the Bellator cage for the first time on Friday, fighting Tara Graff as part of the prelims. Avsaragova has picked up two wins since going pro in 2017. She enters the bout with a significant following online, currently having 155,000 followers on Instagram.
She now fights Graff, who will look to snap a two-fight skid. Graff lost her Bellator debut last year, being stopped by Valerie Loureda within a round.
Bout 3: Nainoa Dung (3-2) vs. Izzy William (4-3) (Lightweight)
Both fighting for their first win since 2019, Nainoa Dung and Izzy William will be matched on the prelims. Williams had a strong run from 2019 snapped in early 2020, as he lost a fight to now-UFC fighter Jordan Leavitt.
The majority of Dung’s career has now taken place in Bellator. After starting his promotional run strong with two wins, he has taken two losses in the past two years. He was stopped for the first time in his pro career in August, as leg kicks from Charlie Campbell took him out in the second round.
Bout 4: Jaylon Bates (1-0) vs. Jeffrey Glossner (2-1) (Bantamweight)
Returning after his successful pro debut last year, rookie Jaylon Bates will fight Jeffrey Glossner. Bates concluded his undefeated nine-fight amateur run in November, declaring himself a pro MMA fighter with a decision win over Joe Supino. Now entering the Bellator cage for the second time, Bates fights Glossner.
Glossner has competed three times since turning pro in early 2018. His last fight was in 2019, where he stopped Jason Tipaldos in only 10 seconds.
Glossner missed weight for the bout, coming in nearly two pounds over the non-championship bantamweight limit on Thursday.
Bout 5: Cody Law (2-0) vs. Nathan Ghareeb (2-0) (Featherweight)
Looking for his third win since going pro in October, Cody Law has been matched against Nathan Ghareeb.
He now fights Ghareeb, who similarly has two stoppage wins on his record. Ghareeb has been out of the cage since 2019, with Friday being his return.
Bout 6: Cass Bell (5-1) vs. Jornel Lugo (5-0) (Bantamweight)
Attempting to come back from his sole pro loss, Cass Bell will meet Jornel Lugo on Friday night. Bell’s entire six-fight pro career has taken place in Bellator thus far. Bell’s pro career started hot, picking up five stoppage victories and six wins in total. That momentum was stopped in July when experienced opponent Raufeon Stots submitted him with a rear naked choke.
Lugo, a two-time Bellator fighter, will compete to become the second man to defeat Bell. Lugo handed Schyler Sootho his first pro loss in his most recent Bellator appearance, defeating the bantamweight on scorecards in November.
Bout 7: Talita Nogueira (7-2) vs. Jessica Borga (3-2) (Featherweight)
Talita Nogueira and Jessica Borga will both return from brief layoffs when fighting on Friday. Nogueira has competed for Bellator since 2017, picking up one win and two losses. She lost a split decision to Jessy Miele in her last outing, which was back in 2019.
Borga won her Bellator debut in 2019, catching Amber Leibrock within a round with an armbar.
Bout 8: Dalton Rosta (4-0) vs. Tony Johnson (9-2) (Middleweight)
Win streaks will collide when middleweights Dalton Rosta and Tony Johnson fight on Friday.
Rosta has had a flawless pro career since debuting two years back. He earned his fourth consecutive win in October, fighting to a decision victory against Ty Gwerder.
Johnson currently has a five-fight win streak that dates all the way back to 2013. His last win was his Bellator debut, as he stopped Joe Schilling in 2019 with strikes.
Main Card (9:00PM EDT / 8:00PM CDT) (Showtime)
Bout 9: Dan Moret (14-6) vs. Goiti Yamauchi (25-4) (Lightweight)
Bellator vet Goiti Yamauchi will look to extend his win streak to four-in-a-row when fighting Dan Moret in the opening bout of the main card.
Yamauchi has not fought since late 2019, although his return to the cage comes with the momentum of a three-fight win streak. He earned quick wins in his two 2019 showings, submitting Saad Awad and Daron Cruickshank.
Moret, a former UFC fighter, will be making his first appearance for Bellator. Moret picked up a win in his last appearance, winning over Anton Kuivanen on a UAE Warriors card. He previously had a three-fight run in the UFC from 2018 to 2019 that resulted in losses.
Bout 10: Cat Zingano (11-4) vs. Olivia Parker (4-1) (Featherweight)
Former UFC fighter Cat Zingano will attempt to spoil the Bellator debut of Olivia Parker on the main card. Zingano won her Bellator debut in September, scoring a unanimous decision victory against Gabrielle Holloway. The fight was Zingano’s first since having a seven-fight UFC run from 2013 to 2018.
Parker gets her first matchup in Bellator after five fights on the regional scene. She picked up her first wins in Valor Fighting Championship during her rookie year as a pro. Her last fight was a loss, as she was submitted by Chelsea Chandler on an Invicta FC card.
Bout 11: Jeremy Kennedy (16-2) vs. Adam Borics (16-1) (Featherweight)
High-level featherweights Jeremy Kennedy and Adam Borics will clash for the first time on Friday evening. The fight is one of the closest pairings on paper, as gambling sites currently have tight odds on who could win.
Borics saw his first pro loss in early 2020, being submitted by Darrion Caldwell as part of Bellator’s Featherweight Grand Prix. Borics was given the loss after attaining 14 pro wins, including five in Bellator.
Kennedy had his first Bellator appearance in November, defeating Matt Bessette via unanimous decision. The fight was Kennedy’s first after competing in the 2019 PFL season, where he put together a record of two wins and one loss.
Bout 12: Liz Carmouche (14-7) vs. Vanessa Porto (22-8) (Flyweight)
Former UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche will get a big challenge in her second Bellator fight, facing Invicta FC veteran Vanessa Porto in the co-main event of the card.
Carmouche had a strong Bellator debut last year, stopping DeAnna Bennett in the third round with a rear naked choke. Carmouche previously had a 10-fight UFC run, which culminated with a title fight against Valentina Shevchenko in 2019.
Porto enters her first Bellator fight on an impressive four-fight win steak in regional promotion Invicta FC. The decade-and-a-half of pro experience in Porto’s career includes notable wins over names like Jennifer Maia, Roxanne Modafferi and Germaine de Randamie.
Bout 13: Ryan Bader (27-6) vs. Lyoto Machida (26-10) (Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix Quarterfinals)
Bellator will kick off their Light Heavyweight Grand Prix in the main event of Friday night, presenting a five-round rematch between Ryan Bader and Lyoto Machida. The tournament’s round of eight will take place over the next month or so, with fights currently booked for the promotions shows on April 16th and May 7th.
Bader and Machida have met before, as they fought on a UFC card in 2012. Machida prevailed in that instance, stopping Bader in the second round with strikes. Now nearly nine years later they will run it back.
Bader is currently the Bellator Heavyweight Champion. He used to be able to declare himself the 205-pound champ as well, although that changed in August when Vadim Nemkov stopped him in the second round of a fight with strikes.
The bout was Bader’s first at light heavyweight since 2017. He earned the belt in that year, defeating Phil Davis via split decision at “Bellator NYC.” He defended it once in that same year, picking up a victory against Linton Vassell. Bader then went up to heavyweight, where he put together a trio of wins that culminated with him earning the heavyweight belt in 2019.
Now in the light heavyweight bracket, Bader has a path to reclaim the 205-pound belt. Should he win and make it deep into the bracket, it would also be a commitment to the division that he has not done since entering the promotion.
Machida enters the tournament on a two-fight losing streak. Both of the losses were split decisions, losing bouts to notable names in Gegard Mousasi and Phil Davis. His Bellator run had previously included wins against Rafael Carvalho and Chael Sonnen.