Cris Cyborg has had many strong championship runs in her career, including in Invicta FC, Strikeforce and the UFC. Attempting to add to the legacy of her Bellator title run, Cyborg will look to defend her belt for the second time when facing Leslie Smith in the main event of Friday’s Bellator 259 card.
The fight sits atop a 13-fight card that is set to happen at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, USA.
Here’s a preview of that fight along with the entire show.
Preliminary Card (5:30PM EDT) (Youtube)
Bout 1: Alexander Shabliy (19-3) vs. Alfie Davis (14-3) (Lightweight)
Lightweight Alexander Shabliy will make his Bellator debut in the opening bout, fighting Alfie Davis.
Shabliy has an experienced MMA record of 22 fights, although he mostly fought within Russia. After stringing together four consecutive wins from 2017 to 2019, Shabliy has made the trip to the U.S. for Friday’s fight.
Davis has a strong win streak in Bellator to defend in this fight. Davis has won his last four bouts in Bellator, last appearing on a card in September where he defeated Akonne Wanliss.
Bout 2: Brett Johns (17-2) vs. Danny Sabatello (10-1) (Bantamweight)
In a double Bellator debut, former UFC fighter Brett Johns will face former Titan FC Bantamweight Champion Danny Sabatello.
While many people’s UFC runs end on a low note before they pursue another promotion, that wasn’t the case with Johns. He is making the move to Bellator after two wins in 2020, submitting Tony Gravely and fighting to a scorecard win over Montel Jackson.
He has a tough challenge ahead of him, as he will fight the former Titan FC Bantamweight Champion. Sabatello signed with Bellator after a busy 12 months, fighting three times in Titan FC and scoring a win on TV show “Dana White’s Contender Series.”
Sabatello took the fight on short notice, replacing Matheus Mattos.
Bout 3: Leah McCourt (4-1) vs. Janay Harding (6-4) (Featherweight)
The win streak of Leah McCourt will be tested when she fights Janay Harding on the prelims.
McCourt has been undefeated since joining Bellator in 2019. She has not competed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, having last fought in early 2020 against Judith Ruis.
Her opponent, Harding, is returning half a year after her last victory. She broke back into the win column in November, defeating Jessy Miele on scorecards.
Bout 4: Davion Franklin (2-0) vs. Tyler King (12-9) (Heavyweight)
Still early in his career, undefeated heavyweight Davion Franklin will face a veteran in Tyler King in the fourth bout of the show.
Franklin scored two wins in his rookie year as a pro last year, defeating JW Kiser and Ras Hylton. He now fights King, who has been a pro for over a decade now. King is currently on a brutal streak of losses, having been finished within a round in his last five fights. He last won a bout on a Bellator card in 2016.
Bout 5: Aviv Gozali (5-0) vs. Sean Felton (5-2-1) (Lightweight)
Submission specialist Aviv Gozali is set to fight during Friday night’s undercard.
All of Gozali’s pro fights have come via submission, and quickly. Entering his sixth bout, Gozali has finished all previous showings within a round. He last appeared in October, where he stopped Logan Neal in the fourth minute with a kimura.
Felton hasn’t appeared for a year, with his last fight being a draw against Piankhi Zimmerman in on a King of the Cage show.
Bout 6: Sumiko Inaba (1-0) vs. Kristina Katsikis (1-1) (Flyweight)
Returning after a strong pro debut, Sumiko Inaba will face Kristina Katsikis.
Inaba’s pro debut came under the bright lights of Bellator last year, stopping Jessica Ruiz late in the first round with strikes. The shift to professional fighting came after an amateur run that resulted in six wins and one loss.
She now fights Katsikis, who is competing for the time in Bellator. She last fought in November of 2019, where she defeated Vanessa Marie Grimes for her first pro win.
Bout 7: Grant Neal (5-0) vs. Tyree Fortune (5-0) (Light Heavyweight)
Strong undefeated records will be put on the line when Grant Neal fights Tyree Fortune.
Most of Neal’s career has been developed in Bellator since he joined the promotion in 2019. He picked up the first submission win of his career last year, submitting Maurice Jackson with a rear naked choke.
Fortune has had a smaller, yet just as successful run in Bellator. He earned his second Bellator win in late 2019, defeating Chuck Campbell via split decision.
Bout 8: Saad Awad (23-13) vs. Nate Andrews (16-3) (Lightweight)
The prelims will finish with a clash between Bellator veteran Saad Awad and former PFL fighter Nate Andrews.
Awad has been winless for some time now but has the chance to break the skid on Friday. He has lost four of his five last fights, with his most recent appearance ending early in a no contest.
Andrews, a former CES Lightweight Champion, will be making his Bellator debut after competing in PFL’s 2019 season. He had a record of one win and one loss in their regular season and was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by Chris Wade.
Main Card (9:00PM EDT) (Showtime)
Bout 9: Valerie Loureda (3-0) vs. Hannah Guy (2-1) (Flyweight)
While a flyweight fight between Valerie Loureda and Hannah Guy wasn’t initially set to open the main card, it was given the boost after the departure of a fight between Christian Edwards and Ben Parrish.
The fight gives Loureda, an undefeated prospect being brought up by Bellator, a chance to pick up another win. Loureda has gained a large following online, currently sitting at over 800,000 followers on Instagram. She earned her third pro win over the summer, stopping Tara Graff late in the second round with a right cross.
She now fights Guy, who is getting the Bellator call-up after winning two of her three fights on the regional scene as a pro.
Bout 10: Jaleel Willis (14-2) vs. Maycon Mendonca (11-4) (Welterweight)
It will be a battle of two former LFA champs when Jaleel Willis fights Maycon Mendonca.
Mendonca had competed in LFA since 2017, although found himself on a five-fight win streak from 2019 and on. His momentum in the promotion culminated late last year, where he prevailed over Batsumberel Dagvadorj in a back-and-forth war to become the new LFA Welterweight Champion.
Willis won in his Bellator return last year, getting the scorecard nod over Mark Lemminger. The fight came after he defeated Vinicius de Jesus to become an LFA champ last summer.
Bout 11: Fabian Edwards (9-1) vs. Austin Vanderford (10-0) (Middleweight)
Looking to bounce back from his first pro loss, Fabian Edwards will fight Austin Vanderford as part of Friday’s main card.
Edwards competed on a European Bellator card in September, losing a split decision to Costello van Steenis in the main event. The loss came after a strong run in Bellator, picking up four wins in 2019 alone.
Vanderford, still undefeated, will attempt to earn his 11th pro win on Friday. His last appearance was in November, where he defeated Vinicius de Jesus on scorecards.
Bout 12: Darrion Caldwell (14-4) vs. Leandro Higo (20-5) (Bantamweight)
Moving back down to the bantamweight division, Darrion Caldwell will fight Leandro Higo. The fight will be Caldwell’s first after participating in the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix. He advanced through the first two rounds of the bracket in 2019 and 2020, although he was stopped within a round in the semifinals by AJ McKee.
Caldwell last appeared at bantamweight in 2019, where he lost his Bellator belt to RIZIN fighter Kyoji Horiguchi.
Caldwell has a tough challenge in his return. Higo has scored submission victories the last two times he fought, including a recent rear naked choke win against Ricky Bandejas.
Higo missed weight for the fight, coming in one-and-a-half pounds over the non-championship bantamweight limit.
Bout 13: Cris Cyborg (23-2) vs. Leslie Smith (12-8-1) (Bellator Featherweight Championship)
Cris Cyborg has the chance to defend her Bellator Featherweight Championship for the second time when fighting Leslie Smith in the main event of Bellator 259.
Cyborg, a former UFC and Strikeforce champ, entered Bellator in early 2020 and took their 145-pound belt from former long-time champ Julia Budd. She later defended it for the first time in the fall, submitting Arlene Blencowe in the second round of a bout.
She now fights a familiar foe in Smith. The two competitors first met in 2016, where Cyborg scored a stoppage win in the second minute of action. Smith won her last fight, defeating Amanda Bell on scorecards in September. The fight put her back into the win column after losing to Blencowe in 2019.