Bellator 273: Bader vs. Moldavsky Preview

Ryan Bader and Valentin Moldavsky face off at a ceremonial weigh-in.
Bellator’s heavyweight belts will be unified when Ryan Bader faces Valentin Moldavsky (Bellator MMA)

Bellator will kick off their year by unifying two belts in their biggest weight class.

Bellator 273 will be headlined by a fight between current heavyweight champ Ryan Bader and interim titleholder Valentin Moldavsky. The unification bout sits atop a 10-fight card that will take place at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

Here’s a full preview of the show.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Preliminary Card (7:25PM EST / 4:25PM PST) (Youtube)

Bout 1: Ben Parrish (5-1) vs. Sullivan Cauley (2-0) (Light Heavyweight)

Ben Parrish will appear for his second Bellator fight in the opening bout, facing Sullivan Cauley at light heavyweight.

Parrish scored a massive upset last year, pulling off a 38-second win over Christian Edwards. He entered this fight as a large underdog and became the first person to hand Christian Edwards a pro loss.

Cauley will be fighting to earn his third pro win. He last appeared in October, where he stopped Dean Clash in the first round with strikes.

Bout 2: Lucas Brennan (5-0) vs. Ben Lugo (5-4) (Featherweight)

21-year-old featherweight prospect Lucas Brennan will return for his sixth pro fight when facing Ben Lugo.

Brennan has shown his MMA skills since joining the Bellator roster in 2019. He has stood out as a dominant grappler, submitting three of his five opponents. This includes Matthew Skibicki, who he subbed within a round with an anaconda choke in June 2021.

Lugo will be fighting to bounce back from a loss he took to now-UFC fighter Natan Levy at an LFA card in 2020.

Bout 3: Nikita Mikhailov (8-1) vs. Blaine Shutt (8-5) (Bantamweight)

Looking to follow up on a strong Bellator debut, Nikita Mikhailov will face Blaine Shutt on the prelims.

Mikhailov had a successful Bellator debut in the Fall, defeating Brian Moore via unanimous decision. The victory added to a three-fight winning streak he had attained in earlier years.

Shutt lost his Bellator debut last year, dropping a unanimous decision to former UFC fighter Erik Perez.

Bout 4: Dalton Rosta (5-0) vs. Duane Johnson (6-2) (Middleweight)

Undefeated Dalton Rosta will return in the next fight, facing Duane Johnson.

Rosta has scored five pro wins since making his debut in 2019. His last win was in April of last year, where he went the distance against Tony Johnson.

Rosta was originally scheduled to face fellow undefeated prospect Romero Cotton. However, after Cotton withdrew from the fight, he was given Johnson.

Johnson will be fighting in the Bellator cage for the second time. His last fight for the promotion was in August, where he submitted Deven Fisher with a darce choke.

Bout 5: Saad Awad (24-13) vs. Chris Gonzalez (6-1) (Lightweight)

Fighting to bounce back from his sole pro loss, Chris Gonzalez will face veteran Saad Awad on the prelims.

Gonzalez was finished in July 2021, as experienced fighter Goiti Yamauchi was able to unload ground and pound that got him out of there. Gonzalez entered the fight with six wins, including a victory he earned earlier in the year over Roger Huerta.

Awad broke an extensive losing streak last year. Earning his first win since 2018, Awad stopped Nate Andrews within a round in May 2021. His five prior fights resulted in four losses and one no contest.

Bout 6: Darrion Caldwell (14-5) vs. Enrique Barzola (16-5-2) (Bantamweight)

Former Bellator Bantamweight Champion Darrion Caldwell will attempt to snap a two-fight losing streak when facing Enrique Barzola in the final prelim.

Caldwell has dropped two bouts as of late. The older of the fights came in late 2020, where he was submitted by AJ McKee Jr. This fight came in the semi-finals of a 16-man grand prix.

Caldwell returned to bantamweight in May, where he lost a split decision to Leandro Higo.

Barzola, a former UFC fighter, will be making his Bellator debut. He had a fairly long UFC career, picking up six wins through 10 fights. His run with the promotion came to a close after he fought to a draw against Rani Yahya in early 2020.

Main Card (10:00PM EST / 7:00PM PST) (Showtime)

Bout 7: Sabah Homasi (15-10) vs. Jaleel Willis (15-3) (Welterweight)

Welterweights Sabah Homasi and Jaleel Willis are set to kick off Saturday night’s main card.

Homasi had a strong start to his Bellator campaign, earning three wins from 2019 to 2020. This included two finishes, with one of them being just 17 seconds.

However, Homasi has struggled over the past year, losing two consecutive fights. In the first of his two losses, he was finished by Paul Daley in a hectic fight. Later in 2021, Homasi lost a decision to Andrey Koreshkov.

Willis is also fighting to return to the win column. He was submitted within a round last time around, losing to rising prospect Mukhamed Berkhamov in October. He had a six-fight winning streak before then, including performances in Bellator.

Bout 8: Henry Corrales (19-6) vs. Aiden Lee (10-5) (Featherweight)

A featherweight pairing of Henry Corrales and Aiden Lee will meet in the next fight.

Corrales went the distance in his last fight, defeating Vladyslav Parubchenko via unanimous decision. That put him back into the win column after losing to Johnny Campbell in May.

Lee had a quick submission win last time around, stopping Aleksandr Osetrov in the first round just three months back. Similar to Corrales, that fight put Lee back to his winning ways after a previous loss.

Bout 9: Benson Henderson (28-11) vs. Islam Mamedov (20-1-1) (Lightweight)

A rising lightweight prospect will get another big test on Saturday night’s co-main event, as Islam Mamedov will meet Benson Henderson.

Mamedov has 20 pro wins and just one loss. That loss took place all the way back in 2009, and he has won 19 fights since then. He was a long-time PFL fighter, competing in the promotion from 2015 to 2019.

Mamedov had a successful Bellator debut in July, scoring a split decision win against Brent Primus.

Henderson will enter the matchup after losing his past three fights. His trio of defeats came against high-profile Bellator names, taking losses against Michael Chandler, Jason Jackson and Brent Primus.

Bout 10: Ryan Bader (28-7) vs. Valentin Moldavsky (11-1) (Bellator Heavyweight Championship)

Bellator’s heavyweight belts will be unified in the main event of Saturday’s show. The headlining fight will see Bellator Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader fight interim titleholder Valentin Moldavsky.

A few years ago, Bader was a two-division Bellator champ. Along with his heavyweight belt, he was also the king at light heavyweight.

That changed in August 2020, as he was stopped in the second round of a fight against Vadim Nemkov. He dropped the 205-pound title in this fight and was given his first loss since 2016.

In 2021, Bader entered Bellator’s light heavyweight tournament with the hope of regaining the belt. After defeating Lyoto Machida in the opening round, he lost in under a minute to Corey Anderson.

Due to Bader’s absence from the heavyweight division in this time, Bellator created an interim belt. Moldavsky was able to take that title in June 2021, going five rounds against Timothy Johnson for a decision victory. That fight was his sixth Bellator win, keeping his flawless record with the promotion intact.

On Saturday night, only one heavyweight champion will be left in Bellator. Whether it will be the rising prospect or the well-established veteran is yet to be seen.

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