Bellator 284: Gracie vs. Yamauchi Preview

Neiman Gracie and Goiti Yamauchi pose at Bellator's ceremonial weigh-ins.
Neiman Gracie and Goiti Yamauchi will headline Friday’s card from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA (Lucas Noonan / Bellator MMA)

Back for their sole event in August, Bellator will present 12 fights from the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA on Friday night. The card includes a welterweight main event, which sees high-ranked contender Neiman Gracie take on veteran Goiti Yamauchi.

Here’s a full preview of the show.

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

Preliminary Card (6:00PM EDT / 5:00PM CDT) (Youtube)

Bout 1: Brett Bye (1-0) vs. M,A, Yah Li (4-0) (Amateur Catchweight 175 lbs)

In an incredibly rare amateur Bellator bout, Brett Bye and M,A, Yah Li will face off.

Bye is one of the many South Dakota-based talents competing on this card. He has picked up one win as an amateur after switching to MMA from collegiate wrestling. That victory came in March, defeating Brady Steinhorst via decision.

Li has more experience, entering this bout with an undefeated amateur record of four wins. His last fight was earlier this year, earning a first-round finish over Ali Abouzalam.

Bout 2: Mitchell McKee (2-0) vs. Tony Ortega (5-4) (Bantamweight)

A series of bouts on the prelims include low-level prospects that come from around the area. This showcase allows people to see a series of names that have lots of potential but still have many fights ahead of them to develop their talent.

In the first of the few fights following this theme, Mitchell McKee and Tony Ortega will meet.

McKee debuted late last year for LFA. He has since won both of his fights via finish, with his last bout coming in April. This weekend he’ll be facing a pro with wins on their record for the first time in his career.

Ortega has been fighting since 2014. He is currently riding the momentum of a two-fight winning streak from 2021, defeating Nate Morrow and Ashton Caniglia on the regional scene.

Bout 3: Bailey Schoenfelder (2-0) vs. Mark Currier (1-1) (Heavyweight)

Returning to Bellator for the second time, Bailey Schoenfelder will face Mark Currier on this weekend’s prelims.

Schoenfelder won his Bellator debut in August last year, scoring a first-round finish against Kory Moegenburg. His previous fight was a 20-second win in LFA.

Currier scored his first pro win in May, defeating Ryan Fournier in the first round with strikes.

Bout 4: Patrick Downey (0-0) vs. Keyes Nelson (0-3) (Middleweight)

In the sole pro debut of the card, Patrick Downey will face Keyes Nelson.

Downey has an incredibly decorated history as a freestyle wrestler. His top accomplishments in the sport include a gold medal in the 2019 U.S. National Championships, a bronze in the 2019 Pan American Games, and the NCAA Division I All-American award in 2016.

Downey has also previously competed in submission grappling. While he enters this weekend without any experience in an MMA cage, he certainly has a fair background in many of the skills that make up mixed martial arts.

Nelson will be searching for his first pro win. He has suffered three consecutive losses since he turned pro in 2018. Before then, he had an amateur record of eight wins and four losses.

Bout 5: Sullivan Cauley (3-0) vs. Tyson Jeffries (14-10) (Light Heavyweight)

Undefeated Sullivan Cauley will look for his second win in the year on Friday night when he faces experienced talent Tyson Jeffries.

Cauley has proven to be a strong light heavyweight prospect, finishing all three of his opponents thus far. His last win came early this year, defeating Ben Parrish with ground and pound shots.

Jeffries is the most experienced name that Cauley has ever fought, having competed 24 times as a pro. This weekend will be his return, fighting for the first time since 2018. In this return, he’ll be fighting to snap a two-fight skid.

Bout 6: DeAnna Bennett (12-7-1) vs. Justine Kish (8-5) (Flyweight)

In the first of two flyweight bouts on Friday’s card, DeAnna Bennett and Justine Kish will meet in a rematch.

Kish joined the Bellator roster earlier this year after wrapping up a seven-fight UFC run. She lost her promotional debut in February, dropping a decision to Bennett. She bounced back with a big win two months later, defeating former titleholder Ilima-Lei Macfarlane on scorecards.

Bennett has not fought since her victory against Kish from February. A win on Friday would be Bennett’s third consecutive win as a pro.

Bout 7: Josh Hill (21-4) vs. Marcos Breno (14-2) (Bantamweight)

The prelims will wrap up with a bantamweight fight between Josh Hill and Marcos Breno.

Hill has picked up three wins and one loss since joining the Bellator roster in 2020. He is now coming off a victory from late last year when he stopped Jared Scoggins with strikes.

Hill was originally scheduled to face Matheus Mattos on this card, but plans changed after an injury took Mattos out of the lineup.

Breno will be making his Bellator debut on Friday night. He has a strong record of 14 wins through 16 fights. His last appearance was on an LFA card last year, putting away Ary Farias in just 56 seconds with punches.

Main Card (9:00PM EDT / 8:00PM CDT) (Showtime)

Bout 8: Austin Vanderford (11-1) vs. Aaron Jeffery (12-3) (Middleweight)

Appearing for the first time since an unsuccessful title fight, Austin Vanderford will face Aaron Jeffery in Friday’s main card opener.

Vanderford suffered his first pro loss in February, getting stopped in the second minute of a title fight against then-Bellator Middleweight Champion Gegard Mousasi. He had 11 wins before that appearance, including five in the Bellator cage.

He will now face a rising Bellator name in Jeffery. The former CFFC Middleweight Champion succeeded in his Bellator debut just two months back, finishing Fabio Aguiar with strikes.

Bout 9: Said Sowma (8-3) vs. Gokhan Saricam (7-1) (Heavyweight)

Riding a winning streak, Gokhan Saricam will face Said Sowma in a heavyweight bout.

Saricam has quietly put together three Bellator wins since 2020. His last victory came in February, going the distance against Kirill Sidelnikov for a unanimous decision win.

Sowma is coming off a loss against undefeated prospect Davion Frankin, dropping a split decision to him in February.

Bout 10: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (11-2) vs. Bruna Ellen (6-3) (Flyweight)

Former Bellator Flyweight Champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane will attempt to come back from her first-ever losing streak this weekend when she faces Bruna Ellen.

The start of Macfarlane’s Bellator run was a strong climb to the top. She became their 125-pound champ in 2017, then defended the belt four times before dropping it in late 2020 to Juliana Velasquez.

Macfarlane suffered her second consecutive defeat earlier this year, taking an upset loss against Justine Kish. Now just four months following that loss, she will try to score an important victory.

Ellen has fought on the Bellator roster since 2016, earning four wins and three losses in that time. She is coming off a win from her last appearance, defeating Desiree Yanez via split decision in November 2021.

Bout 11: Valentin Moldavsky (11-2) vs. Steve Mowry (10-0) (Heavyweight)

Undefeated heavyweight Steve Mowry will get his biggest test yet as a pro this weekend, facing former interim titleholder Valentin Moldavsky.

Mowry has put on impressive performances since joining Bellator in 2018. Against increasingly difficult talent, Mowry has earned finish victories in recent months. Most recently, he submitted Rakim Cleveland in the first round of a bout with a kimura.

Moldavsky had a similar climb going in recent years, scoring six wins from 2017 to 2021. The peak of that campaign was last year, when he beat Timothy Johnson to earn the interim Bellator Heavyweight Championship.

Moldavsky lost that belt in a unification match this year, dropping a unanimous decision to Ryan Bader.

Bout 12: Neiman Gracie (11-3) vs. Goiti Yamauchi (27-5) (Welterweight)

Neiman Gracie and Goiti Yamauchi will compete in a five-round welterweight bout to conclude the evening.

Gracie is still one of the top names at 170-pounds, but he must earn another victory to keep that status alive. In his most recent fight, he suffered a main event loss earlier this year in what turned out to be a title eliminator bout. Going five rounds against Logan Storly, Gracie dropped a unanimous decision in February. Storley went on to earn the interim welterweight belt a few months later.

This weekend, Gracie has the chance to turn things around with the main event spotlight on him.

Yamauchi has been on the Bellator roster for nearly an entire decade, but this upcoming fight will be the first time that he will headline a card for them.

Yamauchi has been able to stop the momentum of a few rising prospects recently. In 2021, he handed Chris Gonzalez his first pro loss with an opening round finish victory. And earlier this year, he pulled off a first-round submission over Levan Chokheli.

Yamauchi has the chance to derail Gracie’s status as one of Bellator’s top welterweights and earn his first-ever main event victory. But it won’t be easy, as he’s facing a name that has fought some of the toughest talents in Bellator’s 170-pound division as of late.

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