Mohegan Solar Area is an ocean away from Gegard Mousasi’s hometown within the Netherlands. However the on line casino resort venue in Uncasville, Connecticut, has supplied him with the consolation of residence.
Mousasi made his Bellator debut within the constructing in 2017, defeating former middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko. That earned the previous UFC contender and Strikeforce and Dream champ a title battle, which he received — not at Mohegan. However Mousasi was again in these acquainted environment once more final October, by then over a yr faraway from having dropped the Bellator belt. On a crisp New England fall night time, Mousasi had an opportunity to reclaim his championship. He seized the chance.
This Friday in Uncasville, in the principle occasion of Bellator 264, Mousasi makes the primary title protection of his second reign. He’ll tackle a sizzling John Salter, who’s 8-1 in Bellator with all however considered one of his wins coming by end.
During the last 13 months, because the coronavirus pandemic has restricted Bellator’s skill to placed on its normal touring present, the corporate has held 19 battle playing cards on the venue on the Mohegan Indian Reservation in southeastern Connecticut. The occasion two weeks in the past in Los Angeles, at which A.J. McKee received the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix by dethroning Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, was the corporate’s first card in the USA in over a yr that was not at Mohegan Solar, ending a run of 14 reveals in a row on the area. After Friday, Bellator will enterprise off to stage fights in South Dakota, London, Phoenix, Moscow and Dublin.
However earlier than leaving “residence,” Bellator and its middleweight champion have enterprise to care for. Listed below are three questions that Bellator 264 may reply.
Can Mousasi solidify his standing on the high of the mountain this time?
Mousasi was 15 years into his MMA profession when, at age 32 and in his 52nd professional battle, he grew to become champion with a first-round TKO of Rafael Carvalho at Bellator 200 in Could 2018. However barely a yr later, after only one profitable title protection, Mousasi dropped the belt by majority resolution to Rafael Lovato Jr.
Mousasi’s downfall? Lovato, a multiple-time jiu-jitsu world champion, took the Dutchman to the canvas time and again, controlling him there and sapping Mousasi’s vitality.
Now Mousasi has the belt again and begins his reign with a title protection towards one other grappler. Salter, 36, received a NAIA nationwide championship in wrestling in 2007. That very same yr, he additionally was a North American Grappling Affiliation nationwide champ. In MMA, he has submissions in 10 of his 18 victories, together with seven of his final 9.
Mousasi is effectively conscious of what he is up towards. He prefers to dwell on the hazard he presents to Salter.
“This man wants the takedowns to win the battle. I am not going to put down and battle from my again,” Mousasi informed reporters this week. “My plan is to get proper again up and, if it is necessary, battle him. If it must be a technical standing up [fight], I do not assume he can grasp with me there.”
As for the renewed stress of defending a championship, Mousasi has an attention-grabbing take. “I by no means thought, ‘Oh, I am defending my belt.’ It is simply, ‘Concentrate on my opponent,'” he stated. “On paper, the belt is on the road. However in the event you step within the cage, there’s not a belt waving there. You do not see a belt, so it is simply, ‘Concentrate on the opponent.'”
Somebody’s “1” has obtained to … be undone. So who’ll it’s?
Magomed Magomedov is 18-1 and has received 5 fights in a row, together with two Bellator victories through the eight months he is been with the promotion. For the 29-year-old Dagestani bantamweight, who trains below coach Mark Henry in New Jersey, the one lack of his profession got here by resolution in 2017 to Petr Yan, though Magomedov additionally owns a victory over the previous UFC champion.
Raufeon Stots is 16-1 and driving an eight-fight successful streak, together with a 4-0 run since becoming a member of Bellator in 2019. The lone defeat for the 32-year-old from Houston, a two-time NCAA Division 2 nationwide champion wrestler, was additionally in 2017. His loss got here through a spinning backfist simply 15 seconds right into a battle with Merab Dvalishvili, who now’s a UFC contender and No. 10 within the ESPN males’s bantamweight rankings.
This conflict may very effectively produce the primary title challenger for Sergio Pettis, who received the Bellator bantamweight belt in Could.
That might show to be sophisticated if Stots wins on Friday as Stots and Pettis each prepare below Duke Roufus at his Milwaukee gymnasium, Roufusport. Nonetheless, Stots won’t permit that to derail his pursuit of gold.
“I do not need to battle my teammate Sergio,” he stated this week. “However I perceive. If I’ve to battle him, I am going to battle him.”
Then once more, there’s been hypothesis that the bantamweight division may be subsequent for a Bellator Grand Prix event.
“The Grand Prix could be a chance to get my palms on extra individuals earlier than attending to the belt,” Stots stated. “And likewise that million-dollar prize on the finish is, I imply — A.J. appeared actual good with a million-dollar test subsequent to him.”
Will Pam Sorenson inject slightly life into the ladies’s featherweight division?
At age 35, Sorenson is not precisely new blood. However she is an ex-champ in Invicta FC who signed with Bellator over the summer season and makes her debut this weekend. With a dominant efficiency towards Roberta Samad, Sorenson may discover herself instantly in place for an enormous alternative.
The Bellator ladies’s featherweight division has one thing in widespread with the UFC’s weight class at 145 kilos: They’re each awfully skinny. Cris Cyborg is the Bellator champ, and there is additionally former titlist Julia Budd. However Budd, who misplaced her belt to Cyborg final yr and has bounced again with two wins since then, lately revealed she is a free agent. She’s stated she is contemplating the UFC and PFL.
Friday’s battle lineup
Showtime, 9 p.m. ET
Gegard Mousasi (c) vs. John Salter | Middleweight championship
Andrey Koreshkov vs. Sabah Homasi | Welterweight
Raufeon Stots vs. Magomed Magomedov | Bantamweight
Davion Franklin vs. Everett Cummings | Heavyweight
Ty Gwerder vs. KhadzhiBestaev | Middleweight
Showtime and Bellator YouTube pages, 6 p.m., ET
Pam Sorenson vs. Roberta Samad | Ladies’s featherweight
Danny Sabatello vs. Johnny Campbell | Bantamweight
Justin Montalvo vs. Kendly St. Louis | Light-weight
Nekruz Mirkhojaev vs. James Adcock | Males’s featherweight
Sebastian Ruiz vs. Jeffrey Glossner | 142-pound contract weight
Orlando Mendoza vs. Jon McNeil | 195-pound contract weight
(c) = defending champion