Bellator is one of the largest MMA promotions in the world and the second-largest in the United States. It was founded in 2008, about 15 years after the UFC. However, Bellator has gathered a large pool of skilled MMA fighters in a little over a decade.
While the UFC is known for its elite MMA fighters and big pay-days, Bellator is not far behind. A number of fighters keep switching from one promotion to the other for varying reasons.
Five Bellator fighters who could win UFC championship titles:
There has never been a cross-promotional fight between the two promotions. Therefore, it is largely a matter of conjecture whether UFC has the better fighters or Bellator.
Nevertheless, let's delve into the same and look at five Bellator fighters who would not look out of place in the UFC and also win championship titles. Let's get started.
#5 Vadim Nemkov (light-heavyweight)
The top five-ranked Ryan Bader believed he was one of the best light heavyweights in the world and could also best even UFC fighters. However, he was defeated by a much younger and sharper fighter in his own promotion - Vadim Nemkov in 2020 - via a second-round TKO.
A decorated sambo fighter, Vadim Nemkov could fare well in the UFC division if pitted against their light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz (36-8). While Blachowicz has eight KO/TKOs in 36 career wins, Vadim Nemkov has 11 in 16.
In his pro-MMA career, the Russian has eight first-round TKOs, four of which have come in Bellator.
While Jan Blachowicz has way more career submission wins than Nemkov, it is worth noting that the Polish fighter has fought almost three times more than the young Russian.
There is no doubt that Jan Blachowicz is more experienced than Vadim Nemkov. However, the Bellator champion could certainly give Blachowicz serious competition, considering his sambo background.
In the stand-up game, too, Nemkov has the numbers to show. Jan Blachowicz is on a hot winning streak, but Nemkov is arguably the hotter one with eight wins in a row.
The protege of MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko, Vadim Nemkov would fancy his chances if he goes up against the UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz.
#4 Cris Cyborg (women's featherweight)
Cris Cyborg (23-2) was defeated by Amanda Nunes (21-4) at UFC 232 in 2018, with 'The Lioness' knocking out Cyborg early in the first round. However, that only made the former Strikeforce, Invicta FC and UFC women's featherweight champion a better fighter.
Now the Bellator women's featherweight champion, Cris Cyborg could pose a genuine threat to Amanda Nunes if she gets a rematch.
Another case in point is that both the fighters do not have a promising opponent in their own promotions. Cris Cyborg defeated Julia Budd in 2020 for the Bellator featherweight title via TKO. Meanwhile, nobody has managed to trouble Nunes ever since she defeated Cyborg for the featherweight belt.
While Amanda Nunes has 13 knockout wins in her pro MMA career, Cyborg has 18. Both fighters are enjoying excellent runs in their respective MMA promotions, but in terms of numbers, Cris Cyborg has more career wins than Amanda Nunes.
If pitted against each other once more, there's a good chance Cyborg could avenge her humiliating loss against Nunes.
#3 - Juliana Velasquez (women's flyweight)
The UFC women's flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko is a force to reckon with.
The Kyrgyzstani-Peruvian MMA fighter, nicknamed 'Bullet', is as tough as they come. She has a 20-3 record and is extremely tough to beat. Meanwhile, former Bellator women's featherweight champion Illema-Lei Macfarlane (11-1) was also revered in a similar way.
However, at Bellator 254 in 2020, Macfarlane was emphatically put away by Juliana Velasquez (11-0).
The new Bellator women's flyweight champion Juliana Velasquez, like her UFC counterpart, is also a south-paw.
Valentina Shevchenko (20-3) is a highly decorated boxer, Muay-Thai fighter and a kick-boxer who uses lethal kicks to out-strike her opponents. Interestingly, Juliana Velasquez also likes to use her legs against her opponents.
While there is no doubt Valentina Shevchenko is quick, Juliana Velasquez could have a distinct upper hand in terms of height and reach.
Valentina Shevchenko is on a 9-2 run ever since she joined the UFC in 2015, scoring four stoppage wins during this period. Meanwhile, Juliana Velasquez is practically undefeated and has five stoppage wins in her pro MMA career.
There is no doubt Shevchenko would enter this bout as a favorite. Nonetheless, Juliana Velasquez could pose a stern challenge, one Shevchenko has been missing ever since she moved on from a loss against Amanda Nunes in 2017.
#2 Douglas Lima (welterweight)
Douglas Lima (32-8) is a three-time and reigning Bellator welterweight champion. Outside the UFC, 'The Phenom' is widely considered the best welterweight fighter in the world.
Hence, a match-up against the current UFC welterweight title-holder Kamaru Usman (18-1) could actually raise a few eyebrows.
Of course, Kamaru Usman would enter this fight as the favorite. However, 'The Nigerian Nightmare' would need to keep his wits about himself against Bellator's Douglas Lima.
The Brazilian has a lengthier fight resume in comparison to that of Kamaru Usman. Lima has 14 knockout wins and 12 submission wins against his name, compared to Usman's tallies of eight and one.
On a 17-fight winning streak, Kamaru Usman hasn't suffered a loss since 2013. Meanwhile, Douglas Lima has an 18-3 record since 2010 and has had a number of impressive wins.
Nevertheless, with his Muay Thai background and a black belt in jiu-jitsu, Douglas Lima could pose a formidable challenge to Kamaru Usman, who has a wrestling background.
#1 Patricio 'Pitbull' Freire (featherweight)
Patricio 'Pitbull' (32-4) is only the second fighter in Bellator to hold championship titles in two divisions simultaneously. The current lightweight and featherweight (2x) champion is also the #1 Bellator pound-for-pound fighter.
While 'Pitbull' is famous for his 61-second annihilation of Michael Chandler, the Brazilian seems more comfortable in the featherweight division.
A bout against the UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) could see Patricio Freire enter as the favorite.
Freire has a well-rounded MMA game. He has 11 knockout, 12 submissions and nine decision wins to his name. Alexander Volkanovski, meanwhile, almost has a similar number of KO/TKO and decision wins. However, Volkanovski's ground game is weaker in comparison to that of 'Pitbull', with only three submission wins.
Nicknamed as 'The Great', Volkanovski does have an impressive 18-fight winning streak in comparison to Patricio Freire's seven. The Great's last four wins have come against Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo and Max Holloway (twice).
Volkanovski would certainly have a slight height and a significant reach advantage over Patricio Freire if they do have a bout. However, 'Pitbull' could get the better of the UFC featherweight champion, as he has superior experience in grappling and an excellent stand-up IQ.
“I’m very comfortable in Bellator. It would be interesting to have a superfight between a Bellator champion and an UFC champion. I wouldn’t have to necessarily migrate to the UFC. We could just have one duel. When it comes to the best fighters in the UFC, I think I’m better than all of them.” - Patricio 'Pitbull' Freire recently said.