Bellator 277 provided a memorable night of fights. The controversial finish to the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix, where a no contest was ruled following an accidental head clash between Corey Anderson and Vadim Nemkov, was a negative for the promotion. But all things considered, there were plenty of talking points following the event, which is positive.
Patricio Pitbull got revenge on A.J. McKee by earning a unanimous decision to reclaim the featherweight championship. Both competitors had their moments throughout the fight, especially Pitbull, who looked like he was closing in on a submission win. Despite his disappointment with the decision, ‘Mercenary’ stated that he’s shifting his attention to competing at 155lbs.
The outcomes from this past weekend’s event will make for an interesting meeting for the matchmakers. There are plenty of fights that could be booked, but at the same time, injuries that will make things difficult. This list will look at five fights to make following Bellator 277.
#5) Linton Vassell vs. winner of Ryan Bader/Cheick Kongo – Bellator heavyweight championship
After Linton Vassell’s impressive come-from-behind win at Bellator 277, it’s clear that deserves the next heavyweight title shot. Aside from his loss to Valentin Moldavsky when moving up to heavyweight in 2020, he has thrived in the heavier weight division.
‘The Big Swarm' has now won four-straight bouts, including his submission win over Tim Johnson, and is in a very good position. The timing also works in his favor as champion Ryan Bader is defending his title against Cheick Kongo on May 6. And so, the promotion wouldn’t have to wait for the next contender to emerge.
Vassell is also in a position where he could possibly avenge his loss to Bader. The two last fought in 2017 during which ‘Darth’ earned a second-round TKO win. A bout with Kongo could be equally as successful. The promotion could perhaps decide to return to London or Paris. ‘The Big Swarm' vs. Kongo in either of their home towns could generate more interest and make for a better overall atmosphere.
#4) No.4-ranked Bellator featherweight Aaron Pico vs. No.3-ranked Mads Burnell
Aaron Pico had yet another impressive outing inside the Bellator cage. He defeated Adli Edwards via third-round TKO in a 150lb catchweight bout. The 25-year-old mixed up his striking and wrestling very well and overwhelmed Edwards with powerful body shots.
Pico is poised to make a run at the featherweight championship and could be one-step closer to earning a title shot. He is currently the No.4 ranked featherweight, so his next bout should be against a fighter in the top-three. And so, Pico could realistically be challenging for the title by the end of the year.
By process of elimination, Mads Burnell would be the most logical opponent for Pico. No.2-ranked Adam Borics is viewed as the next title challenger after defeating Burnell last month. With that in mind, matching up the No.3 and No.4-ranked featherweights in the title eliminator provides clarity in the division.
#3) Former Bellator featherweight champion A.J. McKee vs. Islam Mamedov
Following his title loss at Bellator 277, A.J. McKee mentioned that he plans on moving up to lightweight. It’s no secret that his time competing at featherweight was winding down. Prior to last year’s Featherweight Grand Prix final, he even spoke about his aspirations of becoming a two-division champion.
‘Mercenary’ talked about the weight cut to 145lbs becoming more difficult as he gets older and enters his physical prime. With that in mind, he should get matched up with a top-10 opponent in his first lightweight bout. Based on the current rankings, No.6-ranked lightweight Islam Mamedov would be a logical opponent.
Like McKee, Mamedov recently saw his unbeaten streak come to an end. The 32-year-old is coming off a loss to former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, which saw ‘Smooth’ earn a split-decision win. The loss ended Mamedov's 20-fight unbeaten streak, which dated back to 2010. It would be interesting to see how he and McKee would fare coming off similar losses.
#2) Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Pitbull vs. Adam Borics
Patricio Pitbull reclaimed the featherweight championship by defeating A.J. McKee in the main event at Bellator 277. It was a great performance, as he avenged his loss to ‘Mercenary’ and won the featherweight title for the third time in his legendary career.
With McKee likely moving up to 155lbs, the most logical bout to book is Pitbull vs. Adam Borics. ‘The Kid’ is riding a four-fight winning streak that includes wins over UFC veterans Jeremy Kennedy and Mads Burnell. Borics is a well-prepared fighter due to his training with Sanford MMA. The gym features a who’s-who of fighters including Michael Chandler and UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman.
Pitbull vs. Borics could be an exciting fight for fans. Both have proven that they are capable of fighting a full five rounds. And, their respective fighting styles could make for a tactical striking battle.
#1) Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Vadim Nemkov vs. Corey Anderson 2
Bellator’s Light Heavyweight Grand Prix was met with a lot of praise when first announced, but ended controversially. Light Heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov and challenger Corey Anderson's fight was ruled a No Contest because an accidental headbutt forced a stoppage.
The reason the stoppage was so controversial was because it took place with five-seconds remaining in the third round. If the third round concluded, the bout would have gone to the judges’ scorecards. Based on Anderson's performances in rounds two and three, he would have likely won the title and Grand Prix.
Nemkov had arguably won the first round. He did well with his striking and combinations, and successfully landed more of his combinations. But ‘Overtime’ used his wrestling to takeover rounds two and three. It seemed like Anderson was closing in on a win as he continued to apply pressure and took the champion down. He was angry with the result and understandably so.
Bellator CEO Scott Coker confirmed that the promotion will be looking to book a rematch as soon as possible.