After a memorable night of fights in San Jose, California, Bellator returns to Hawaii for back-to-back events. The Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu will host both cards.
The first night will be a special one as it will be free admission for the military and first responders. Throughout the two nights, there will three title fights and the start of the bantamweight Grand Prix.
On Friday night, women’s flyweight champion Juliana Velasquez will defend her title against former UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche. This is her second title defense as she looks to remain unbeaten against a veteran of the sport.
The promotion will also provide an incredible opportunity for four bantamweights. There will be two qualifying matchups, with the winner earning a spot in the bantamweight Grand Prix. They made the most out of a bad situation after James Gallagher and champion Sergio Pettis withdrew due to injury.
As a result, the winners of the qualifying bouts will earn a spot in the Grand Prix against Magomed Magomedov and Leandro Higo, respectively.
This list will look at five questions that will be answered at Bellator 278.
#5. Which main card fighters will rebound from defeat at Bellator 278?
The first of two Bellator events in Hawaii will feature plenty of fighters that essentially have their backs against the wall. Some of the promotion’s fighters that have experienced losing skids will be competing against each other to get back on track.
The opening bout of the main card will be a 160-pound catchweight bout between Nate Andrews and Manny Muro. ‘The Snake’ is coming off back-to-back losses to Chris Wade and Saad Awad. Meanwhile, ‘The Dragon’ is coming off a defeat to lightweight standout Usman Nurmagomedov, who snapped his three-fight winning streak.
The catchweight bout will be followed up by a light heavyweight fight between Christian Edwards and Grant Neal. Both men are coming off the first setbacks of their professional careers. With that in mind, they will be looking to get back on track in a talented light heavyweight division.
#4. Will Bellator bantamweight Erik Perez make it back-to-back wins?
The Bellator 278 prelims will see Erik Perez’s return to the cage. He has an opportunity to extend his winning streak to two when he takes on C.J. Hamilton. Perez is stepping in to replace Jared Scoggins on short-notice, so this will be a big opportunity.
‘Goyito’ joined the promotion with a lot of promise in 2019. The UFC veteran had a 19-6 MMA record prior to signing with Bellator and still holds the record for fastest UFC bantamweight knockout. He had a successful stint in the octagon and in Combate Americas, which saw him go 9-2 in that six-year span.
Perez wasn’t able to carry that previous success over when he joined the promotion in 2019 and experienced a setback. In his most recent bout, he snapped his two-fight losing streak and earned a unanimous decision win over Blaine Shutt.
With the bantamweight Grand Prix ongoing, ‘Goyito’ has a great opportunity to insert himself in the top 10 in Hawaii.
#3. Who will Leandro Higo meet in Bellator's bantamweight Grand Prix?
Bellator 278 will see four bantamweights compete for an opportunity to earn a spot in the Grand Prix. The first qualifying bout between Danny Sabatello and Jornel Lugo will determine who fights Leandro Higo in the opening round.
Sabatello has had an impressive career so far. He has an 11-1 MMA record and is currently riding a five-fight winning streak. ‘The Italian Gangster’s run of form includes a unanimous decision win over Taylor Moore on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2020. His most recent victory was arguably his most impressive as he defeated veteran Brett Johns via unanimous decision.
Lugo, on the other hand, has been one of the promotion’s homegrown fighters. ‘A1’ has an undefeated record and five of his eight bouts have taken place in the Bellator cage. The 26-year-old has earned himself an opportunity to compete in the qualifier and could become a star should he advance.
#2. Who will fight Magomed Magomedov in Bellator's bantamweight Grand Prix?
Bellator not only had to find a solution for their Grand Prix, but they needed to do so with their qualifier.
Enrique Barzola was originally scheduled to fight Josh Hill in a qualifying matchup, but Hill was forced off due to COVID-19. This resulted in Nikita Mikhailov getting an opportunity to face Barzola, with the victor set to challenge Magomed Magomedov in the Grand Prix.
‘El Fuerte’ has had a respectable career so far. He had a five-year stint with the UFC, where he went 6-3-1. His majority draw with Rani Yahya was his final UFC bout, so he didn’t leave following a lengthy losing streak. Barzola comes into the qualifying bout following a third-round TKO win over former champion Darrion Caldwell.
His opponent, Mikhailov, is looking to extend his winning streak and make a name for himself at ‘El Fuerte’s expense. The 23-year-old is another FedorTeam prospect and trains under the tutelage of Fedor Emelianenko. He will look to replicate the success of his teammates Valetin Moldavsky and light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov by capturing gold.
#1. Can Bellator women’s flyweight champion Juliana Velasquez remain unbeaten?
Reigning women’s flyweight champion Juliana Velasquez will face the toughest test of her career at Bellator 278. She will feature in her second title defense against former UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche in the main event.
Velasquez is unbeaten in her MMA career and has been dominant for the most part. She is coming off a split decision win over Denise Kielholtz and will be looking to add Carmouche to her resume.
Despite having excellent grappling and training at Team Nogueira, she only has one submission win in her career. Four wins have come via KO/TKO and seven have come via decision.
‘Girl-Rilla’, meanwhile, will hope that the third time's a charm for her championship aspirations. She came up short in her two previous UFC title bouts against Ronda Rousey and Valentina Shevchenko. Her title loss to ‘Bullet’ was her final bout in the UFC.
Since then, Carmouche's built a three-fight winning streak that includes wins over DeAnna Bennett, Vanessa Porto and Kana Watanabe.