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5 questions that will be answered at Bellator 280

Bellator 280 poster (Photo credit: BellatorMMA)
Bellator 280 poster (Photo credit: BellatorMMA)
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Giancarlo Aulino

After a successful return to Hawaii in April, Bellator will hope to carry their momentum overseas for two big international events.

The promotion will return to the AccorHotels Arena in Paris, France, on May 6. The event will feature France's own Cheick Kongo as he looks to capture the heavyweight championship for the first time in his career. He’ll have his home nation fully behind him as he challenges heavyweight champion Ryan Bader.

It’s hard to believe that MMA was banned in France until 2020. The city of Paris could be a big market for the promotion going forward. Kongo challenging for the heavyweight championship in the main event could garner plenty of interest nationally. France is the latest country to have changed their stance on the sport. This list will look at five questions that will be answered at Bellator 280.


#5. Will Thibault Gouti be successful in his Bellator debut?

A 21h30, 🇫🇷Thibault Gouti @goutithibault (15-5) va pouvoir retrouver le très haut niveau mondiale après sa sortie de l'UFC (1 victoires/5 défaites) en 2018 affronte 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿Lewis Long (19-6) est un expert du sol (11 soumissions) mais a perdu 3 fois par KO. https://t.co/JXD7PV376u

Thibault Gouti is among the notable countrymen competing at Bellator 280. He’ll be making his promotional debut when he takes on Lewis Long in the prelim portion of the event.

Gouti will hope to make the most out of his second opportunity in a major promotion. His UFC tenure didn’t go the way he had hoped. He made his UFC debut in 2016 and ended up going 1-5 during his tenure. He had an unbeaten 11-0 record when he joined the UFC, but wasn’t able to find success after joining the promotion.

After his time with the UFC came to an end, ‘GT’ returned to the regional circuit and has been impressive since. He is currently riding a three-fight winning streak and will look to make a good first impression in his Bellator debut. Gouti is a fighter who goes for the finish as 11 of his 15 wins have come via KO/TKO or submission.

#4. Could Lorenz Larkin earn a Bellator middleweight title shot?

Lorenz Larkin (@da_MONSOON) on preparation for Kyle Stewart ahead of #Bellator280Video: youtu.be/gyVwuZH55qE https://t.co/91B9VaT07e

Lorenz Larkin has had a great run in Bellator so far. He didn’t get off to a great start as he lost his first two bouts to Douglas Lima and Paul Daley. But he has turned things around and looks like he could be closing in on a middleweight title shot.

Larkin is riding a five-fight winning streak that includes a split decision win over former middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho. His win over Carvalho was impressive as it was his first middleweight bout since his loss to Derek Brunson in 2014.

‘The Monsoon’ is scheduled to fight Kyle Stewart on the main card after Khalid Murtazaliev and Anthony Adams both withdrew. Based on the current state of the middleweight division, Larkin earning the next title shot shouldn’t be ruled out.

Current champion Gegard Mousasi recently retained the title against Austin Vanderford and is now scheduled to defend against Johnny Eblen. If Mousasi retains the belt, the promotion could award the next title shot to a notable fighter like Larkin.


#3. Will Yoel Romero snap his losing skid at Bellator 280?

Yoel Romero gets a new opponent for #Bellator280 after Melvin Manhoef's withdrawal. He will now face Alex Polizzi in the co-main event. Full story: bit.ly/RomerovsPolizzi https://t.co/6E3O69fdyj

There was plenty of excitement when Bellator announced that they had signed Yoel Romero. He joined the promotion for the light heavyweight Grand Prix, but was forced to withdraw from the tournament after not clearing the pre-fight medical tests. He made his official debut in September 2021, where he lost a split-decision to former light heavyweight champion Phil Davis.

The loss to Davis extended Romero’s losing streak to 4-straight losses. His last win came at UFC 221, when he knocked out former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold in the third round. Despite the losing streak, he remains one of the most popular fighters in the promotion.

‘The Soldier of God’ has a great opportunity to get back on track when he fights No.7-ranked Alex Polizzi. He was originally scheduled to fight former middleweight title challenger Melvin Manhoef, but the latter was forced to withdraw from the event. Romero could experience a career resurgence should he defeats a top 10-ranked light heavyweight decisively.


#2. Will Cheick Kongo retire after Bellator 280?

The championship rematch is set. ✔️Ryan Bader vs. Cheick Kongo 2 booked for May 6 in Paris.Full details: bit.ly/35tMH6l https://t.co/4GT7h4eIUv

Bellator 280 will be a special night for Cheick Kongo, but it’ll be interesting to see if he ends up retiring after the bout. He is challenging Ryan Bader for the heavyweight championship in front of his home country. This is significant, especially considering that the sport wasn’t legalized in France until January 2020.

While speaking to reporters during the pre-fight media day, Kongo spoke on the importance of fighting in France.

“It will be great for the French people to have the belt at home and claim France is a really good country for MMA. The supporters and fighters in France used to live for those moments, so for me it’s a normality and a great opportunity to show the world we’re still in the game." - Cheick Kongo during Bellator 280 media day.

A heavyweight championship bout in Paris could be a fitting end to his career. Regardless of whether he wins or loses, he will always be a key figure in the growth of MMA in France. He will turn 47 years old on May 17, so his career could be winding down.


#1. Who will win the Bellator heavyweight championship rematch?

🗣💥 "On va aller prendre ce qui me revient de droit"🥊 Entre Cheick Kongo et Bader, il y a antécédent. Leur premier combat s'est achevé sur un "No contest". Il est grand temps que le second consacre un vainqueur...🇺🇸 Bader-Kongo 🇫🇷🇫🇷 Le 6 mai à 21h à Bercy📺 RMC Sport 2 https://t.co/WvgXAiBhLc

Ryan Bader and Cheick Kongo will finally get a chance to run it back when they headline Bellator 280. Their first bout took place in September 2019, and ended in controversial fashion. It was ruled a no-contest after an accidental eye poke forced a stoppage at 3:52 of the first round.

Ryan ‘Darth’ Bader had been in control up until that point. He had taken Kongo down and controlled him on the ground prior to the accidental eye poke. Since then, Kongo has been clamoring for a rematch.

It seemed unlikely that they’d compete against each other again as Bader returned to light heavyweight. But, since his loss to Corey Anderson in the Grand Prix, ‘Darth’ made a permanent return to heavyweight.

During his pre-fight media availability, Bader mentioned that there’s animosity heading into this fight.

“He said he had me where he wanted me, so for me there’s definitely more animosity now. But at the same time, I’m going to go in and do my job like I always do and that’s it.” – Ryan Bader on animosity with Cheick Kongo.
Edited by Allan Mathew
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