Bellator wrapped up another successful event in Paris, France, which was the first of back-to-back events outside the United States. It was a great opportunity for the promotion to gain a better idea of France as an MMA market.
The last time the promotion hosted an event in Paris, they were limited to 1000 fans due to the pandemic. This event allowed the promotion to really build their audience in France, which recently lifted the ban on MMA.
Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader earned a unanimous decision over Cheick Kongo to retain his title in the main event. Fans also witnessed Yoel Romero turn back the clock as he snapped his losing skid by knocking out Alex Polizzi in the third round. All in all, the event was a great showcase of fighters coming out of France. This list will look at five takeaways from Bellator 280.
#5. Controversial decision on Bellator 280 prelims
The Bellator 280 prelims featured a controversial decision that many felt should have gone the other way. Soren Bak and Charlie Leary went the distance in their 160 lbs catchweight bout.
‘The Viking’ had a lot of hype coming into the event. He had a 15-1 MMA record that includes a win over UFC lightweight Paddy ‘The Baddy’ Pimblett. He was also a heavy favorite leading into the bout against a short-notice opponent in Leary. On the contrary, he didn’t have much success in grappling. Leary was able to dictate the fight with his jabs and strikes in the clinch. It looked as though he was going to pull off an upset after Bak was unable to finish him in the third round.
Fans were in for a surprise when it came time for the official scorecards. Bak was awarded a unanimous decision after the judges scored the bout 29-28, 29-28, and 30-27 in his favor. ‘Big’ John McCarthy and Josh Thomson were both critical of the result and mentioned that they felt Leary should have won.
#4. Piotr Niedzielski makes a statement in Bellator debut
Piotr Niedzielski had an impressive debut and looks like he could be a great addition to Bellator’s featherweight division. The 31-year-old didn’t have an easy outing by any means. He matched up with No.5-ranked Pedro Carvalho for his promotional debut and made a statement with his win.
‘Niedziela’ extended his winning streak to nine and should be inserted into the top-10 at featherweight. The first and second rounds went in his favor as he applied pressure with his wrestling. He also dropped the former title challenger with a powerful straight-left. 'The Game' did a much better job in the third round, but couldn’t get the finish with his ground and pound.
His style matches up well with the promotion’s top featherweight and could make for many more exciting bouts. Other featherweights vying for a title shot include Adam Borcis, Mads Burnell, and Aaron Pico.
#3. Lorenz Larkin now a Bellator title contender at middleweight and welterweight
Lorenz Larin looked incredible in his TKO win over at Bellator 280. The win opens up plenty of possibilities in both middleweight and welterweight. He could make a strong case for a title shot in both divisions, especially considering how well he performed.
‘The Monsoon’ was the No.6-ranked middleweight prior to his bout with Stewart. Even though he’ll most likely move into the top-five, he mentioned that he wants to return to welterweight. There are exciting fights in both divisions, so a title-eliminator shouldn’t be ruled out.
Based on the middleweight rankings, he could earn a title shot at 185 lbs sooner than he would at 170 lbs. During his post-fight media availability, Larkin mentioned that he’d like to return before August rather than take time off. Based on the upcoming welterweight bouts, 'The Monsoon' could get a top-5 ranked opponent in his next bout.
#2. Yoel Romero snaps losing skid and earns first Bellator win
Yoel Romero showed that age is just a number as he defeated Alex Polizzi in the co-main event of Bellator 280. The win was significant as it snapped a four-fight losing streak that dated back to 2019. It was also his first win in the promotion after losing his debut to former Bellator light heavyweight champion Phil Davis last year.
The 45-year-old was patient and dropped Polizzi throughout the bout with a powerful overhand left. It was a dominant performance against the No.7-ranked light heavyweight and should get him back into the title picture. It was a reminder of how good ‘Soldier of God’ still is.
The promotion didn’t waste any time in announcing his next bout. Romero will fight Melvin Manhoef in Dublin on September 23. The two MMA veterans were originally scheduled to compete on this Paris card, but Manhoef was forced to withdraw due to an injury.
#1. Ryan Bader wins rematch and retains Bellator heavyweight championship
Ryan Bader successfully retained his Bellator heavyweight championship after a dominant unanimous decision over Cheick Kongo. The win put their rivalry to rest after a controversial ending to their 2019 bout.
‘Darth’ stuck to his wrestling and didn’t allow Kongo any opportunity to get too comfortable with his standup. Whenever the challenger landed a combination, the champion immediately shot for takedowns and forced him to fight off his back. It was an ongoing battle for Kongo, who was forced to exert plenty of energy to get out of wrestling transitions.
The champion did what he needed to do in order to retain the title. It will be interesting to see what Kongo does next as this was his second title shot against Bader. He turns 47 years old on May 17, so perhaps a main event in France could be a fitting end to his career.