5 things to keep an eye on at Bellator 273

Bellator 273 features a huge main event (Photo Credit Bellator MMA)
Bellator 273 features a huge main event (Photo Credit Bellator MMA)

Bellator MMA kick off their 2022 event schedule this Saturday, when they return to the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. 2022 will mark their first full calendar year on Showtime and they’ll look to build on last year’s success.

Similar to how the UFC began their pay-per-view schedule, they will also begin their schedule with a heavyweight championship unification bout. Heavyweight champion Ryan Bader will defend against interim champion Valentin Moldavsky in the main event. In the co-main event, former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson will take on Islam Mamedov, who’s on a 20-fight unbeaten streak.

The event has a nice mix of veteran fighters and homegrown prospects hoping to reach the next level of their careers. Based on who’s competing on this card and incentives, there will be plenty of questions answered when it’s over. This list will look at 5 things to keep an eye on at Bellator 273.

#5. Will Bellator lightweight Chris Gonzalez rebound from his first career loss?

Chris Gonzalez has been somebody to keep an eye on in the lightweight division. The Chicago star trains and fights out of Team Alpha Male, which is led by UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber.

Despite being 30-years-old, Gonzalez is still young in the sport. After his split-decision win over Vladimir Tokov improved his record to 5-0, ‘CG’ felt he was capable of fighting top-10 opponents. He got his wish last year as he picked up an impressive TKO win over veteran Roger Huerta.

After the win, Gonzalez was tested again as he took on Goiti Yamauchi shortly after. The bout turned into an entertaining slugfest that ended with Yamauchi finishing ‘CG’ by first-round TKO. It will be interesting to see how Gonzalez performs following a loss, especially since it was his first career loss. His opponent Saad Awad will be another tough test as he looks to get back on track.

#4. Will Dalton Rosta’s undefeated streak continue at Bellator 273?

Dalton Rosta returns to the Bellator cage on Saturday night when he takes on Duane Johnson. He had quite the eventful 2021. Not only did he extend his winning streak to five, but he also joined his ATT coach and teammates in AEW. He was originally scheduled to compete against ninth-ranked middleweight Romero Cotton, but Cotton withdrew from the bout.

‘Hercules’ is one of the promotion’s most promising prospects and a win could put him in the top-10. It will be interesting to see how he performs, especially with the short-notice change of opponent.

‘The Rock’, no relation to the actor, is riding a two-fight winning streak that saw him make two first-round finishes. Although he has won back-to-back fights, it’s important to note that both opponents had a losing record. That’s important to point out because ‘Hercules’ is clearly a step up in competition.

#3) Will Bellator 273 be Benson Henderson’s last fight with the promotion?

One of the biggest questions around Bellator 273 is whether it’ll be the final fight of Benson Henderson’s career. He is currently on a three-fight losing skid with losses to Michael Chandler, Jason Jackson, and Brent Primus. The former UFC lightweight champion will be competing in his 40th MMA bout and will once again have hometown advantage.

‘Smooth’ will have his hands full as he takes on seventh-ranked lightweight Islam Mamedov, who’s unbeaten in his last 20 bouts. Mamedov has an opportunity to make a name for himself at Henderson’s expense and get in the title picture.

A fourth-straight loss would likely signal the end of ‘Smooth’s' tenure in the promotion. However, a win over Mamedov could rejuvenate Henderson’s career and set the stage for a bout with No.4-ranked Goiti Yamauchi.

#2. Will Fedor Emelianenko’s final Bellator fight be revealed?

One thing fans will surely want to keep an eye on at Bellator 273 is Fedor Emelianenko's possible opponent. He’s expected to compete this summer in Moscow, Russia, the sight of his incredible knockout of Tim Johnson. This is significant because it will be the final fight of his legendary MMA career.

He might not have to wait long to find an opponent as the main event could determine that. Reigning heavyweight champion Ryan Bader will defend his title in a unification bout with interim champion Valentin Moldavsky. The interim champion is a member of FederTeam and is one of Fedor’s top proteges.

Scott Coker revealed that if Bader retains, ‘The Last Emperor’ would like to challenge him for the heavyweight championship in his final fight. It would be a rematch of their 2019 bout, which saw Bader finish Fedor in 35-seconds to win the heavyweight Grand Prix.

#1. Who will become undisputed Bellator heavyweight champion?

Ryan Bader vs. Valentin Moldavsky poster
Ryan Bader vs. Valentin Moldavsky poster

The Bellator heavyweight championship unification bout is a very intriguing one. Bader recently lost to Corey Anderson in the light heavyweight Grand Prix, so he’ll have some adjustments to make. Like Benson Henderson, Bader's loss also took place in front of his hometown crowd.

Bader is no stranger to FedorTeam. He knocked out Fedor to win the heavyweight Grand Prix and become champion in 2019. Bader, who was a two-division champion at the time, lost his light heavyweight championship to Vadim Nemkov in 2020.

Moldavsky is 6-0 in the promotion and has impressive wins over the likes of Linton Vassell, Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson, and Tim Johnson. He has all the tools to become heavyweight champion, but it’ll be difficult as Bader has yet to lose at heavyweight.

Time will tell if the Bader vs. FedorTeam rivalry ends, or if it’s just the start of a new chapter.

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Edited by Saiyed Adeem Karim
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