Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino (L) (Bellator MMA)

Bellator 271: Cyborg vs. Kavanagh Preview and Predictions

After stops in Moscow and Dublin, Bellator will return to the United States this Friday night with a trip to Hollywood, Florida. Bellator 271 features 11 fights, including a handful of fighters that train in South Florida. Although most of the fights have heavy betting favorites, anything can happen when the cage door closes.

In the headliner, Cris “Cyborg” Justino looks to stay undefeated in Bellator by defending her title for the third time. After winning two fights in a row, her opponent, SBG Ireland’s Sinead Kavanagh, looks to pull off the massive upset over Cyborg. Kavanagh is a tough fighter, but beating the latest version of Cyborg is no easy task.

The co-main event features a pair of heavyweights looking to continue their winning streaks. The grappling-heavy Tyrell Fortune takes on the highly experienced Linton Vassell in a match-up holding future title-shot implications. With only two fights in the last two years, Vassell needs to be ready to grapple with the former collegiate wrestler.


Also, several Bellator prospects will be competing, including Steve Mowry, Cody Law, Valerie Loureda, Jordan Newman, Aaron Pico, and Justin Gonzales.

The preliminary card kicks off live on YouTube starting at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the main card on Showtime starting at 10 p.m. ET. Let’s take a look at the preview and predictions.

Cris Cyborg looks to make her third featherweight title defense against a streaking Sinead Kavanaugh; does the Irish fighter have what it takes to unseat the incumbent?

Before joining Bellator, Cyborg was one of the best fighters on the UFC roster. Safe to say, her transition to Bellator has gone better than expected. After beating Julia Budd for the title in her Bellator debut, Cyborg has gone on to defend the belt twice. Her next opponent, Kavanagh, comes into this fight on a two-fight winning streak.

Although the odds are against Kavanagh, she has the fighting style to pull off the upset. Unfortunately, her fighting style also plays into the comfort of Cyborg. Kavanagh is a pressure fighter that likes to use her boxing skills and let her hands go. Meanwhile, Cyborg tends to do the same thing with a lot more success. Cyborg has made a successful career by “bullying” her opponents, and Kavanagh may be the latest victim.

Kavanagh has a path to victory by catching Cyborg early and knocking her out. The issue for Kavanagh is that the only fighter to successfully knock out Cyborg is the G.O.A.T., Amanda Nunes. Unfortunately for Kavanagh, Cyborg has been too dominant lately, and her confidence is continuing to grow. Cyborg should be able to get the early finish against Kavanagh to claim her third title defense.

Tyrell Fortune has won three straight fights, and Linton Vissell has won two straight since returning to heavyweight; which man keeps his winning streak alive?

Fortune has been a brutal opponent for anyone not named Tim Johnson. Holding a record of 11-1, Fortune has grappled his way to eight finishes throughout his MMA career. On the other hand, Vassell wants to show that he still has some gas left in the tank at 38 years old. With both fighters ranked in the top six, the winner finds themselves close to a title shot.

Vassell tends to allow his opponents to apply the pressure so he can counterstrike and time his takedowns. The strategy used to work perfectly, but Vassell has struggled against more athletic fighters. Fortune’s game plan will be to apply pressure early and throw some heavy shots to open up a chance for a takedown. Although Vassell is a talented grappler, wrestling with Fortune is a mistake.

Vassell’s offensive grappling is a lot better than his defensive. Allowing Fortune to lead the dance could be dangerous, considering Fortune is too athletic for Vassell to apply the pressure. Vassell’s best chance to win is by finding a way to extend this fight and drain Fortune’s gas tank. Overall, Fortune should walk Vassell down, score a takedown, and finish the bout by ground and pound.

Aaron Pico seems to have turned the corner since dropping back-to-back fights; does he continue to impress by turning back the undefeated prospect Justin Gonzalez?

Pico may have one of the most misleading MMA records in the world right now. Holding a record of 8-3, Pico is a big-time Bellator prospect at 25 years old. Training out of Jackson-Wink MMA, Pico is a well-rounded fighter who continues to evolve. On the contrary, Justin Gonzales looks to derail the Pico hype train to build up his own.

Gonzales made a name for himself when he beat Zach Zane on the Contender Series nearly two and a half years ago. Since then, Gonzales won another fight on the regional scene, before signing with Bellator and beating Ty-wan Claxton. Holding an amateur record of 9-0 and a pro record of 12-0, Gonzales has a chance to skyrocket his value with a win against Pico.

The problem with fighting Pico is that he is good everywhere. Despite his undeniable freestyle wrestling skills, Pico’s power and explosiveness have been the highlight-reel creator. Although Gonzales is very talented, his lack of aggression may be an issue. The only fighters to give Pico troubles are the ones that can absorb the pressure and return with creative knockouts. Pico should be able to use his power and athleticism to get his ninth finish.

Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?

The sleeper matchup for Bellator 271 is the heavyweight matchup between Steve Mowry and Rakim Cleveland. Mowry has continued to evolve into a potential future Bellator champion with a record of 9-0. Meanwhile, Cleveland is 22-13-1 with plenty of experience against talented fighters. Although most people see Mowry winning somewhat easily, underestimating Cleveland could be a mistake.

After losing four in a row with PFL, Cleveland returned to win three fights in 2021, all inside the distance. Cleveland has fought tons of well-known fighters, including Derrick Lewis, Tanner Boser, and Houston Alexander. Cleveland should have the experience to weather an early storm and test the undefeated prospect. If Cleveland can’t adapt quickly, it may be a short night at the office for Mowry.

Mowry has been a wizard on the ground in a division that tends to lack grapplers. Recently, Mowry has also picked his striking up with powerful knees, leading to finishes. Meanwhile, Cleveland has been a well-rounded fighter that tends to adapt to his opponents’ strengths. Whether the fight stays standing or goes to the ground, Cleveland vs. Mowry has the potential to be interesting. Watching a seasoned veteran test a potential champion is always intriguing.

Fight Pick
Main Card (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET)
Women’s FW Championship: Cris Cyborg vs. Sinead Kavanaugh Cyborg
HW: Tyrell Fortune vs. Linton Vassell Fortune
FW: Aaron Pico vs. Justin Gonzalez Pico
Women’s FW: Arlene Blencowe vs. Pam Sorenson Blencowe
HW: Steve Mowry vs. Rakim Cleveland Mowry
Preliminary Card (YouTube, 7 p.m. ET)
MW: Jordan Newman vs. Shane O’Shea Newman
WW: Mahmoud Sebie vs. Ethan Hughes Sebie
Women’s FlyW: Bruna Ellen vs. Desiree Yanez Ellen
WW: Roman Faraldo vs. Robert Turnquest Faraldo
FW: Cody Law vs. Colton Hamm Law
Women’s FlyW: Valerie Loureda vs. Taylor Turner Loureda