Bellator returns after a six-week layoff with 14 fights on Friday, Jun. 24. Bellator 282 features two quarterfinals matchups for the bantamweight grand prix, a middleweight championship main event, and several highly-touted prospects.
In the main event, Gegard Mousasi looks to defend the middleweight title. ‘The Dreamcatcher’ takes on Johnny Eblen, a former NCAA Division I wrestler training out of American Top Team. Eblen is 7-0 in Bellator, but his lack of experience could be detrimental against a legend like Mousasi.
Meanwhile, Bellator 282 represents the continuation of the bantamweight grand prix. Rising star Danny Sabatello takes on Leandro Higo, and the always dangerous Magomed Magomedov will fight Enrique Barzola. Sabatello (-550) and Magomedov (-165) come in as the betting favorites.
The Bellator 282 preliminary card airs live on Bellator’s YouTube channel starting at 6 p.m. ET, with the main card following on Showtime at 9 p.m. ET. Check out the full preview and predictions below.
Gegard Mousasi has notched TKO finishes in both of his Bellator middleweight title defenses; will Johnny Eblen have more success in his championship bid or will Mousasi mount a third straight defense?
On paper, Eblen has a fighting style that could give Mousasi trouble, but his lack of experience could be a problem. “The Human Cheat Code” is a former D1 wrestler that has fallen in love with his hands during his MMA career.
At this point in his career, Mousasi has fought the best fighters in the world for the last 20 years. He is not unbeatable, but his experience has led to an evolved fighter who remains calm and breaks down his opponents physically and mentally.
If Eblen wants to find success, he needs to close the distance and get Mousasi on his back. Mousasi has shown weakness against elite wrestlers, so Eblen can’t afford to stand and trade. The concern is that Eblen’s best win is against an aged John Salter, making Mousasi a massive step up in competition.
This matchup has similarities to Mousasi’s last fight. Austin Vanderford was 11-0, training out of American Top Team, a wrestler, and took a massive step up in competition. Mousasi denied the takedown, kept his distance, and finished Vanderford in the first round.
Mousasi should be able to get similar results and break down Eblen. The Human Cheat Code has dangerous power that could shock Mousasi, but the defensive skills portrayed by the champion make me concerned for the challenger. Mousasi wins by Rd. 2 knockout.
Leandro Higo has failed to make weight in his last two fights; will he make the bantamweight limit in his Grand Prix Quarterfinal bout against Danny Sabatello?
Higo has bigger problems than making weight for Bellator 282. The Brazilian needs to be ready for Sabatello, a former D1 wrestler training out of American Top Team, which seems to be a common theme with D1 wrestlers. Sabatello is now 2-0 in the UFC with impressive wins over Jornel Lugo and Brett Johns.
Sabatello didn’t just beat Lugo and Johns. He destroyed their confidence and wrestled them relentlessly for the entire fight. Higo needs to keep the fight standing, apply pressure, and then try to expose the striking of Sabatello. With that said, his best chance will probably be a sneaky submission off his back.
Sabatello breaks down Higo with the wrestling and scores a third-round finish by ground and pound.
Magomed Magomedov had a five-fight winning streak snapped by Raufeon Stots his last time out; how does he fare against Enrique Barzola?
Magomedov vs. Barzola could end up as the fight of the night. Magomedov is a pressure-heavy grappler who has shown flashes of impressive striking. Meanwhile, Barzola is a volume striker that trains at American Kickboxing Academy with recent experience in the UFC.
Since moving to Bellator, Barzola has looked solid starting 2-0. On the contrary, Magomedov is 2-1 after losing to Raufeon Stots. This matchup comes down to Magomedov’s ability to take the fight to the ground.
If Magomedov can get him there, Barzola is not easy to control, but the takedowns will help counter Barzola’s volume striking on the scorecards. Overall, Magomedov needs a bounce-back win, and his adjustments from the Stots fight will be the difference-maker. Magomedov by unanimous decision.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
The sleeper matchup to watch is the middleweight matchup between Aaron Jeffery and Fabio Aguiar. Jeffery is a highly-touted Canadian prospect who had a setback after losing on Dana White’s Contender Series. Meanwhile, Aguiar emerged from the Brazilian regional scene and has gone 1-1 in Bellator.
Both fighters won their last fight and have the potential to make a name for themselves in the Bellator middleweight division. The betting odds also see this being a close fight with Jeffery at -160 and Fabio at +130. These fighters have a combined 16 knockouts, so take your bathroom break before this matchup starts.
Main Card (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET)
MW Championship: Gegard Mousasi vs. Johnny Eblen
BW Grand Prix Quarterfinal: Leandro Higo vs. Danny Sabatello
BW Grand Prix Quarterfinal: Magomed Magomedov vs. Enrique Barzola
WW: Brennan Ward vs. Kassius Kayne
Prelims (YouTube, 6 p.m. ET)
WW: Sabah Homasi vs. Maycon Mendonca
Women’s FlyW: Alejandra Lara vs. Ilara Joanne
FW: Cody Law vs. James Gonzalez
LW: Dan Moret vs. Killys Mota
FW: Lucas Brennan vs. Johnny Soto
MW: Fabio Aguiar vs. Aaron Jeffrey
LW: Mandel Nallo vs. Bryce Logan
LW: Brent Primus vs. Alexander Shabily
Women’s FW: Cat Zingano vs. Pam Sorenson
MW: Anatoly Tokov vs. Muhammad Abdullah
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