The highly-anticipated Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix will kick off this Friday in the main event and co-main event of Bellator 292. Along with two high-stakes matchups at 155 pounds, Bellator’s latest event features 10 other bouts going down inside the SAP Center in San Jose, California.
In the main event, Usman Nurmagomedov looks to defend his lightweight championship for the first time against the well-known Benson “Smooth” Henderson. Smooth is currently a massive betting underdog, but the 39-year-old shouldn’t be overlooked. With that said, Nurmagomedov has emerged as arguably the best fighter on the Bellator roster.
Before Nurmagomedov and Henderson square off, the first fight of the Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix takes place in the co-main event. Tofiq Musayev and Alexander Shabily look to punch their ticket to the semifinals in a matchup features two dark horses of the tournament. Both fighters have yet to lose under the Bellator banner.
Bellator 292 features a variety of talent outside of the grand prix. The main card will be rounded off by two intriguing matchups: Valentin Moldavsky vs. Linton Vassell and Michael ‘Venum’ Page vs. Goiti Yamauchi. Meanwhile, the preliminary card showcases several Bellator prospects, including Bobby Seronio III and Laird Anderson. Other matchups to watch include Julius Anglickas vs. Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov and Enrique Barzola vs. Erik Perez.
The Bellator 292: Nurmagomedov vs. Henderson preliminary card airs live on YouTube starting at 7:30 p.m. ET, with the main card following on Showtime at 10 p.m. ET. Check out the full preview and predictions below.
Former WEC and UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson has yet to claim gold since joining Bellator; does he earn the belt and defeat Usman Nurmagomedov in the opening round of the lightweight grand prix?
Benson Henderson’s Bellator tenure has been up and down. At one point, the former UFC lightweight champion was on a four-fight winning streak, which was followed by three consecutive losses. He managed to bounce back in 2022, winning back-to-back fights against Islam Mamedov and Peter Queally. Although Henderson’s athletic ability has diminished, the 39-year-old has used his high-level experience and fight IQ to continue finding ways to win. He will need to be locked in for his upcoming matchup, because zero mistakes can be made against Usman Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov holds an undefeated MMA record of 16-0, including five wins in Bellator. The reigning lightweight champion had a massive step-up in competition last time out, which he passed with flying colors by defeating Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. The question is: will he have the same success against Henderson?
Henderson has only been finished inside the distance four times in his 41 professional MMA fights. The problem for him is that Nurmagomedov showed last fight that he has five-round cardio to match his well-rounded fighting style. Smooth should not be overlooked, but the Russian should be able to retain his lightweight championship with a dominant unanimous decision by utilizing his speed and power advantage.
The co-main event is also a quarterfinal matchup in the lightweight grand prix; will it be Tofiq Musayev or Alexander Shabily advancing to the semifinals?
Someone’s promotional “0” has got to go between Tofiq Musayev and Alexander Shabily. Musayev made his Bellator debut in Jul. 2022, putting the division on notice with a 27-second knockout of Brent Primus. The former RIZIN champion is aggressive and always seems to capitalize on small windows of opportunities to put his opponents away.
Meanwhile, Shabily quietly holds a Bellator record of 3-0, leading to him being a necessity for the lightweight grand prix. The Russian is a patient striker who sometimes focuses on the counterattack. “Peresvet” rarely makes mistakes, making him a dangerous opponent for any lightweight.
The reality is the Bellator 292 co-main event has a chance of being a slower, low-volume fight. Musayev and Shabily are both calculated in their approach and likely won’t rush in trying to force a finish. With that said, Musayev tends to be more aggressive, which should lead to him winning a close judges’ decision to advance to the semifinals.
Former interim heavyweight champion Valentin Moldavsky takes on Linton Vassell in a rematch of a 2019 bout; does Moldavsky pick up the victory and make it 2-0 in their series?
Linton Vassell is on a similar run as Benson Henderson. After losing three consecutive fights in 2017-2019, the 39-year-old has rattled off four consecutive wins, including three inside the distance. Vassell now has an opportunity to avenge his last loss, which was against Valentin Moldavsky by unanimous decision.
Things haven’t gone well for Moldavsky since he became the interim heavyweight champion in Jun. 2021. He was unable to become the undisputed champion against Ryan Bader, and then he had a disappointing no-contest outing against Steve Mowry, which ended when he accidentally eye-poked Mowry in 54 seconds.
Although Vassell has been on an impressive run recently, he probably won’t be able to avenge his loss against Moldavsky. The former interim heavyweight champion has an advantage in the grappling department, and his speed should be a difference-maker on the feet. Unless Vassell can outwork Moldavsky and make him tired, he will likely lose by a unanimous decision.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
The sleeper match-up to watch is a welterweight bout between Goiti Yamauchi and Michael ‘Venom’ Page. Yamauchi is arguably the most underrated fighter in the promotion. The Brazilian has the most submissions in Bellator history, and he’s also a former featherweight who secured a highlight-reel knockout in his last fight at welterweight.
On the contrary, MVP is the most unique fighter on the roster. The 35-year-old has a highlight reel filled with must-see knockouts and entertaining performances. It’s difficult to predict what will happen when these Bellator veterans go toe-to-toe, so make sure not to miss this matchup in the main card opener.
|Main Card (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET)|
|LW Championship: Usman Nurmagomedov vs. Benson Henderson||Nurmagomedov|
|LW Grand Prix Quarterfinals: Tofiq Musayev vs. Alexander Shabily||Musayev|
|HW: Valentin Moldavsky vs. Linton Vassell||Moldavsky|
|WW: Michael Page vs. Goiti Yamauchi||Page|
|Preliminary Card (YouTube, 7:30 p.m. ET)|
|BW: Enrique Barzola vs. Erik Perez||Barzola|
|BW: Josh Hill vs. Cass Bell||Hill|
|MW: Khalid Murtazaliev vs. Tony Johnson||Murtazaliev|
|LHW: Julius Anglickas vs. Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov||Yagshimuradov|
|FW: Laird Anderson vs. Rogelio Luna||Anderson|
|MW: Theo Haig vs. Adam Wamsley||Haig|