On Friday, May 12, Bellator returns to Paris, France for the first time since May 2022. Scott Coker isn’t showing up light-handed, as 17 fights are scheduled for the Accor Arena. Bellator 296 will feature a quarterfinals matchup for the lightweight grand rix, followed by a number-one contender bout in the middleweight division.
In the main event, Gegard Mousasi returns to action after losing the 185-pound title to Johnny Eblen in Jun. 2022. If Mousasi can win at Bellator 296, which will be easier said than done, he could earn a rematch against Eblen.
The 37-year-old has been matched up against Fabian Edwards, the brother of UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards. “The Assassin” is riding a two-fight winning streak after taking out Lyota Machida and Charlie Ward.
In the co-main event, the lightweight grand prix continues with an intriguing matchup between Brent Primus and Mansour Barnaoui. Primus was openly frustrated that he was left out of the tournament until a massive opportunity arose when Sidney Outlaw was pulled out. Meanwhile, Barnaoui could be the dark horse of the tournament after looking impressive in his Bellator debut.
The rest of the Bellator 296 fight card showcases a variety of fights to watch, including Tim Wilde vs. Chris Gonzalez, Jose Augusto vs. Simon Biyong, and Douglas Lima vs. Costello van Steenis.
The Bellator 296 preliminary card airs live on YouTube, or by clicking the picture above, starting at 1 p.m. ET. The main card airs live on Showtime starting at 4 p.m. ET. Check out the full preview and predictions below.
Gegard Mousasi steps into the cage for the first time since losing his middleweight crown; does he fend off surging contender Fabian Edwards?
There will be high stakes in the Bellator 296 main event, as the winner of Gegard Mousasi vs. Fabian Edwards will likely earn a 185-pound title shot. Although Edwards has looked impressive in his last two fights, he still has a lot to prove against Mousasi.
Mousasi is a pressure fighter who has well-rounded skills to go with his high-level fight IQ. “The Dreamcatcher” will have added motivation, as he looks to seek revenge against Johnny Eblen after getting dominated last time out.
Edwards utilizes a methodical approach with a focus on distance control. Similar to Mousasi, he can struggle when he’s put on his back foot. The primary problem for ‘The Assassin’ is that he likely won’t be able to rack up control time, as Mousasi is the better grappler on paper.
Edwards could end up with a disappointing performance at Bellator 296. Unless he can secure a knockout with his precise strike, The Assassin could find himself getting out grappled and struggling with the relentless pressure of Mousasi. The Dreamcatcher should be able to secure a clear unanimous decision win.
Mansour Barnaoui has rattled off eight consecutive wins; can he make it nine straight against former lightweight champion Brent Primus?
Brent Primus is being overlooked in the lightweight grand prix. With that said, the former Bellator champion has a stylistic matchup at Bellator 296 that could lead to an upset win. At this point in his career, you know what you’re getting with Primus. The 38-year-old has improved his striking, but his world-class submission skills will always be his path to victory.
Barnaoui is riding an eight-fight winning streak, with six rear-naked chokes in that span. Unless he decides to keep the fight standing and utilize a striking advantage, “Tarzan” is entering Primus’s world by going to the ground. Despite the betting odds favoring Baraoui, Primus wants to make a statement, and I think he will secure a surprising submission win to advance in the Bellator lightweight grand prix.
Douglas Lima opens up the main card, despite being on a four-fight winning streak; does the former champion right the ship and pick up his first win since 2019?
No disrespect to Douglas Lima, but he hasn’t been the same fighter over his last few Bellator appearances. To be fair, the former welterweight champion has only fought the best 170-pounders on the roster. The problem is that he can’t seem to get going in his fights, allowing his opponents to dictate the pace and cruise to a decision win.
Luckily, Lima’s next opponent might force him to sink or swim. Costello van Steenis is an opportunistic fighter that can lock up a submission in the blink of an eye. He also has reliable striking skills, which helps him force his opponent to make a mistake.
This fight depends on which Lima shows up in Paris. If he can apply pressure and let his hands go, the former champion could secure his first win since Oct. 2019. With that said, there are concerns about him allowing his opponent to control the pace and distance, which should lead to a win inside the distance for van Steenis.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
The sleeper match-up is a light heavyweight bout between Jose Augusto and Simon Biyong. Since losing his Bellator debut against Christian Edwards, Biyong has emerged as a potential 205-pound contender after defeating Luke Trainer and Dragos Zubco. “Hemle” holds a 9-2 professional MMA record, with seven wins by knockout.
Augusto may be riding a two-fight losing streak, but he’s showcased valiant efforts in those fights against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and Alex Polizzi. “Gugu” holds a 7-4 pro-MMA record, with all his fights ending inside the distance.
When Augusto and Biyong step into the cage at Bellator 296, there is a solid chance that the fight won’t be going the distance. Therefore, keep an eye on the light heavyweight preliminary match-up.
|Main Card (Showtime, 4 p.m. ET)|
|MW: Gegard Mousasi vs. Fabian Edwards||Mousasi|
|LW Grand Prix Quarterfinals: Mansour Barnaoui vs. Brent Primus||Primus|
|LW: Thibault Gouti vs. Kane Mousah||Gouti|
|MW: Douglas Lima vs. Costello van Steenis||van Steenis|
|Preliminary Card ()|
|Women’s FlyW: Denise Kielholtz vs. Paula Cristina||Cristina|
|WW: Oliver Enkamp vs. Luca Poclit||Enkamp|
|LW: Saul Rogers vs. Davy Gallon||Rogers|
|FW: Yves Landu vs. Piotr Niedzielski||Niedzielski|
|CatchW (141 lbs.): Sarvarjon Khamidov vs. Kevin Petshi||Khamidov|
|LW: Tim Wilde vs. Chris Gonzalez||Gonzalez|
|FW: Fabacary Diatta vs. Keir Harvie||Diatta|
|FW: Asael Adjoudj vs. Geoges Sasu||Adjoudj|
|WW: Bourama Camara vs. Romain Debienne||Camara|
|LHW: Jose Augusto vs. Simon Biyong||Biyong|