On Friday, Jun. 16, Bellator returns from a one-month layoff since their latest trip to Paris, France. They now return to the United States for a 15-fight event inside the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Ill. Bellator 297 features various intriguing matchups, including two world championship bouts and a handful of rising prospects.
In the main event, Vadim Nemkov looks to extend his light heavyweight title reign dating back to Aug. 2020. The 30-year-old Russian will take on arguably his most dangerous opponent yet in Yoel Romero. Although the “Soldier of God” can be disappointing at times, his unpredictability and freakish athleticism makes him a solid candidate to end Nemkov’s impressive run.
The co-main event will be a world championship matchup that most people wouldn’t have predicted earlier this year. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, the Bellator featherweight champion, is moving down to bantamweight and challenging Sergio Pettis, the reigning 135-pound king. Pettis hasn’t fought since Dec. 2021, due to an injury, as he looks to keep Pitbull from a history-creating moment.
The main card is rounded off by two other bouts. To start things off on Showtime, Daniel James and Gokhan Saricam will meet in a hard-hitting heavyweight matchup. Following James vs. Saricam, Corey Anderson and Phil Davis look to secure another light heavyweight title shot with a statement win.
The Bellator 297 preliminary card airs live on YouTube, or by clicking the picture above, starting at 6 p.m. ET. The main card airs live on Showtime starting at 9 p.m. ET. Check out the full preview and predictions below.
Vadim Nemkov hasn’t lost under the Bellator banner; can he make a successful fourth light heavyweight title defense against Yoel Romero?
In Apr. 2022, Vadim Nemkov’s future could’ve changed drastically, if there wasn’t an accidental clash of heads against Corey Anderson, leading to a no-contest. Seven months later, Nemkov returned and silenced the doubters with a dominant win in the rematch.
Meanwhile, Yoel Romero has successfully bounced back from his promotional debut loss with wins inside the distance against Alex Polizzi and Melvin Manhoef. Although Romero has put together two solid performances, he’s taking a massive step-up in competition from Manhoef to Nemkov.
Romero has the power and explosiveness to knock out Nemkov. The question is, will he be able to close the distance and turn this fight into a brawl? Nemkov does a phenomenal job of controlling distance with kicks and combinations. Even if the Russian’s opponents can initiate a grappling exchange, they usually can’t hold him down for long.
Nemkov should be able to back up Romero with his jab, slow him down with kicks, and secure a TKO in the third or fourth round.
Patricio “Pitbull” Freire will try to become the first three-division world champion in Bellator history; is he able to dethrone reigning champion Sergio Pettis?
There are several significant factors in the Bellator 297 co-main event. Before suffering a torn ACL, Sergio Pettis was on the best run of his career and riding an unbelievable amount of momentum. Now that he hasn’t fought in a year, Pettis needs to prove that his leg injury won’t slow him down physically and mentally.
Patricio “Pitbull” has his own questions to answer. The former two-division world champion has spent over a decade fighting at featherweight and lightweight. At 35 years old, he decided to cut another 10 pounds, which can drastically alter a fighter’s ability to perform on fight night.
Assuming Pitbull has a healthy weight cut, his aggression and fight IQ could be a problem for Pettis. With that said, Pettis showed before his injury that he’s still evolving, making him one of the most intriguing fighters on the Bellator roster. Pettis should be able to push Pitbull’s gas tank until the weight cut becomes a factor, leading to a clear unanimous decision title defense.
Corey Anderson came up short in his bid for the light heavyweight title in his last outing; can he stake a claim for another crack at the belt by besting former champion Phil Davis?
Corey Anderson has a chip on his shoulder at Bellator 297. The 33-year-old was on his way to a one-million-dollar prize and the Bellator light heavyweight title before tragedy struck against Vadim Nemkov. He now plans to utilize his wrestling base and improved striking to take out Phil Davis.
Davis has two losses against the reigning Bellator light heavyweight champion. Since his last loss against Nemkov, “Mr.Wonderful” has proved he deserves another chance after defeating Yoel Romero and Julius Anglickas. The 38-year-old hopes to use Anderson as a stepping stone to another title shot.
Anderson vs. Davis is a tough matchup to predict. Both fighters maintain a wrestling base, which could cancel out and lead to a striking battle. If the fight stays standing, Anderson might have the advantage due to his tendency to throw more volume than Davis. “Overtime” should be able to squeak out a close decision win against Mr. Wonderful.
Which fight is the sleeper matchup on this card?
The sleeper matchup is a light heavyweight bout between Karl Moore and Alex Polizzi. Both fighters tend to show up for a war, which should lead to a must-see fight on Friday night. On one side, you have Moore, who trains out of SBG Ireland. The Belfast native has won three consecutive fights since signing with Bellator, making him a dark horse at 205 pounds
In May 2022, Polizzi suffered a devastating loss against Yoel Romero, which featured a disturbing amount of damage over three rounds. Before losing to Romero, Polizzi emerged as a fighter to watch after establishing a three-fight winning streak against respectable opposition. It’ll be intriguing to see if “Eazy” can bounce back by taking out Moore in a fight you don’t want to miss.
Main Card (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET)
LHW Championship: Vadim Nemkov vs. Yoel Romero
BW Championship: Sergio Pettis vs. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire
LHW: Corey Anderson vs. Phil Davis
HW: Daniel James vs. Gokham Saricam
Preliminary Card (YouTube, 6 p.m. ET)
HW: Wladimir Gouvea vs. Gabriel Sayeg
WW: Kyle Crutchmer vs. Bobby Nash
LW: Peter Buist vs. Gadzhi Rabadanov
WW: Jaleel Willis vs. Ramazan Kuramagomedov
LW: Mike Hamel vs. Shamil Nikaev
MW: Norbert Novenyi Jr. vs. Kamil Oniszczuk
LW: Archie Colgan vs. Emmanuel Sanchez
LHW: Karl Moore vs. Alex Polizzi
FW: Timur Khizriev vs. Richie Smullen
MW: Jordan Newman vs. Matthew Perry
FW: Cody Law vs. Edwin Chavez
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