Bellator has set up another doubleheader in Hawaii this weekend, with Friday and Saturday shows that are both headlined by title fights. And the Friday warm-up for the Saturday show has got some very good action pairings to make for an entertaining night of MMA action.
Juliana Velasquez (12-0) upset the apple cart by taking the title off of former queen Ilima-Lei MacFarlane in December of 2020. After a split decision win in her first title defense against Denise Kielholtz she’s making her second defense almost a year later against former UFC title challenger Liz Carmouche (16-7). Carmouche remains a credible wrestling threat with some power and not much volume, but has improved in her ability to set up her wrestling with her strikes and chaining things together. Velasquez remains a strong striker with better use of reach and distance while working her defensive grappling well and doing big damage on the ground.
Former UFC fighter and hard-nosed wrestler Enrique Barzola (17-5, 2 draws) remains a strong challenge for anyone at 135, and he’s got his hands full in a 140lb bout against 9-1 Nikita Mikhailov. Mikhailov trains with the Team Fedor crew and amassed a great record against very, very legitimate opposition in Fight Nights Global before making his way to Bellator. This will be Mikhailov’s third Bellator outing, and he’ll have to deal with an opponent with fairly basic boxing but who’s also very tough to put away and won’t stop working clinches and takedowns. It won’t be easy for either competitor, but it should absolutely be a tight one.
American Top Team’s Danny Sabatello (11-1) has quietly racked up a great record by outwrestling and outworking a field of tough opponents. Across from him will be Jornel Lugo (8-0), one of Bellator’s most brightest and exciting prospects right now. With a pair of submissions on his amateur record, he got his first stoppage in a while in his last outing where choked Keith Lee to sleep. It’s not just a duel between guys that train out of South Florida, but it’s personal, too. It’s a great matchup between two fighters that can easily be near the orbit of the title at bantamweight in the future.
Christian Edwards (5-1) is another fun action light heavyweight with wily moments in the cage, and he’s up against dogged wrestler and submission hunter Grant Neal (6-1). Both are attempting to bounce back from defeats in their last outings. New England standout Nate “The Snake” Andrews (16-4) makes his Bellator debut after his PFL run as he faces tough veteran Manny Muro (12-7).
Finally, Brazilian buzzsaw Weber Almeida (5-1) will attempt to nail another finish as he meets fellow Brazilian Fabricio Franco (8-4).
You can check out the weigh-ins here:
Juliana Velasquez (124.8) vs. Liz Carmouche (125) – Flyweight
Enrique Barzola (139.6) vs. Nikita Mikhailov (139.4) – 140lb bout
Jornel Lugo (134.8) vs. Danny Sabatello (134.6) – Bantamweight
Christian Edwards (204.4) vs. Grant Neal (204.2) – Light heavyweight
Manny Muro (160) vs. Nate Andrews (159.2) – 160lb bout
Weber Almeida (145.2) vs. Fabricio Franco (145.6) – Featherweight
Dante Schiro (170.6) vs. Scotty Hao (170) – Welterweight
Makoa Cooper (169) vs. Blake Perry (169.8) – Welterweight
Bellator 278: Velasquez vs Carmouche starts Friday night at 9:00pm EST with the prelims streaming live exclusively on YouTube. The main card starts at 10:00pm on Showtime.
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