Bellator continues to shake things up by reinvigorating their divisions holding a Grand Prix, and now it’s time for the lightweights.
As usual, it’s a million on the line, and the tournament includes the lightweight champion defending their title in each bout. We’ve seen this before, but this is yet another thrilling collection of fighters to have for a tournament of this scale. The opening bouts will be a stupendous matchup with tons of intrigue, and the main event a very interesting stylistic matchup.
So we’ll start at the top, with champion Usman Nurmagomedov (16-0) defending his title for the first time after lifting it off Patricky Pitbull back in November. He’ll be working to stay champ when he meets former UFC champion Benson Henderson (30-11). Henderson is still spry and his characteristic bouncy self, working his movement and volume with counters to fluster opponents and draw them into spots advantageous to him.
But Usman’s got hands and that patented Nurmagomedov grappling that’s nigh-impossible to shuck off. Perhaps Benson’s defense and grappling experience can get him out of a bad spot or two, but it’s gonna be a long five rounds if he’s not able to keep this upright. This will be a battle of patience and seeking opportunities, and a good way to kick things off.
But that’s not the first tournament fight, and it isn’t the best one on paper. See, the co-main event for this one is nothing short of sensational matchmaking. Former ACA and ProFC standout Alexander Shabily (22-3) is back to extend his seven-fight win streak (thee of those in Bellator). He meets former RIZIN tournament champ Tofiq Musaev (20-4). Shabily has a wily grappling game and layered, technical striking that is lovely to watch. Musaev is still a tough and sprawly fighter that settles in as the fight goes on and can do pretty big damage in short bursts while remaining patient for the long haul. This should very clearly be fight of the night, despite the lack of name recognition stateside.
Seriously, expect this to be the most technical and exciting match, because the winner here might end up being the likeliest participant to win the whole thing.
Linton Vassell (23-8) continues to impress as he enters his next fight with a four-fight win streak. Heavyweight has treated him well, with three of his last four wins being by ground strikes and using marvelous technique and timing to get things to the ground and keep them there. And he has a chance to address a previous blight on his record, a loss to Valentin Moldavsky. Moldavsky (11-2) had a six-fight streak snapped by champ Ryan Bader, which was followed by a very unfortunate no-contest due to eyepoke against Steve Mowry. Valentin has great wrestling and varied striking with good use of leg, head, and body kicks. But will Linton have his number this time? Both can be effective in the clinch, but could end up in a stalemate here if they keep it there.
Michael “Venom“ Page is back in action with his flashy karate-based style against grappling threat Goiti Yamauchi (28-5). Now, let’s not misconstrue things, Goiti can crack. We saw in his last bout against Neiman Gracie that he’s way more comfortable with throwing combinations with power now to complement his grappling and submission game. He’ll have to contend with the range and speed of Page, and not let him set the tempo early. With enough pressure, he can get Page uncomfortable enough to start doing damage and make a statement with a win.
Erik Perez (a.k.a. Goyito Power!, 20-8) meets Peruvian hard-nosed wrestler Enrique “El Fuerte“ Barzola (18-7, 2 draws) in a fun bantamweight tilt. “Gentleman” Josh Hill (21-5) meets the always fun and exciting Cass Bell (6-2), while AKA rep Tony Johnson (9-3) faces former Fight Nights Global, M-1 and UFC fighter Khalid Murtazaliev (16-3) in another under-the-radar middleweight bout that could have big implications for the winner.
Finally, Julius Anglickas (10-3) is back against Dovletzhan Yagshimuradov (19-7, 1 draw).
You can check out a trailer for the event here:
As well as a breakdown featuring Chael Sonnen and Scott Coker:
Full card is as follows:
- Usman Nurmagomedov (154.8) vs. Benson Henderson (154.6) –Llightweight Grand Prix quarterfinal
- Tofiq Musayev (155) vs. Alexander Shabliy (154.4) – Lightweight Grand Prix quarterfinal
- Valentin Moldavsky (237.4) vs. Linton Vassell (239.4) – Heavyweight
- Michael Page (170.8) vs. Goiti Yamauchi (170.6) – Welterweight
- Enrique Barzola (145.2) vs. Erik Perez (145.4) – Lightweight
- Cass Bell (145.2) vs. Josh Hill (136.6) – 146lb catchweight
- Tony Johnson (184.8) vs. Khalid Murtazaliev (186) – Middleweight
- Julius Anglickas (205.8) vs. Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (205.8) – Light heavyweight
- Laird Anderson (146) vs. Rogelio Luna (144.8) – Featherweight
- Theo Haig (184.2) vs. Adam Wamsley (185)
Bellator 292: Nurmagomedov vs Henderson takes place this Friday night with prelims starting at 7:30pm EST and streaming live on YouTube via Bellator’s YouTube channel. The main card starts at 10:00pm and airs on Showtime.
About the author: Victor Rodriguez is a writer and podcaster for Bloody Elbow since 2015. He has trained in wrestling, Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the occasional Muay Thai and Judo lesson here and there.
About the author