Mansour Barnaoui returns – Five reasons to watch Bellator 296

Bellator returns to Paris with a title eliminator and lightweight tournament opening round between Mansour Barnaoui and Brent Primus.

By: Victor Rodriguez | 5 months ago
Mansour Barnaoui returns – Five reasons to watch Bellator 296
Mansour Barnaoui answers questions for Bellator 296. IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Bellator is on another excursion to Paris with Bellator 296, and they’ve got a lot for the local scene to look forward to. Even though this event is catering mostly to the European MMA crowd, there’s some really well booked fights we can all enjoy. Bellator’s matchmaking continues to be consistent across the board, with a very strong main card bolstered by some fun action bouts on the prelims.

While not heavy on star power, this card does have divisionally relevant fights and some potentially exciting ones as well. Let’s take a look at the most notable points for Bellator 296.

Bellator 296 middleweight title eliminator!

We don’t see this happen very often, but it’s nice that Bellator makes these things official. Middleweight legend Gegard Mousasi (49-8, 2 draws) and Fabian Edwards (11-2) face off to see who gets to take on current champ Johnny Eblen. Mousasi lost his title to Eblen in a stunning upset, but wants to claw his way back to the top. On the other side, Edwards was undefeated up until 2020, when he lost back to back decisions to Costello Van Steenis and Austin Vanderford. He’s since bounced back to form, winning two straight—including sending Lyoto Machida to the realm of solace.

Mousasi is still crafty and has a lot of offensive tools, even if he can be defensively compromised. Edwards also has a ton of offense, especially his very powerful close-quarters attacks. Either would be a great option to face Eblen next.

Mansour Barnaoui & lightweight GP hours, oui oui!!

Former Bellator champ Brent Primus (11-3) is an entrant for the Bellator lightweight Grand Prix. As is the case with all of these tournaments, there’s a million dollar pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Problem is, Primus has a massive bump in the road ahead of him, in the form of top French MMA export Mansour Barnaoui. Barnoui already won the million-dollar GP in ROAD FC a few years ago, and he’s trying to make bank once again.

Primus is a known entity, a wrestleboxer with a lovely submission game and tons of grit. He’s a menace to anyone in the division. Despite all his experience, Banaoui (20-4) just got here. He’s an excellent addition to bolster Bellator’s lightweight division; a brash and bold personality that made an instant statement in submitting Adam Piccolotti in his Bellator debut. This is an absolute banger for the opening round, and Barnaoui’s fighting on his home soil. It’s solid booking.

Another good middleweight fight? Yes!

Former welterweight champ Douglas Lima (32-11) finally makes the move up to 185. His highlight reel speaks for itself, and it seems like this was a jump he could have made years ago. It’s gonna be a rough welcome, because Costello “The Spaniard” Van Steenis (14-2) is a problem.

Van Steenis is always hunting for a finish no matter how late in the fight it is. And he’s shown development, growth and maturity in his time under the Bellator banner. Both guys can crack, and Costello has slick submissions that he slaps on a little quicker than Lima does. Another fantastic booking.

Lady Dynamite

Denise Kielholtz (6-5) is a ton of fun to watch. Having her on this card is a nice bit of fan service when it comes to setting up an action bout. She’s up against Brazilian Paula Cristina (6-1), who doesn’t have the same level of experience. Does a win put Kielholtz in title contention again? Probably not, she’d likely need another victory or two after that. But will this be fun? Most likely.

Guys to look out for

RIZIN vet Kevin Petshi (18-5) faces Sarvarjon Khamidov (14-0), and that’s a tough one to pick between two very clever fighters. Davy Gallon (21-8, 2 draws) is another fighter that has faced respectable opposition; he takes on Saul Rogers (15-5). Rogers has come a long way since his Ultimate Fighter stint, making a nice little home for himself in Bellator.

Karate ace Oliver Enkamp (11-3) meets SBGIreland rep Luca Poclit (8-1) in another potential sleeper banger, while Simon Biyong (9-2) faces Brazil’s Jose Augusto (7-4). Finally, a veteran showdown between Yves Landu (18-9) and Piotr Niedzielski (17-5).

You can check out the weigh-ins here:

Full card is as follows:

Main card:

  • Gegard Mousasi (185.6) vs. Fabian Edwards (184.8) – Middleweight
  • Mansour Barnaoui (154.6) vs. Brent Primus (154.6) – Lightweight GP quarterfinal
  • Douglas Lima (185.8) vs. Costello van Steenis (185.8) – Middleweight
  • Thibault Gouti (155.6) vs. Kane Mousah (155.2) – Lightweight


  • Jose Augusto (205.2) vs. Simon Biyong (205.6) – Light heavyweight
  • Bourama Camara (170.1) vs. Romain Debienne (172.4)* – Welterweight
  • Asael Adjoudj (150) vs. Georges Sasu (149.6) – 150lb catchweight
  • Fabacary Diatta (145.4) vs. Keir Harvie (145.8) – Featherweight
  • Chris Gonzalez (155.4) vs. Tim Wilde (156.0) – Lightweight
  • Sarvarjon Hamidov (140.6) vs. Kevin Petshi (140.4) – 141lb catchweight
  • Yves Landu (145.8) vs. Piotr Niedzielski (146.2) – Featherweight
  • Davy Gallon (155.4) vs. Saul Rogers (155.8) – Lightweight
  • Oliver Enkamp (170.0) vs. Luca Poclit (169.6) – Welterweight
  • Paula Cristina (126.0) vs. Denise Kielholtz (125.2) – Flyweight

Bellator 296 takes place this Friday with the prelims streaming live on YouTube starting at noon EST. The main card will air exclusively on Showtime, starting at 4:00pm.

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About the author
Victor Rodriguez
Victor Rodriguez

Victor Rodriguez has been a writer and podcaster for Bloody Elbow since 2015. He started his way as a lowly commenter and moderator to become the miscreant he is now. He often does weekly bits on fringe martial arts items across the globe, oddball street combat pieces, previews, analysis, and some behind-the-scenes support. He has trained in wrestling, Karate, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and the occasional Muay Thai and Judo lesson here and there. Victor has also been involved with acting and audio editing projects. He lives in Pennsylvania where he plays way too many video games and is an S-rank dad.

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