Bellator 259 Preview

Bellator returns to our screens this Friday night, coming live from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut with Bellator 259.

Cris Cyborg (23-2) defends her Bellator Featherweight Championship against Leslie Smith (12-8-1) in the main event. Brazil’s Cyborg is a legend of the sport. She is known for her powerful striking and also possesses a BJJ black belt. America’s Smith comes in as a heavy underdog. She has a very active boxing style. The pair met before in 2016 during their UFC run. Cyborg’s striking overwhelmed Smith that night, winning via TKO within the first minute and a half of the fight. Smith’s game plan will likely be similar this time, trying to drag Cyborg into a war. It’s a risky strategy considering what happened last time, however there’s not many paths to victory for her in this one.

There is another rematch in the co-main event. Former Bellator Bantamweight Champion Darrion Caldwell (14-4) takes on Leandro Higo (20-5). Caldwell is a wrestler who will try to take you down and finish with a choke or ground and pound. Higo is a BJJ player who can mix it on the feet. Caldwell was able to snatch a guillotine while clinching on the cage midway through the first round in their previous contest.

Fabian Edwards (9-1) is looking to bounce back from his first career loss back in September. He goes up against  American Austin Vanderford (10-0). Edwards is strong everywhere and has the killer instinct to finish in any position. Vanderford is a very bright prospect. He is predominantly a grappler who chains his takedowns very well. He’s heavy on top and always looking to do damage. He also has a slick submission game. This should be a fun one between two Bellator up and comers.

Jaleel Willis (14-2) and Maycon Mendonça (11-4) will do battle in the Welterweight division. Willis is a grinding grappler who is going to make it a miserable fifteen minutes for you if you give up the takedowns. He does lack finishing prowess. Mendonça makes his Bellator debut in this one having come over from LFA, where he was a champion. He is an exciting striker who is lethal in the clinch. He doesn’t mind being drawn into a war and will do damage if it stays on the feet.

A couple of young flyweights will open the main card. Fan favourite Valerie Loureda (3-0) aims to keep her undefeated streak going against Hannah Guy (2-1). Loureda is a Tae Kwon Do Specialist and is absolutely fierce on the feet. She hits hard for a flyweight. Guy is a BJJ player who will be looking to pounce at the first mistake.

Saad Awad (23-13) takes on Nate Andrews (16-3) at lightweight. Awad is a striker who’s found wins hard to come by recently, albeit against a who’s who of Bellator talent. He has big punching power that can end it in an instant. Andrews is a submission expert who can work in a choke standing, from his back or on top. He is a threat everywhere. He has never been finished.

Promising light heavyweights Grant Neal (5-0) and Tyree Fortune (5-0) will duke it out. Neal is a wrestler who will try to finish you with ground and pound or make you give up your back. Fortune is a bit of an all rounder, he can mix knock out power with his submissions. This could be a close one.

Sumiko Inaba (1-0) makes her sophomore appearance in the Bellator cage against Kristina Katsikis (1-1). Hawaii’s Inaba won her debut, mostly staying in the clinch using short shots before landing a takedown and finishing it via ground and pound. Katsikis is a step up in competition and is a bit of a scrappy grappler herself.

BJJ whizz Aviv Gozali (5-0) faces Sean Felton (5-2-1) at lightweight. Gozali has a huge box of tricks to play with, having won all 5 of his Bellator fights with a different submission. Felton has heavy hands and will hope to keep it standing and land big shots early.

In the Heavyweight division, Davion Franklin (2-0) has a stiff test in front of him in Tyler King (12-9). There is a huge experience disparity between the two. Franklin mixes his wrestling with Muay Thai, giving him a double threat. King is a submission specialist who’s last MMA win came in 2016.

Belfast’s Leah McCourt (4-1) returns to action against Australia’s Janay Harding (6-4). The pair were previously meant to fight at Bellator London before the event was cancelled due to the pandemic. McCourt is a high level judoka and is very heavy in top position. Her striking is getting better all the time under the tutelage of Owen Roddy at SBG Charlestown. Harding is a karate stylist who can finish within the distance with powerful shots. This is a nice step up in competition for McCourt.

Wales’ Brett Johns (17-2) makes his Bellator debut. He’s a recent signing for the promotion having gone 5-2 in the UFC bantamweight division. He will face a late replacement in Danny Sabatello (10-1). Johns is an exciting fighter. He is a high level grappler with black belts in judo and BJJ. He is also a handful on the feet with an active Muay Thai game. Sabatello is a wrestler taking this on a week’s notice. He fights out of ATT and is a training partner of Dustin Poirier.

England’s Alfie Davis (14-3) is looking to make it 5 wins from 5 on this Bellator run. The London Shootfighters man takes on Russian Alexander Shabliy (19-3). Davis is a fighter with a lot of potential. He is good allround, with his main downside so far being a lack of a finishing touch. He has good cardio and can go three rounds easily. He’s a handful on the feet and can grapple as well. Shabliy is a flashy striker with electric kickboxing skills. He is also no slouch on the ground, with some choke and heel hook wins on his record.

Bellator 259 is live on Friday night from 22:30 on Virgin Media Two and the BBC iPlayer.

Seán Denny is a Dublin man who writes mostly on the European scene, with a keen interest in the Irish, UK and Polish scenes in particular. Follow me on Twitter at @DennyRants.

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