Liam McGeary feels a little lighter around the waist these days.
The 34-year-old Englishman will step back into the cage for the first time since surrendering the Bellator MMA light heavyweight championship to Phil Davis three months ago, as he faces Brett McDermott in the Bellator 173 headliner on Friday at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Their three-round battle at 205 pounds anchors a four-fight main card on Spike TV (Tape Delay; 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT).
McGeary finds himself on the rebound following the first loss of his career -- a lopsided unanimous decision to Davis at Bellator 163 on Nov. 4. A Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt under John Danaher, he sports 10 finishes across his 11 professional victories, eight of them inside one round. McGeary’s owns wins over Emanuel Newton, Kelly Anundson, Egidijus Valavicius and Ultimate Fighting Championship hall of famer Tito Ortiz. He has compiled an 8-1 mark under the Bellator banner.
With the McGeary-McDermott pairing as the centerpiece, here is what to watch for at Bellator 173:
Bellator appears to have a serious asset on its hands in James Gallagher.
The SBG Ireland prospect will put his 5-0 record on the line against Kirill Medvedovsky in a three-round featherweight showcase. Gallagher, 20, trains under John Kavanagh, the same coach who oversaw the development of reigning UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor. He last fought at Bellator 169 on Dec. 16, when he submitted Anthony Taylor with a third-round rear-naked choke. Four of Gallagher’s five victories have resulted in chokes: three by rear-naked and another by guillotine.
Medvedovsky, a 24-year-old Ukrainian featherweight who operates out of Israel, has gone a disappointing 1-3 since starting his career with six straight wins. He has not competed since he succumbed to first-round punches from former World Series of Fighting and Tachi Palace Fights champion Georgi Karakhanyan at Bellator 164 on Nov. 10.
Another promising SBG Ireland product will be on center stage, as the undefeated Sinead Kavanagh takes on Iony Razafiarison in a catchweight feature at 145 pounds.
Kavanagh has raced out to a 4-0 mark since turning pro in 2015. She cut her teeth in the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts promotion before touching down in Bellator, where she put a unanimous decision over Elina Kallionidou in the books at Bellator 169 in December. Kavanagh was a five-time national boxing champion in her native Ireland.
The 32-year-old Razafiarison has not fought since she lost a unanimous decision to Bryanna Fissori in her promotional debut at Bellator 139 nearly two years ago. The defeat interrupted a two-fight losing streak for the Frenchwoman.
The British Association of Mixed Martial Arts will co-promote BAMMA 28 as part of the Bellator 173 festivities, marking the second time the two organizations have linked arms.
A battle for the vacant lightweight championship highlights the BAMMA portion of the event, as “The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes” winner Norman Parke locks horns with Paul Redmond. Parke went 5-3-1 in nine appearances with the Ultimate Fighting Championship but parted ways with the promotion following a unanimous decision loss to Rustam Khabilov at UFC Fight Night 84. He has since rebounded, outpointing Andrew Fisher at an Absolute Championship Berkut show on Oct. 1 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Redmond, 30, washed out of the UFC after suffering back-to-back defeats to Mirsad Bektic and Robert Whiteford. The Cage Warriors Fighting Championship veteran made his BAMMA debut in September, when he earned a three-round unanimous decision over Chris Stringer.