Phil Davis spoiled Yoel Romero’s Bellator MMA debut, and he might have ruined the best-laid plans of the promotion’s matchmakers along the way.
While “Mr. Wonderful” is undoubtedly one of the top light heavyweight talents in the world regardless of promotion, his split-decision triumph over Romero in the Bellator 266 main event — which was more decisive than the scorecards indicated — creates some interesting questions at the top of the division. The Bellator light heavyweight grand prix is still ongoing, and Romero would have provided a fresh face to potentially challenge the winner of that tournament. Instead it’s Davis, with an 0-2 record against both Vadim Nemkov and Ryan Bader, who remains a prominent figure at the top of the weight class.
What to do next with Davis is just one of many interesting matchmaking questions to emerge from Saturday’s card at the SAP Center in San Jose, Calif. Here are some fights that should happen in the aftermath of Bellator 266.
Phil Davis vs. Corey Anderson: Davis’ triumph over Romero in the Bellator 266 headliner is the type of high-profile performance that could warrant another title shot, but if either Nemkov or Bader emerges from the bracket, the matchup might not be that appealing to the California-based promotion — event though “Mr. Wonderful” was competitive in compiling an 0-4 record against both men. With slim pickings at the top of the division, here is our modest proposal: Pair Davis with Anderson, whether that means “Overtime” was eliminated from the grand prix or he’s the new light heavyweight champion. Either way, it gives Bellator a fresh fight between a pair of UFC veterans.
Yoel Romero vs. Jose Augusto Azevedo Barros: At 44 years old, Father Time may finally be catching up with the seemingly ageless Romero, who was unable to defend against Davis’ wrestling in the second half of their bout. Despite just one win on his record since 2017, “The Soldier of God” remains a marquee name in the division. A showdown with Augusto, who gave Anthony Johnson a scare in his promotional debut before suffering a second-round knockout loss at Bellator 258, could be an entertaining matchup for the Olympic silver medalist.
Neiman Gracie vs. Paul Daley: After securing the first technical knockout victory of his career against Mark Lemminger in the Bellator 266 co-headliner, Gracie rattled off a wish list of potential opponents in his post-fight interview. His requests included the likes of Michael Page, who is booked against Douglas Lima at Bellator 267 on Oct. 1; Jason Jackson, who defeated Gracie via unanimous decision in April; and Yaroslav Amosov, the reigning welterweight champion. Gracie isn’t quite ready for a title shot, and the masses aren’t exactly clamoring for a rematch with Jackson. The grappler vs. striker battle is intriguing, however, so we’ll give Gracie a compromise with a booking against another knockout artist in Paul Daley. Of course, getting “Semtex” to compete at the welterweight limit is another issue entirely, as catchweight fights have been his go-to in recent months.
DeAnna Bennett vs. Ilima-Lei Macfarlane: Bennett looked the best she has in quite some time, as she halted a three-bout skid with an impressive unanimous decision triumph over former flyweight title challenger Alejandra Lara. While someone with just three official wins in her last 11 bouts doesn’t seem like an ideal opponent for a an ex-champion one bout removed from her reign, Bennett vs. Macfarlane could be a fun fight to put on the undercard of an event featuring a Juliana Velasquez vs. Liz Carmouche flyweight championship clash. Macfarlane needs to stay active, and Bennett could be exactly the type of opponent to bring out the best in the Hawaiian standout. Bennett has plenty of experience of top-notch competition, as her list of past adversaries includes the likes of Carmouche, Roxanne Modafferi, Livinha Souza, Jennifer Maia and Julianna Pena.
Saul Rogers vs. Goiti Yamauchi: Rogers looked like a new man in his move up to lightweight, as he controlled Georgi Karakhanyan through takedowns, positional control and ground-and-pound en route to a clear-cut unanimous decision triumph. Rogers’ frame seems well suited to 155 pounds, and he could have an interesting challenge in Yamauchi, a renowned submission specialist coming off just the second KO/TKO finish of his 31-bout career against Christopher Gonzalez at Bellator 263.
Ben Parrish vs. Alex Polizzi: In an alternate universe, Bellator could have been planning a showdown between undefeated light heavyweights Christian Edwards and Grant Neal after Bellator 266. However, Parrish and Polizzi had other ideas. Parrish, the largest underdog on the card, knocked out Edwards in just 38 seconds in a featured 205-pound bout, while Polizzi edged Neal via split decision on the prelims. It only seems natural to put these two light heavyweight spoilers together on a future Bellator card to see what kind of magic might happen.
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