Bellator MMA's final card on Showtime, and possibly their last event ever was one of the best in its 14 year history. The MMA gods were smiling down on the promotion, as it went out with a huge bang, featuring two highlight-reel stoppages in as many title fights, with each winner staking a claim as the best fighter in the world at his weight in any promotion.
In the main event, Bellator welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov pitted his amazing, undefeated 27-0 record and crown on the line. One of the best overall grapplers at any weight, Amosov had also shown good striking and excellent cardio, first dominating previous champion Douglas Lima to win the crown in 2021 with grappling and then dominating multiple-time NCAA wrestling champion Logan Storley with striking earlier this year. Many compared him to Kamaru Usman, a huge, dominant wrestler who had developed dangerous striking and superb conditioning. However, facing him was an analogue to Leon Edwards in the supremely skilled challenger Jason Jackson. Like Edwards, he was a silky-smooth kickboxer with underrated, excellent wrestling, amazing takedown defense and ability to get back up, endless cardio, and a very long frame, standing 6' 1” with a ridiculous 78.5” reach at welterweight. He had won six in a row to gain a title shot, including dominant wins over dangerous grapplers in Benson Henderson and Neiman Gracie, and similarly dominating Lima with his own grappling. It was a clash of two titans, and Jackson came out the victor. Right away, he was able to repeatedly stuff Amosov's takedown attempts while finding the range more and more on his feet. While Round 1 was very close, Jackson hurt Amosov with knees and uppercuts in Round 2 and then scored a devastating combo in the third frame, first splattering him to the canvas with a perfect right cross and then putting his lights out completely with a gorgeous right uppercut. It was a sensational victory, handing Amosov the first defeat of his career, and establishing an outstanding new welterweight champion in Jackson.
In the co-main event, the bantamweight crown was unified when champion Sergio Pettis met interim king Patrick Mix. A top contender in the UFC flyweight division, Pettis had been unstoppable when at the age of 25 and still improving, he went to Bellator and moved up to bantamweight. Winning the 135-pound crown from Juan Archuleta in 2021, he had then defended with Sherdog's 2021 Knockout of the Year against Kyoji Horiguchi with a crazy spinning back-fist in a fight he was losing. Pettis then defended a second time by defeating Patricio Freire, who was looking to become an unprecedented triple champion, adding a bantamweight crown to his featherweight and lightweight titles. Instead, it was Pettis winning a clear decision. Yet, Mix was still the favorite, having established himself as possibly the best submission grappler in all of MMA, even dominating other exceptional grapplers with submissions of Magomed Magomedov and James Gallagher, a five-round domination of Horiguchi, and a sensational knee knockout of Raufeon Stots. Indeed, in a battle of the best striking versus the best grappling, it was the latter that won out. Mix took Pettis down easily enough and in the second, used his unbelievable mix of strength and agility to take the back and lock in a lightning-quick, tight rear-naked choke, forcing the champion to tap. Mix is now the new champion and there might not be a bantamweight on the planet a sportsbook would favor against him.
In other top fights, the aforementioned Stots fought a rematch against bitter rival Danny Sabatello. The bout being shortened from five rounds to three was to its benefit, as it was non-stop action for all 15 minutes, with amazing grappling sequences and explosive strikes. Sabatello was too big and strong in Round 1, but Stots used his superior skills and intelligence to come back and win Rounds 2 and 3, taking the decision 29-28 on all three cards. A.J. McKee was repeatedly taken down by excellent grappler Sidney Outlaw, but was the only one delivering damage, even when on the bottom. That also included opening up a hideous cut that drenched the canvas with blood and almost caused the fight to be stopped. McKee took the unanimous verdict 30-27 across the board, which I consider a victory for proper judging. In a lightweight grand prix bout, Alexandr Shabliy put on a masterful performance against recent champion Patricky Freire, beating him to the punch and controlling the distance, winning all five rounds on every judges' scorecard, advancing to the final.
With one of Bellator's best events over, here are four intriguing matches that can be booked if the promotion lives on:
Alexandr Shabliy vs. Winner of Usman Nurmagomedov-Brent PrimusShabliy advanced to the Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix finals with his win, but it's unclear who he will face. That was originally supposed to be undefeated Bellator lightweight kingpin Nurmagomedov, but that's now unclear after he tested positive for a banned substance. Early indications are that Nurmagomedov will have to rematch ex-champion Primus. If that's the case, Shabliy should face the winner. If that's Nurmagomedov, it will be a sensational all-Russian duel, with Shabliy's outstanding takedown defense and top-notch striking pitted against Nurmagomedov's phenomenal grappling and increasingly potent stand-up.
Spike Carlyle, Roberto de Souza and now Sidney Outlaw. However, the difference with Freire is that the Brazilian won't solely be looking to wrestle like those other three. It's a big-name, intriguing fight with a high chance of a tremendous knockout finish one way or the other.
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