Bellator Paris Return on May 12 Headlined by Mousasi vs. Edwards

Bellator MMA is officially going back to France this year.

Via press release on Thursday, the organization announced that its return trip to Paris on 2023 will take place on May 12. Posting up once more in the Accor Arena, Bellator will bring a tournament quarterfinal and a middleweight headliner that has major championship implications to the currently unnumbered event. The main event sees ex-champ Gegard Mousasi (49-8-2) seek his 50th pro victory against the resurgent Brit Fabian Edwards (11-2). In the second-to-last tilt, Sidney Outlaw (16-5) battles Mansour Barnaoui (20-4) for a place in lightweight grand prix semifinals.

Mousasi saw his championship run at 185 pounds come to a grinding halt at the hands of unbeaten Johnny Eblen in June 2022, suffering his first defeat since winning his belt back in 2020. The loss to Eblen put an end to his second reign – a feat no other middleweight titleholder has achieved in Bellator – and one that saw him register at least one defense in each run. “The Dreamcatcher” posts a solid finish rate of 82% as a pro, with a career littered with wins over names like Chris Weidman, Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort and Mark Hunt, to name a few.

Edwards rebounded off a pair of decision defeats to Costello van Steenis in 2020 and Austin Vanderford in 2021 by putting on a decent 2022 campaign. A first-round knockout over Lyoto Machida led to a match with Charlie Ward, and Edwards had his hand raised courtesy of the scorecards in his favor. Before losing to van Steenis, Edwards had strung together nine straight wins to begin his career, including five in the Bellator ranks.

Carrying on the 155-pound quarterfinals – a tournament that will commence in March – Outlaw and Barnaoui will throw down to advance. The brackets are not yet determined, but the victor may square off against the winner of the unannounced A.J. McKee vs. Patricky Freire battle likely coming in the first quarter of 2023. Outlaw has gone 2-2 in his last four dating back to late 2019, with first-round knockout defeats to Michael Chandler and Tofiq Musayev bookending wins over Adam Piccolotti and Myles Jury. His foe Barnaoui, the lone representative in the tourney from France, made his successful promotional debut in October 2022, where he submitted Piccolotti in Round 2 to make a statement. That triumph extended the win streak of “The Afro-Samurai” to eight, with all eight coming inside the distance.

In addition to the two main card matches, Bellator also released a pair of lightweight bouts on the preliminary portion of the lineup – both of which include Frenchmen against Englishmen. Saul Rogers (15-5) will face France’s Davy Gallon (21-8-2), and Thibault Gouti (16-6) throws down with Manchester’s own Kane Mousah (14-4). Rogers, Gallon and Gouti are all coming off decision losses at Bellator 287 in Italy, while Mousah won his last fight – albeit against the Bellator fighter with the most defeats in Georgi Karakhanyan.
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