Pairings Set for Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix, Including ‘Rumble’ vs. Romero

By Tristen Critchfield Feb 9, 2021

The lineup for the eight-man Bellator light heavyweight grand prix is now official.

The quarterfinals for the bracket will kick off at Bellator 256 on April 9 with a pair of 205-pound matchups: Ryan Bader vs. Lyoto Machida and Corey Anderson vs. Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov. Meanwhile, Bellator 257 on April 16 will see reigning champion Vadim Nemkov square off against Phil Davis, while Anthony Johnson will meet Yoel Romero in the other two quarterfinal pairings.

The semifinals of the grand prix are expected to take place sometime in July, and the championship bout is currently slated for October.

Bader and Machida initially fought at UFC on Fox 4 in August 2012, with “The Dragon” scoring a second-round knockout victory. Bader was briefly a two-division champion in Bellator but relinquished the 205-pound belt in his most recent outing, a second-round TKO loss to Nemkov at Bellator 244 this past August.

A former UFC light heavyweight champion, Machida has competed at both middleweight and 205 pounds during his Bellator tenure. Most recently, he dropped a split decision to Phil Davis at in a light heavyweight affair at Bellator 245 in September.

Anderson is coming off a second-round TKO of Melvin Manhoef in his promotional debut at Bellator 251. “Overtime” has won five of his last six pro outings, a run that also includes triumphs over Johnny Walker, Ilir Latifi and Glover Teixeira.

Turkmenistan’s Yagshimuradov is a relatively unknown in the field. The 31-year-old enters the bracket on an eight-bout winning streak that includes seven triumphs in Absolute Championship Berkut, where he was the organization’s 205-pound champion.

Nemkov is currently on a seven-bout winning streak in which he has finished all but one of his opponents inside the distance. The reigning light heavyweight champion’s lone bout to go to the judges occurred against upcoming foe Davis, when he took a split decision over “Mr. Wonderful” at Bellator 209 in November 2018.

A former Bellator 205-pound king, Davis has won three straight fights since falling to Nemkov. The Alliance MMA product garnered TKO wins over Liam McGeary and Karl Albrektsson in 2019 before edging Machida via split decision last year.

Johnson will be competing for the first time since April 2017, when he was submitted by Daniel Cormier in a 205-pound title bout at UFC 210. “Rumble’s” list of KO victims includes the likes of Teixeira, Bader, Jimi Manuwa, Alexander Gustaffson and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira.

Romero will make the move to light heavyweight after a lengthy run as a middleweight contender in the UFC. “The Soldier of God” is coming off a five-round decision loss to Israel Adesanya in a 185-pound championship clash at UFC 248 in March 2020.

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