This Weekend’s Warriors: Bellator Milan

After an action-packed week that saw Irish fighters shine across Cage Warriors, Bellator and UAE Warriors last week, the Irish MMA train keeps rolling as Bellator continue their series of Italian events with Bellator 248 and Bellator ES9: Gallagher vs Ellenor on tap for this week.

As always, This Weekend’s Warriors is back in your life, but there’s been a change of plans! No longer will I solely focus on Irish fighters competing at home and abroad. No, no, no. As the great Bob Dylan taught us, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” and so must we. With a plethora of talent calling Ireland their home (even if only temporarily for some), it’s time we at Severe MMA shine a light on MMA practitioners who base themselves here in Ireland and represent this fine country inside the cage. So on that note, let’s get to it!

Thursday 1st Oct: Bellator 247

Flyweight: Blaine O’Driscoll (SBG Ireland) vs Salah Elkas

Image Credit: Lucas Noonan / Bellator MMA

Blaine O’Driscoll (8-3) will look to build some momentum coming off the back of his first round KO over Ezzoubair Bouarsa (7-1) at Bellator Dublin in February. The former WWFC flyweight champion will face France’s Salah Elkas (6-6) on the prelims portion of Bellator 247. Elkas comes into the contest on a two-fight skid, and he last fought over 5 years ago. O’Driscoll should be a heavy favourite here, having looked impressive in his pro career. The Dubliner’s most recent loss last September to Jake Hadley looks a whole lot better when you consider the 1st-round demolition job Hadley carried out on Shajidul Haque last week at Cage Warriors 114 too. I think O’Driscoll gets a stoppage victory in Milan.

Welterweight: Constantin Gnusariov (SBG Ireland) vs Kywan Gracie

Image Credit: Lucas Noonan / Bellator MMA

Constantin (or “Kosti”) Gnusariov (3-0-1) returns to the cage for the first time in over a year as he welcomes Kywan Gracie (1-0) to the Bellator welterweight ranks on Thursday. The Moldovan wrestler is undefeated in MMA, having previously fought to a draw with Kieran Lister last year. Gnusariov’s last outing saw him emerge victorious from a very close contest with Team Ryano’s Ian Coughlan to open the Bellator Dublin card in September 2019. Kywan Gracie is the grandson of Carlos Gracie and is a black belt under BJJ legend Roger Gracie. Gracie fights out of England and marked his MMA debut with a 1st-round KO over an 0-6 Jake Watkins at Celtic Gladiator last year.

Women’s Flyweight: Mandy Böhm (SBG Ireland) vs Griet Eeckhout

Image Credit: Lucas Noonan / Bellator MMA

Mandy Böhm (6-0) will make her Bellator debut against Belgian’s Griet Eeckhout (5-3-1). The undefeated German prospect went 5-0 on the German circuit, training out of Fight Club Gelsenkirchen before making the transition to SBG Ireland in January 2019. Böhm has competed once with head coach John Kavanagh in her corner, when “Monster” submitted then undefeated Jade Masson-Wong in the 3rd round to claim the vacant TKO flyweight championship in Quebec, Canada last May. Böhm will look to expand on her unblemished MMA record as she takes on Eeckhout. “Painapple” is coming into the contest riding a two-fight win streak, though Böhm is the toughest test on paper of Eeckhout’s career to date.

Featherweight: Brian Moore (SBG Ireland) vs Simone D’Anna

Image Credit: Lucas Noonan / Bellator MMA

Brian Moore (12-7) returns to the Bellator cage for the first time in 17 months this Thursday. The Wexford native was previously scheduled to fight Toby Misech in Dublin last September, but Moore was forced off that card due to a hand injury. “Pikeman” was also signed to fight in California in May of this year, but the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to that. Moore most recently defeated Son Le Binh in a dominant unanimous decision victory. The SBG Ireland veteran welcomes Italy’s Simone D’Anna (7-2) back to the Bellator cage for his second stint with the promotion. D’Anna fought under the promotional banner once before, suffering a 6-second head kick KO back at Bellator 203. Since then, D’Anna has gone 3-0. Moore will be looking to build momentum with a win over D’Anna, and watch for him to call out Ricky Bandejas if there’s a victorious post-fight interview. The time is now for the SBG man. Moore has been repeatedly calling for big names, and with many fans and media expecting Moore to be given the headlining spot after Daley vs Anderson was called off, all eyes will be on the Wexford fighter on Thursday evening.

Sat 3rd Oct: Bellator ES9 – Gallagher vs Ellenor

Welterweight: Marek Jakimowicz (IFS Belfast) vs Curtis Dodge (SBG Ireland)

Poland’s Marek Jakimowicz and Wales’ Dodge will square off in a battle of Belfast vs Dublin for the Irish-trained pair. Jakimowicz trains out of IFS Belfast and is making his professional debut this Saturday after a 4-2 amateur run, which saw all 4 wins come via stoppage. Dodge fights is a freestyle wrestler training out of SBG Ireland,who previously won a bronze medal at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games for Wales. Dodge will also make his pro debut after two 1st-round stoppages during his 2-0 amateur MMA career.

Featherweight: Asael Adjoudj (SBG Ireland) vs Nathan Jessimer

Image Credit: Lee Hamilton-Cooper / Bellator MMA

Asael Adjoudj (0-1) is in search of his first professional as he takes on Scotland’s Nathan Jessimer (1-1). The French-Moroccan made his pro debut inside Dublin’s 3 Arena in February, losing a close decision to Team Ryano’s Constantin Blanita in a very entertaining contest, which split the judges’ scorecards. Jessimer will make his Bellator debut, having last fought in 2018 when he defeated Andy Nunn via 1st-round KO.

Featherweight: Sinéad Kavanagh (SBG Ireland) vs Katharina Lehner

Image Credit: Gary Carr / INPHO

Sinéad Kavanagh (6-4) will headline the prelims portion of Saturday’s card when she welcomes German Katharina Lehner (7-2) to the Bellator Women’s featherweight division. The Dubliner displayed her best performance to date in her last outing, dispatching former title contender Olga Rubin in the second round via standing TKO in her opponent’s back yard.

Lehner is a former Invicta FC title challenger and previously competed on The Ultimate Fighter Season 28. A win for Kavanagh would push her further up the division, setting up fights with the likes of Cat Zingano or a potential rematch with Leslie Smith, having won their first contest in many people’s eyes despite the judges’ scorecards.

160lbs Catchweight: Kiefer Crosbie (SBG Ireland) vs Charlie Leary

Image Credit: Lee Hamilton-Cooper / Bellator MMA

Kiefer Crosbie (8-1) faces the biggest test of his career to date when he steps into the cage with Charlie Leary (16-11-1) on Saturday. Despite his record currently showing a 2-fight win streak, the reality is that “Big Daddy” is essentially undefeated, with his sole loss coming by way of DQ as a result of an illegal knee.

The Dubliner officially got back to winning ways in Dublin last September with a win over Hugo Pereira, and he followed it up with another over Iamik Furtado on the promotion’s return to Ireland’s capital. The latter was a close affair, splitting the judges’ scorecards. A win over a veteran like Leary would be a solid next step in Crosbie’s career, and likely springboard the SBG fighter into bigger name matchups as he makes his way up the Bellator ranks.

Co-Main Event – Middleweight: Charlie Ward (SBG Ireland) vs Andy Manzolo

Image Credit: Lee Hamilton-Cooper / Bellator MMA

Charlie Ward (8-4) features in the co-main event of Saturday’s card as he welcomes Estonia’s Andy Manzolo (23-8) back to the Bellator middleweight division. After a disappointing UFC tenure, Ward has found rejuvenated success since signing for Bellator, amassing a 5-1 record under the promotional banner. Most recently, the Laois man scored a third-round KO over Kyle Kurtz in front of raucous Dublin crows inside the 3 Arena at Bellator 240. Ward is a proven knockout artist, with all 5 of his Bellator wins coming by way of stoppage. Manzolo’s ground game is his forte with 13 submission wins on his record to date. If Ward can keep this fight standing, I think it’s likely that he adds another KO to his record.

Main Event – Bantamweight: James Gallagher (SBG Ireland) vs Cal Ellenor

Image Credit: Lee Hamilton-Cooper / Bellator MMA

The Jimmy Show makes its way to Milan, as James Gallagher (10-1) and Cal Ellenor (8-2) will FINALLY square off in the cage. Fourth time will hopefully be the charm for this matchup, with Gallagher and Ellenor previously being scheduled to fight on three separate occasions. A worrying brain scan led to Ellenor’s withdrawal from the first contest. The second time it was Gallagher who was forced to withdraw with a back injury. When we finally thought we were going to see them face off in May, COVID-19 had other plans. What was once a respectful sporting contest between two of Ireland and the UK’s promising bantamweight prospects, the matchup has evolved into a grudge match between two foes who have gradually developed bad blood with every frustrating fight cancellation.

“The Strabanimal” is undoubtedly Bellator’s biggest star in Europe, but it’s his ability to back up the persona that has kept him in the limelight under the promotional banner. With just one loss in his career, the 23-year-old 10-year veteran racked up a trio of consecutive wins in 2019, capping off a successful year with a 1st-round choke of Roman Salazar in the main event of Bellator 227 last September. From the sold-out 3 Arena shows to a crowdless Allianz Cloud Arena, Gallagher will face his toughest test since the Bandejas fight when he steps in with TFT MMA’s Ellenor. “The Sunderland Strangler” is no cannon fodder here. With notable wins over Aidan Stephen and Nathan Greyson, Ellenor has proven that he is a finisher. With 5 submissions to his name, Ellenor poses real danger when the fight hits the mat. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is James Gallagher’s forte though, so it will be interesting to see who reigns supreme in this area of the fight. I think that this fight has potential to be an absolute barnburner, and if Gallagher can overcome the threats that Ellenor poses him on Saturday, the SBG Ireland star could well face the upper echelon of the division next, having repeatedly called out Sergio Pettis since his signing to Bellator.

Broadcast Details

Bellator 247: Jackson vs Kielholtz
Date: Thursday 1st October
Prelims: 6pm on Bellator MMA YouTube
Main Card: 9pm on Sky Sports Mix

Bellator ES9: Gallagher vs Ellenor
Date: Saturday 3rd October
Prelims: 6.15pm on Bellator MMA YouTube
Main Card: 10pm on Virgin Media Two (Ireland) / Channel 5 (UK)

Andy is a writer, interviewer, and occasional podcaster. Andy's work features on SevereMMA.com, The Severe MMA Podcast, and EuroMMAHub.com. Andy heavily focuses on the Irish MMA scene. Feel free to reach out to Andy on Twitter @andyste123