Bellator 273: The Line Up

Getty Images

Bellator MMA will make its return in emphatic fashion this Saturday night as Bellator 273 Bader vs Moldavsky will be live from the capital of the Grand Canyon State, Phoenix, Arizona for a heavyweight unification bout. This will be Bellator’s second show at the Footprint Center in just over three months. Also returning from that same card is the former two division champion and current Bellator heavyweight champion, Ryan Bader. Bader will look to defend his title against yet another prodigy of Fedor Emelianenko, Valentin Moldavsky. The first Bellator event of 273 is shaping up to be a quality night of action, here’s the line up: 

Main Card:

(C) Ryan Bader (28-7)  vs (IC) Valentin Moldavsky (11-1)

Undisputed Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader will defend his belt for the second time as he is tasked with facing interim champion Valentin Moldavsky. Bader is remembered for his 18 fight run within the UFC’s light heavyweight division, leading up to his unceremonious departure from the promotion in late 2016. Since then, Bader has reinvented his entire brand since joining Bellator. He has become the promotion’s first champion to hold belts in two different weight classes simultaneously. Bader also lost his light heavyweight title to Vadim Nemkov. Nemkov’s Fedorteam peer, Valentin Moldavsky, will have an opportunity to retrieve the second belt from Bader on Saturday night. Moldavsky has been undefeated since joining Bellator in 2017, posting a perfect record of 6-0. The 29 year old is hitting his stride and harnessing a ton of momentum coming off of his main event win over Timothy Johnson last June. Serious implications are on the line, as Fedor Emelianenko seems to be eyeing a heavyweight rematch with Ryan Bader for what likely will be his final MMA fight this summer in Moscow. President Scott Coker is on board with this idea, however, Bader will first have to defeat Fedor’s teammate Valentin.  

#6 Benson Henderson (28-11) vs #7 Islam Mamedov (20-1-1)

Mixed martial arts legend Benson Henderson will take on Dagestani wrestler Islam Mamedov in a lightweight bout to serve as the appetizer for the main event. Henderson is a former UFC and WEC lightweight champion, who has been fighting top level competition for over a decade. He has also not earned a victory in over two years, losing most notably to Michael Chandler in their rematch by knockout in August of 2020. Islam Mamedov is yet another elite wrestler emerging from the Dagestan region. Mamedov is known for smothering his opponents with top control and sensational trapping of the arms. The co-main event is a classic striker vs grappler matchup.

Henry Corrales (19-6) vs Aiden Lee (10-5)

Henry Corrales will take on Aiden Lee in a featherweight bout. Corrales has been a professional for just over a decade, and is the former bantamweight and featherweight champion for the King of the Cage promotion. Corrales is 2-3 over his last five fights, but it should be noted that he lost to the current number one contender at bantamweight, Juan Archuleta, and is coming off of a decision victory just three months ago. His opponent, Aiden Lee, is a 26 year old prospect fighting out of Birmingham, England. Lee is coming off of a nearly identical layoff as he earned a first round submission victory at Bellator 269. Aiden earned his way to Bellator in 2019 by fighting his way through the ranks of Cage Warriors, totaling 8 fights in that two year span.

Sabah Homasi (15-10) vs Jaleel Willis (15-3)

Sabah Homasi will face off against Jaleel Willis in a welterweight bout. After going winless (0-2) in 2021, Sabah Homasi is looking for his first victory since his flying knee KO back in 2020. “The Sleek Sheik” is a product of American Top Team and has been fighting professionally for nearly 13 years. You may remember Sabah from his heated rivalry with Paul Daley that resulted in Homasi being TKO’d in the second round at Bellator 257. Jaleel Willis is fresh off of a submission loss from October of 2021, although that is his first loss since 2019, which ends a 6 fight win streak for him. Jaleel’s fan-friendly fighting style and personality make “The Realest” must see TV. Not a bad choice by Bellator to have this fight open the main card, expect a high pace here. 

Preliminary Card:

(#10 FTW) Darrion Caldwell (15-5) vs Enrique Barzola (17-5-2)

Darrion Caldwell will take on Enrique Barzola in a bantamweight bout. Caldwell will return to bantamweight for the first time since losing in a title fight to Kyoji Horiguchi in June of 2019. Since then, Darrion fought at featherweight three times, then most recently at a catchweight of 138 lbs. He is currently on a two fight skid, including a submission loss to A.J. McKee and a split decision loss to Leandro Higo. Enrique “El Fuerte” Barzola has not fought since he left the UFC in 2020 following his draw against Rani Yahya. All ten of his fights in the UFC went the distance as Barzola’s durability has allowed him to never be finished.

Saad Awad (24-13) vs Chris Gonzalez (6-1)

Saad Awad will take on Chris Gonzalez in a lightweight bout. A veteran of the fight game, Saad Awad has been fighting professionally for just under 16 years, and this will mark his 23rd consecutive fight under the Bellator banner. From his debut in 2013 to 2019, he was averaging well over 3 fights per calendar year. His last two performances were his only outings of 2020 and 2021, indicating a major shift in his professional career. His opponent Chris Gonzalez is coming off of the first loss of his professional career. Looking to get back on the path towards the lightweight title, the Team Alpha Male product is known for his ground and pound and high level wrestling background.

Dalton Rosta (5-0) vs Duane Johnson (6-2)

Undefeated fighter Dalton Rose looks to remain perfect when he takes on Duane Johnson in a middleweight bout. “Hercules” Rosa has fought exclusively with Bellator as a professional and trains out of American Top Team. The 26 year old has shown he is ready for the challenges ahead of him, displaying both the ability to finish the fight with three straight KO’s to start his career and the ability to go the distance with two decision victories in his most recent fights. His opponent Duane “The Rock” Johnson (not to be confused with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is seven years his senior and coming off of a Brabo choke victory in his Bellator debut last August. Johnson took a two year hiatus but returned with a vengeance in 2021, coming away with a 30 second KO and his aforementioned submission victory. 

Sullivan Cauley (2-0) vs Ben Parrish (5-1)

The undefeated Sullivan Cauley will put his perfect record on the line when he faces off against Ben “Big Tuna” Parrish in a light heavyweight bout. Cauley is a 25 year old Arizona native having his second straight appearance held at the Footprint Center. Both of his victories within Bellator have come by first round knockout, including a buzzer-beater finish in his most recent outing at Bellator 268. Across the cage, Ben Parrish has never been past a second round in his career, tallying four submission wins and one win by knockout. His only loss came at the hands of a leg injury. His Bellator debut last September resulted in a 38 second KO victory, which was a massive statement at the time as he was coming off of his first ever loss.

Weber Almeida (5-1) vs Fabricio Franco (8-4)

Weber Almeida will face off against last minute replacement, Fabricio Franco, in a featherweight bout. Almeida hails from Cuiaba, Brazil and is a member of Team Machida. The 34-year old is a natural born finisher, earning knockouts in all 5 of his victories. His one loss came in his most recent fight with Johnny Soto, which was his first time ever going the distance. His opponent, Fabricio Franco, is making his Bellator debut nearly eight years into his career on just five day’s notice. His most recent fight last September ended a two year hiatus for himself, although he came up short with a decision loss. The 27 year old Brazilian was on a seven fight win streak leading up to his hiatus, and has won 6 of his 8 fights by (T)KO.

Lucas Brennan (5-0) vs Ben Lugo (5-4)

Lucas Brennan will look to keep his record perfect when he takes on Ben Lugo in a featherweight fight. Lucas “Skywalker” Brennan is just 21 years old representing Texas in his sixth professional fight. Lucas has earned three submissions and one TKO, most recently earning a first round anaconda choke victory at Bellator 260. Having only fought with Bellator professionally, Lucas will welcome his opponent Ben Lugo to the promotion. Ben is 11 years older than Brennan and did the brunt of his work in the Sparta Combat League. The Colorado native has not fought since August of 2020, when he dropped his LFA debut in a majority decision defeat.

Nikita Mikhailov (7-1) vs Blaine Shutt (8-5)

Nikita Mikhailov will open up Bellator 273 when he faces off against Blaine Shutt. The 23 year old Russian is teammates with heavyweight interim champion Valentin Moldavsky over at Fedorteam. He is returning off the back of a decision victory in his Bellator debut, which occurred three months ago in Russia. Nikita is a bright prospect who’s only loss has come by submission due to a triangle choke. This is noteworthy when considering the strengths of his opponent, Blaine Shutt. Blaine has earned 6 of his 8 career victories by submission (including two by triangle choke). He also is coming off of his Bellator debut, although Shutt was defeated via unanimous decision.

Massachusetts native currently writing for Severe MMA. Former writer for Neutral Zone LLC. Follow me on Twitter @lander_theo, LinkedIn and Youtube @ Theo Lander for articles and event coverage.