Bellator 278 & Bellator 279: The Line Up(s)

Credit: BellatorMMA/Lucas Noonan

278 Main Card

Flyweight World Title Bout: C-Juliana Velasquez (12-0) vs. #2-Liz Carmouche (16-7)

Juliana Velasquez will look to make the second defense of her Bellator Flyweight title when she faces off against women’s MMA trailblazer Liz Carmouche. Juliana has remained perfect thus far in her career, and she’s racked up seven wins since joining Bellator. The Brazilian trains with the famed Team Nogueira gym in Rio de Janeiro. Juliana is widely regarded as one of the best flyweights in the world, and she faces a sizable challenge in the form of Liz Carmouche. Carmouche is an iconic figure in the history of women competing in mixed martial arts. Many will remember Liz for being the fighter opposite of Ronda Rousey in what was the first ever women’s title fight in UFC history. Her previous opponents are a who’s-who of top level female fighters with the likes of Miesha Tate, Jessica Andrade, and she even holds a win over Valentina Shevchenko (although Shevchenko avenged this loss in 2019, which was Liz’s last UFC contest).

https://twitter.com/BellatorMMA/status/1511031802940452867

Bantamweight World Grand Prix Wild Card Bout: #9-Jornel Lugo (8-0) vs. Danny Sabatello (11-1)

The Bellator Bantamweight World Grand Prix begins with a wild card matchup between ninth-ranked Jornel Lugo and Danny Sabatello to determine who will face Leandro Higo in the quarter finals. Lugo is undefeated thus far, with five Bellator victories under his belt since joining the promotion. You may remember Lugo from his most recent decision win over Brian Moore at Bellator 275. “A1” is still only 26 with a dangerous submission game and tons of room to improve before he reaches his apex. Sabatello has not fought since he won his Bellator debut by decision against Brett Johns. “The Italian Gangster” went on a five fight winning streak within the span of a year after suffering his only professional loss in 2019 for Titan FC. Danny is also a product of American Top Team.

https://twitter.com/UFCFightPass/status/1170497293130158080

Light Heavyweight Bout: Christian Edwards (5-1) vs. Grant Neal (6-1)

Bellator prospect Christian Edwards takes on fellow young-gun Grant Neal in a light heavyweight bout. Edwards is only 23 years old and coming off of the first loss of his career, a 38 second TKO defeat at the hands of Ben Parrish. He debuted with Bellator in 2019 with two consecutive knockout wins which each took less than a minute. Edwards will also enjoy a six inch height advantage in this matchup. His opponent, Grant Neal is just three years older and coming off of the first loss of his career at Bellator 266. Before then, he was undefeated through six fights with his two most recent victories coming by way of submission.

160-Pound Contract Weight Bout: Manny Muro (12-7) vs. Nate Andrews (16-4)

Manny Muro will face off against Nate Andrews at a catchweight of 160 pounds. Manny is a seven year veteran of mixed martial arts who first debuted with Bellator in 2017. After winning two straight fights in Bellator over the likes of Nick Newell and Devin Powell, he suffered a TKO loss to Usman Nurmagomedov at Bellator 263. Muro is also a former champion under the Sugar Creek Showdown banner. Andrews has been fighting for ten years and is a former CES champion. He had a three fight run in PFL in 2019 that saw him go 1-2 with the promotion. He is currently on a two fight losing streak with his most recent loss coming at the hands of Saad Awad via TKO at Bellator 259.

160-Pound Contract Weight Bout: Enrique Barzola (17-5-2) vs Nikita Mikhailov (9-1)

Enrique Barzola and Nikita Mikhailov will open up the Bellator 278 main card with a catchweight fight contested at 160 pounds. Enrique is perhaps most remembered for winning the second season of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America. The Peruvian went 6-3-1 with the UFC until his release in 2020. “El Fuerte” is a member of the American Kickboxing Academy and won his Bellator debut via third round TKO at Bellator 273 over Darrion Caldwell. Nikita Mikhailov is stepping in to replace Josh Hill on this card. The Russian is just 23 and riding the momentum of a five fight winning streak. He also scored a third round TKO at Bellator 273, this time over Blaine Shutt. Both opponents will enjoy the luxury of not cutting weight, as they both most recently fought in the bantamweight division, giving them an extra 24 pound allowance.

278 Preliminary Card:

Featherweight Bout: Weber Almeida (5-1) vs. Fabricio Franco (8-4)

Weber Almeida and Fabricio Franco will headline the preliminary card in a featherweight bout. Weber just suffered the first loss of his career to Johnny Soto at Bellator 258. Before then, he had 5 wins, 4 of which came by knockout. The Brazilian also represents XGym out of Rio De Janeiro. Franco is seven years younger than Weber and trains out of MMA Masters. This event marks Franco’s Bellator debut on the heels of a loss in Combate Global that saw his 7 fight winning streak snapped. This is the second time this matchup has been booked, as Franco missed weight when this bout was originally scheduled for Bellator 273.  

Welterweight Bout: Makoa Cooper (1-0) vs. Blake Perry (pro debut)

Makoa Cooper will take on Blake Perry in a welterweight bout. Makoa is just 21 years old and a native Hawaiian. His two amateur fights and one professional fight have all ended via stoppage, with his pro debut ending in a nine second KO for Titan FC. Perry is also a native Hawaiian who will be making his professional debut in this fight. He has a kickboxing background and has been fighting in the amateur scene for four years now. Perry also was on the receiving end of a nine second KO from Makoa Cooper’s brother, Blake Cooper.

Bantamweight Bout: Erik Perez (20-8) vs. Cee Jay Hamilton (15-9)

Erik Perez will face off against Cee Jay Hamilton in a bantamweight bout. Erik is a former UFC fighter of four years, as he was let go by the UFC in 2016 despite being on a three fight winning streak. He came up fighting on the New Mexico and Southern Texas regional scenes and is 1-2 since joining Bellator in 2019. Cee Jay has fought professionally for nine years for promotions such as Titan FC, LFA, DWCS, and Combate. He debuted for Bellator last year and lost both fights via second round finish.

Lightweight Bout: Zach Zane (15-11) vs. Tofiq Musayev (18-4)

Zach Zane will open up the Bellator 278 preliminary card when he takes on Tofiq Musayev in a lightweight bout. Zach last fought for Bellator at Bellator 236, where the native Hawaiian was victorious on home turf. Since then he has gone 1-2 in mixed martial arts competition, with the one victory over that stretch being a seven second knockout. He has fought for BKFC, LFA, Eagle FC, and Fierce FC since his Bellator debut. Tofiq is most known for his underdog victory over Patricky Pitbull to win the Rizin lightweight grand prix title in 2019. The Azerbaijani was on a 14 fight winning streak before losing his last fight via first round submission in what was his final Rizin fight and an attempt to capture the vacant lightweight title.

279 Main Card

Featherweight World Title Bout: C-Cris “Cyborg” (25-2) vs. #1-Arlene Blencowe (15-8)

A featherweight world title fight rematch serves as the headliner for Bellator 279 as number one ranked Arlene Blencowe seeks her redemption against Cris Cyborg. In their first match, Cyborg was able to earn the victory quite handily, sealing the deal with a rear naked choke which marked the first submission win of her career. She would go on to defend her title twice more, featuring TKO wins over Leslie Smith and Sinead Kavanagh, totaling 20 knockout victories over her entire career. Cyborg is widely regarded as one of the best female fighters of all time and an iconic figure in the history of women’s mixed martial arts. Since their first meeting, Arlene has won two straight as well, featuring a late stoppage victory over Dayana Silva and a unanimous decision win over Pam Sorenson. She’s getting this shot nearly a decade into her career and at the age of 38, so the urgency is even higher than any typical title shot.

Interim Bantamweight World Title Bout: #1-Juan Archuleta (25-3) vs. #3-Raufeon Stots (17-1)

Juan Archuleta is stepping in to replace undisputed champion Sergio Pettis (forced to withdraw due to ACL injury) in what will now be an interim title fight in the opening round of the bantamweight grand prix against third-ranked Raufeon Stots. Juan has been with Bellator since 2018, going 7-2 over that stretch with his most recent loss coming to Sergio Pettis for the bantamweight title. Juan has not returned since losing his championship, and a victory here would mark his first since 2020. 11 of Archuleta’s 25 victories have been knockouts. Raufeon Stots has to deal with the adversity of a late opponent change, something he has already successfully handled in his career previously. Stots is on a nine fight unbeaten streak, including a perfect 5-0 record in Bellator. After his most recent victory, he joined Petr Yan in becoming the second man to hand Magomed Magomedov a professional loss. Stots trains at Roufusport MMA Academy alongside champion Sergio Pettis.

Bantamweight World Grand Prix Opening Round Bout: #2-Patchy Mix (15-1) vs. #5-Kyoji Horiguchi (29-4)

High level bantamweights go head to head in the opening round of the bantamweight grand prix when Patchy Mix meets Kyoji Horiguchi. Mix is now the second ranked bantamweight fighter following his submission victory over James Gallagher. His last five wins have all been by submission, and he has a 68% submission rate. He is now with WNY MMA after having a public split with Jackson Wink MMA last year. Kyoji Horiguchi is returning for the first time since his spinning backfist KO loss to Sergio Pettis at Bellator 272. Prior to that, many were claiming Kyoji was Bellator’s rightful bantamweight champion, since he had vacated the belt and gone on to claim Rizin’s bantamweight title afterwards. After essentially controlling the entire fight against Sergio Pettis, he was brutally finished and now finds himself putting the pieces back together ahead of this fight. Thankfully, he was able to recover relatively quickly after being stretchered out of the cage, and is returning just four months later.

Flyweight Bout: #1-Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (11-1) vs. Justine Kish (7-5)

Ilima-Lei Macfarlane will open up the main card when she faces off against Justine Kish in a flyweight bout. Macfarlane is coming off of a near year and a half layoff on the heels of her first professional loss to Juliana Velasquez. Since then she did defeat Jessica Eye in a grappling match via overtime arm bar; she has four professional victories by way of arm bar. A natural finisher, Macfarlane made her professional debut with a ten second KO. Her career stoppage rate is at 75%. Justine Kish is presented with a massive opportunity here as an unranked fighter taking on the number one contender. She was not re-signed by the UFC after going 3-4 with the promotion, and has since lost her Bellator debut to DeAnna Barrett. This fight will be a quick turn around for her debut, just two months later.

279 Preliminary Card:

Featherweight Bout: Janay Harding (6-5) vs. Dayana Silva (9-7)

Janay Harding will headline the preliminary card when she takes on Dayana Silva. Janay is a Kiwi mixed martial artist with a background in karate and boxing. She is 3-3 with Bellator since joining in 2018 and lost her last fight to Leah McCourt via triangle choke. Janay is also 0-2 as a professional boxer. Dayana is based out of Rio de Janeiro and is 0-2 in Bellator. However, those two losses are to Julia Budd and Arlene Blencowe. She is a 13 year veteran of the fight game who has been fighting since she was 18.  

Lightweight Bout: Lance Gibson Jr. (5-0) vs. Nainoa Dung (4-2)

Lance Gibson Jr. will put his undefeated record on the line when he faces off against Nainoa Dung in a lightweight bout. Lance fights out of British Columbia and trains with Bellator fighter Julia Budd. He has finished four of his five fights, mainly by knockout. Lance is known as a quality wrestler, earning All-American status with the Federal Way Spartans. Nainoa Dung is a 23 year old Hawaiian with a striking background. “The Baby Faced Assassin” debuted with Bellator at just 19 years old and is 3-2 within the promotion. Dung trains out of Hard Knocks 365 alongside Stefan Struve and Linton Vassell.

Featherweight Bout: #9-Justin Gonzalez (12-1) vs. Kai Kamaka III (9-4-1)

Ninth ranked Justin Gonzalez will take on Kai Kamaka III in a featherweight bout. Justin has been a professional fighter for six years and has been with Bellator since last June. He suffered his only professional loss in his last fight against Aaron Pico in which he was bested over three rounds. Five of the Colorado native’s twelve wins are by finish. He was also undefeated through nine fights as an amateur. Kai is from Ewa Beach, Hawaii and has been fighting for over a decade at this point. He had a 1-2-1 run with the UFC before returning to Bellator with a victory over John De Jesus. Kai has a wrestling and boxing background with one professional kickboxing victory.

Welterweight Bout: Goiti Yamauchi (26-5) vs. Levan Chokheli (10-1)

Goiti Yamauchi will face off with Levan Chokheli in a welterweight bout. Goiti has been with Bellator for nearly nine years and holds twenty wins by submission while having never been finished. The Jiu-Jitsu ace is 4-1 over his last five bouts, including his most recent victory, a TKO win over Chris Gonzalez. Levan represents Tbilisi, Georgia and is just 25 years old. Nine of his ten victories are by (T)KO, all of which came in the first round. His only loss was to Kyle Crutchmer at Bellator 260, which was his promotional debut. He did, however, bounce back with his first ever decision win in his most recent fight. 

Lightweight Bout: #6-Emmanuel Sanchez (20-7) vs. Yancy Medeiros (15-8, 1 NC)

Sixth ranked Emmanuel Sanchez takes on Yancy Medeiros in a lightweight bout. Emmanuel Sanchez finds himself on a three fight losing skid heading into this matchup. It should be noted that those three losses did come at the hands of Patricio Pitbull, Mads Burnell and Jeremy Kennedy. The 31 year old has been fighting for more than a decade and is 12-6 with Bellator since his promotional debut in 2014. Eight of his twenty wins are by submission. Yancy Medeiros is Hawaiian mixed martial arts icon who had an eight year career with the UFC. He’s fought an extensive list of elite talent, including Dustin Poirier, Donald Cerrone, and Jim Miller. Twelve of his fifteen wins are by way of finish.

Lightweight Bout: Keoni Diggs (9-1) vs. Bobby King (11-4)

Keoni Diggs will face off against Bobby King in a lightweight bout. Keoni is yet another native Hawaiian on this card, hailing from Wahiawa, Hawaii. This will be his first fight since he suffered a split decision loss to Daniel Weichel at Bellator 261. Now the 35 year old will look to get back in the winning column to earn his first win in nearly two years. He has also won by submission in six of his nine victories. Bobby King is fresh off of a thriller of a one round battle against blue chip prospect Aviv Gozali. He has finished eight of his eleven wins, including three arm bar victories. Bobby has gone 2-1 since debuting with Bellator last June.

120-Pound Contract Weight Bout: Randi Field (2-1) vs. Maraya Miller (1-1)

Randi Field will meet Maraya Miller at a catchweight of 120 pounds. Randi suffered her only professional loss when she was submitted by Sumiko Inaba in her Bellator debut. Now six months later she’ll share the card with Inaba as the Windsor, Ontario fighter will look to earn the first victory of her Bellator career. Half of her amateur losses (2) were also by submission. Miller fights out of California and will be making her Bellator debut in this fight. Her only two professional fights were in Combate Global, where she lost her most recent contest by submission due to a rear naked choke. 

Flyweight Bout: Sumiko Inaba (3-0) vs. Whittany Pyles (3-4)

Hawaiian fan favorite Sumiko Inaba will open up the preliminary card when she takes on Whittany Pyles. “Lady Samurai” has only fought for Bellator professionally and has won all those fights by finish. Including her amateur career, Inaba has an 80% finishing rate. Whitney Pyles began her career 0-3, but has since turned a corner and is now 3-1 over her last four fights. Pyles had a perfect amateur record that garnered her an 80% finishing rate over the span of 8 years.

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.