Here we are a few months into 2020 and MMA has mostly come to a standstill. With several significant events canceled as of late, MMA fans are starved for new fights. It could be days, it could be weeks or months. But eventually, things will return to normal in the MMA world, and Bellator will get back to putting on quality cards.
These are some of the fights that we would like to see booked throughout the remainder of 2020.
Patricio “Pitbull” Freire vs. AJ McKee
Patricio Pitbull vs. AJ McKee has the potential to be the biggest fight that Bellator puts on in 2020 and the great thing is that nobody can mess up this booking outside of the fighters themselves.
McKee represents a genuine, home-grown prospect who has the potential to be a real player in the featherweight division and it could be argued that he is the top featherweight prospect in not just Bellator, but the entire sport.
Pitbull is arguably the greatest fighter in Bellator history and he is above and beyond the company’s greatest featherweight. Both fighters are currently deep into the Bellator featherweight Grand Prix and are on a collision course for an epic match-up in the finals. McKee will first need to defeat Darrion Caldwell in his semi-final bout while Pitbull still needs to win his quarter-final and semi-final bouts. So this is not a fight that we will absolutely see but it’s one that we need to see and one that would be big for Bellator.
Lorenz Larkin vs. Michael Page
Looking at the current landscape of the Bellator welterweight division, this fight feels inevitable.
Lorenz Larkin came into Bellator as a top 10 ranked welterweight but back to back losses to Douglas Lima and then Paul Daley left him in a bit of a limbo. But over the last two years, he has managed to win four straight fights and he could be in a position to earn a rematch with Lima. Though at least one more win will likely be needed considering that he missed weight in his last fight.
Here is where Michael “Venom” Page enters the equation. Page has been basically untouched in all but one of his MMA fights … unfortunately, the fight where he was touched was against the current champion in Lima.
The results were catastrophic for Page. He was defeated with strikes and now he finds himself in a tough position. Despite his win streak, many critics, viewers, and fellow fighters are quick to claim that Page has not fought stellar competition. Lima has stated that for Page to get a crack at the gold, he will need to beat someone a bit closer to his caliber.
Larkin and Page might need each other in a way to finally bridge the gap to a rematch with Lima, and consequently, a crack at the Bellator welterweight championship.
As far as the match-up is concerned, both guys seem to make it up as they go, but what they come up with usually works. You’ll see lots of spins, plenty of kicks, and perfectly timed strikes of all varieties. If you ask either fighter, I am sure they would tell you that you will see a knockout as well.
4-Man tournament for vacant Bellator bantamweight championship:
Sergio Pettis vs. James Gallagher
Patrick Mix vs. Toby Misech
The Bellator bantamweight championship has been in a strange place for some time now. It all started when Darrion Caldwell lost the championship to Kyoji Horiguchi.
Horiguchi won the belt and in doing so ensured that the Bellator bantamweight champion was only a part-time employee. Horiguchi is contracted with RIZIN FF and the plan was for him to defend his Bellator belt in-between his RIZIN obligations which included also being champion. But as they often do, plans change.
Horiguchi suffered an ACL injury and thought it best to vacate his Bellator championship … Alas, we went from a part-time champion to no champion at all. The Bellator bantamweight division is not its strongest nor is it second or third or …. the point is that the division is not very deep.
A 16 man tournament is probably possible, especially if Bellator brings in fighters from RIZIN. But a four-person tournament might be more likely if the fighters are only on the Bellator roster.
The obvious choices for the tournament are the newly signed Sergio Pettis, fresh off his debut win, James Gallagher, Bellator’s brash young prospect, and Patrick Mix, another great young prospect. Though perhaps not as brash.
The fourth participant could be several different fighters such as Ricky Bandejas or long time vet, Joe Warren. But Toby Misech is fresh on some folks’ minds because of his recent upset knockout win over Erik Perez. The tournament gives Bellator a chance to showcase several future stars and when it’s all said and done. The promotion will have a new, young champion, regardless of the winner.
Brent Primus vs. Goiti Yamauchi
The Bellator lightweight division could be in for a change with the recent announcement by Michael Chandler that he intends to test free agency once he completes the final fight of his contract. Chandler has dominated the Bellator lightweight division for years, whether it be as champion or top contender, he has been a constant since nearly the beginning. If he leaves, a void will be left behind and it will be on the division’s younger fighters to try to fill it.
Brent Primus is not exactly young and he is a former champion so on the surface, he might not appear to fit the specifications I laid out above. But Primus’ run as champion came after a controversial victory over Michael Chandler and he was soundly defeated in the rematch. He is still relatively young in his MMA career and it’s still possible that he could develop into a true champion.
Goiti Yamauchi has been one of the more underappreciated fighters on the Bellator roster for years now but he has stumbled on the occasions when he has been matched up with the top competition. Over the years though, he has acquired a ton of experience and he is still just 27 years old. Yamauchi vs. Primus isn’t a title eliminator but it’s a solid match-up that can produce a solid contender, which is never something a promotion can have enough of.
Cris “Cyborg” Justino vs. Cat Zingano
On the surface, this fight might make some folks cringe … but it is a much better match-up than anything else that can be booked for Cris Cyborg right now when taking the Bellator roster into account.
Cyborg already has victories over Julia Budd and Leslie Smith; the rest of the division is inexperienced, therefore that leaves Cat Zingano.
Zingano has not won a fight in quite some time, and tossing her into a fight with Cyborg might seem poorly thought out considering her recent record and lack of merit. But it’s probably the only fight in the division that could be compelling, at least for some viewers.
Zingano has been good in the past, plus, and perhaps more importantly, she has a fan base. The division is young, but with big fights and more attention, it’s possible that Bellator can eventually develop a successful women’s featherweight division, something that has been tough to accomplish up to this point.