Bellator 256: “Bader vs. Machida 2” comes to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., tomorrow evening (Fri., Apr. 9, 2021) — airing on Showtime — for its second show in as many weeks. The Light Heavyweight Grand Prix kicks off this weekend with a stellar rematch between division champion, Ryan Bader, taking on Lyoto Machida. In the co-main event, Liz Carmouche will attempt to go two-for-two inside the Bellator cage when she faces long-time veteran, Vanessa Porto.
Let’s break down all of the action:
205 lbs.: Ryan Bader (27-6, 1 NC) vs. Lyoto Machida (26-10)
Bellator MMA’s new relationship with Showtime continues with another Friday night that’s alright for fighting. Just as we did last week, we’re headlining with a rematch, although this one is almost nine years in the making. At UFC on FOX 4 in Los Angeles, Calif., Lyoto Machida knocked out Ryan Bader in the second round at a point in his career where Bader says he, “knew nothing about striking.” Now, he’s eager to find out how much he’s improved over the last decade by running this fight back a second time.
At age 37, there’s no doubt that Bader has developed from a collegiate wrestling stud to a full-fledged striker, grappler and submission arts practitioner in the intervening years. Even so, “Darth” can’t allow himself to take “The Dragon” lightly. It’s true that Machida lost each of his last two fights, but if you’re losing to both Phil Davis and Gegard Mousasi by split decision, those losses are at least partial victories. In neither case did Machida get finished and in both cases he made it hard for the judges to choose a winner.
Machida’s single-most potent weapon has always been his “Machida Karate” fighting style, one that still befuddles opponents even at 42 years old. If you spend too much time trying to gauge the way he switches up speeds and stances, you’re leaving an opening to get nailed with a big foot or fist to the face, something Bader knows about all too well. It’s singularly impressive that the mixed martial arts (MMA) world has had to adapt to his unorthodox fighting techniques as opposed to the other way around.
With all that said, I still expect this to be an impressive outing for Bader. Mathematically speaking, he’s overdue given his Cheick Kongo fight was a “No Contest” and he was overwhelmed by Vadim Nemkov at a point where he still had a Heavyweight fighter’s mentality. He’ll be leaner and faster for this fight, while Machida has actually looked slower in his recent outings, seemingly unable to pull the trigger at the perfect time the way he used to. My suspicion is that Father Time caught up to one man faster than the other.
Final prediction: Bader via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Liz Carmouche (14-7) vs Vanessa Porto (22-8)
Carmouche made a splash in her Bellator debut in Sept. 2020, submitting DeAnna Bennett in round three. Granted, Bennett isn’t exactly a world beater, she was coming in with two straight defeats and having lost three of her last four. That said, it was an impressive (and important) start for Carmouche to make her presence felt after spending the six years prior fighting for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The win — as well as her established record — was good enough to earn Carmouche the No. 2 ranking. That means that the former UFC title contender is close to getting a shot at the Bellator women’s Flyweight title, which is currently in the hands of Juliana Vasquez. And that’s exactly what will await Carmouche if she can take out Porto.
It will be a tough task for Carmouche because Porto is coming in as the former Invicta FC 125-pound champion. And it’s former as in she vacated the title, not lost it, to take her talents to Bellator. Coming in with four straight wins, Porto hasn’t tasted defeat in nearly three years and her experience level is off the charts. She’s defeated Germaine de Randamie and went toe-to-toe with Amanda Nunes and Cris Cyborg, coming up short against both. She also holds wins over long-time veterans Tonya Evinger, Tara LaRosa and Jennifer Maia. That’s why it is going to be tough for Carmouche to throw anything at her she hasn’t already seen, and getting the “W” for the ex-UFC title contenders won’t be a walk in the park unless she puts on a perfect showing.
Final Prediction: Vanessa Porto via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Cat Zingano (11-4) vs. Olivia Parker (4-1)
Like Carmouche, Zingano is another former UFC title contender (whom both lost to Ronda Rousey in title fights) won in their Bellator debuts. Zingano defeated Gabby Holloway at Bellator 245 in Sept. 2020, getting her back on track after losing to Megan Anderson in her final fight inside the Octagon. Zingano left UFC losing four of her last five, but with a win under the Bellator banner under her belt she is hoping to ride the wave of that momentum to inch herself closer to a shot at the title. Currently ranked No. 3, Zingano will face Parker, who only has five fights on her professional MMA resume.
Parker was last seen losing to Chelsea Chandler under the Invicta FC banner un July 2020, and she will be making her promotional debut against an experienced veteran. In short, I believe Parker will be in over her head with her first challenge inside the Bellator cage. Sure, Zingano has struggled over the last few years, but she has a renewed firer and purpose that won’t bode well for Parker.
Final Prediction: Zingano via second round submission
145 lbs.: Adam Borics (16-1) vs. Jeremy Kennedy (16-2)
Borics has been on fire, winning 16 of his first 17 professional MMA fights. His lone blemish on his record is is a first round submission loss to Darrion Caldwell at Bellator 238 in Jan. 2020. Under the Bellator banner, Borics is 7-1, good enough to earn him the No. 3 ranking at Featherweight. During his stint with the Viacom-owned promotion, “The Kid” has picked up wins over Pat Curran, Mike Hamel and an impressive flying knee knockout over Aaron Pico. The 27-year-old is nothing short of a stud and is making all the right moves to put himself in the position to fight for the title with a win over Kennedy. Granted, he will have to wait a while if he does prove victorious because current champion, Patricio Freire, will face A.J. McKee next in the finals of the Featherweight Grand Prix sometime later this year. So if Borics can get win No. 17, he is next in line.
As for Kennedy (No. 8), while he isn’t in a position to fight for the title just yet a win over Borics would cause his tock to soar through the roof. Kennedy did score a win in his debut for Bellator in Nov. 2020 over Matt Bessette, and has a wealth of experience, including going 3-1 under the UFC banner with his lone loss coming at the hands of current 145-pound champion, Alexander Volkanovski. After opting not to re-sign with UFC, Kennedy went on to compete for BRAVE FC and Professional Fighters League (PFL) before landing with Bellator, raking in an impressive 5-1-1 record since leaving the Octagon.
The experience level advantage may go to Kennedy, but Borics is firing on all cylinders at the moment and has all the tools to one day become champion. Before he gets that chance, however, all of his focus must be put on Kennedy because though he may be the underdog coming into this fight, pulling off the upset is very possible here. At the end of the day, though, if “Borics” is on his “A” game, he will be too much for “JBC.”
Final Prediction: Borics via third round technical knockout
155 lbs.: Goiti Yamauchi (25-4) vs. Dan Moret (14-6)
Kicking off the main card action is a Lightweight bout between Yamauchi and Moret. Competing for Bellator for nearly eight years now, Yamauchi has racked up an impressive 11-3 record so far for the promotion, which is good enough to land him at the No. 3 spot of the rankings. Winner of three straight, Yamauchi has it all, a well-rounded striking attack as well as the gas tank to grind out a win. But his specialty is in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu department, with 20 of his 25 wins coming by way of submission. Coming in hot with three straight wins, Yamauchi is inching closer to his first-ever shot at the Bellator 155-pound title, a big win over Moret might not be what puts him over the top.
Moret, meanwhile, will be making his debut for the Viacom-owned MMA promotion after a not-so stellar stint with UFC, which saw him lose all three of his fights inside the Octagon. While he did pick up a win in his last fight against Anton Kuivanen under the Abu Dhabi Warriors Fighting Championship (ADW) banner, why he got matched up against Yamauchi in his debut for Bellator is a bit of a head scratcher. While it’s a great opportunity for Moret to pull off the upset against the No. 3-ranked guy on the roster, it’s kind of a lose-lose for Yamauchi, who should have been booked to face a fellow Top 5 foe.
Final Prediction: Yamauchi via second round submission
That’s a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 256 tomorrow evening on Showtime. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.