Bellator MMA will return to action this Saturday night (Jan. 29, 2022) after a nearly two-month break to stage Bellator 273 from inside Footprint Center in Phoenix, AZ. In the main event of the evening — which airs exclusively on Showtime — Ryan Bader and Valentin Moldavsky will collide in a Heavyweight title unification bout.
Co-headlining the card will be a Lightweight scrap between Benson Henderson and Islam Mamedov.
Ryan Bader vs Valentin Moldavsky
Ryan Bader will attempt to get back in the win column after he was knocked out by Corey Anderson at Bellator 268 in Oct. 2021 in just 51 seconds, putting him at 1-2 in his last three outings. The other loss during that stretch was a knockout at the hands of Vadim Nemkov, the training partner of Moldavsky. In short, “Darth” needs a win badly here against the Russian big man in order to maintain some of the allure he had as a now-former double champion. Sure, he can still get some big fights without the title, but they are that much sweeter with gold around his waist. Unfortunately for the wrestling standout, things won’t get much easier in his comeback fight.
Moldavsky is 6-0 inside the Bellator cage, wrestling his way to victories thanks to his extensive Sambo background. As I mentioned earlier, he trains alongside Vadim Nemkov, so he has an inside track of what to expect from Bader. As added fuel, Moldavsky would love nothing more than to get some more revenge for his mentor, Fedor Emelianenko, who was knocked out by Bader in just 35 seconds back in 2019. If it turns into a grappling affair, Bader won’t exactly have a clear-cut advantage. Though he hasn’t had to use his striking to get the job done thus far, Moldavsky is no slouch in that area, either. In the end, it will all boil down to whose wrestling is better. And as much as it will hurt for Bader fans to hear, Moldavsky will prove superior in this department thanks to his slight strength advantage as a natural Heavyweight.
Final Prediction: Moldavski def. Bader via unanimous decision
Benson Henderson vs Islam Mamedov
Ben Henderson’s run with Bellator MMA has been rather hot and cold. He started off his career a paltry 1-3, including two championship losses in both the Welterweight and Lightweight divisions. Granted, “Smooth” faced the cream of the crop in his first four contests in the form of Andrey Koreshkov, Patricio Freire, Patricky Freire, and Michael Chandler. He did pick up a win against Patricio “Pitbull,” though it was a result of a leg injury. After his bad start, the former UFC Lightweight champion ramped it up and won four straight. He then went on another slump by losing his last three. His plans to get back in the winner’s circle will take a lot of work because he will be facing a red-hot opponent who hasn’t tasted defeat in over a decade.
Islam Mamedov has made a name for himself all over the world competing for various organizations including Professional Fighters League (PFL), World Series of Fighting (WSOF), and M-1, just to name a few. He is currently on an amazing 19-fight win streak that dates back to Aug. 2010. In fact, he only has one loss on his record, which came in his second pro fight in 2009. He has been unstoppable ever since, which is a trademark of many fighters competing under the tutelage of former UFC 155-pound kingpin, Khabib Nurmagomedov. After edging out former 155-pound champion Brent Primus in his Bellator debut, Mamedov is looking to make it 2-0 with the promotion by taking out another high-profile name. But let’s face it, this isn't the same Henderson that used to run wild inside the Octagon. As it will happen to all of us, Henderson has lost a step and Mamedov is simply firing on all cylinders at the moment. While no one can count out a longtime veteran like Henderson from pulling off the upset, I just don’t see it happening this time.
Final prediction: Mamedov def. Henderson via unanimous decision
Sabah Homasi vs. Jaleel Willis
Sabah Homasi had a pretty rough 2021, losing his two fights with Bellator after getting knocked out by Paul Daley at Bellator 257 in a wild fight (see it), and then losing to former Welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov four months later at Bellator 264. The former UFC veteran looks to right his ship against Jaleel Willis, who saw his six-fight win streak go up in smoke on Oct. 2021 thanks to an air-tight guillotine courtesy of Mukhamed Berkhamov. If this turns into a striking affair, expect Homasi to get the better of the exchanges and ultimately the win, possibly by knockout. While not exactly a novice on the feet, Willis’ best path to victory is taking it to the mat and grinding out a 15-minute victory. In the end, Homasi’s more well-rounded attack will prove to be the difference-maker here, though it will be his striking that nets him the victory. That said, fight fans can expect this fight to steal the show once the dust settles.
Final prediction: Homasi def. Willis via second-round TKO
Henry Corrales vs Aiden Lee
As a longtime veteran of Bellator, Henry Corrales has taken on the best of the best during his time with the promotion. In just his first three fights alone he faced Patricio Freire, Emmanuel Sanchez, and Daniel Straus. While he did lose them all, Corrales proved that he is as game as they come and won’t shy away from a tough fight. After his rough start, Corrales turned it around and won five straight, including a massive first-round knockout over Aaron Pico at Bellator 214 in 2019. Since then, Corrales hasn’t been as consistent with the wins, racking up a 2-3 record. He is coming off a nice win over Vladyslav Parubchenko, so he has some momentum coming into his fight against Aiden Lee.
As for Lee, after being on the wrong end of a wrestling clinic from Pico — which eventually wound up a submission loss for him — he bounced back with a submission win of his own at Bellator 268 in Oct. 2021. Indeed, Lee managed to catch Alexander Osetrov with a rear-naked choke in the very first round, forcing him to tap for dear life. Corrales will have a distinct experience advantage here, though Lee will be the much younger fighter. On that note, there won’t be much Lee can throw at Corrales that he hasn’t already seen before from more proven opponents. Lee does have the tools and making of a future star, but he will run into another roadblock in Corrales that will slow his momentum and progression in the Bellator ranks a bit further. It will be competitive but I see Corrales being a bit more aggressive, which will reflect on the judges’ scorecard.
Final prediction: Corrales def. Lee via unanimous decision
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