Bellator 280 is set to go down tomorrow (Fri., May 6, 2022) inside Accor Arena in Paris, France, featuring a heavyweight championship rematch between division kingpin, Ryan Bader, and Cheick Kongo. In the co-main event of the evening, Yoel Romero will battle Alex Polizzi in a light heavyweight bout.
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 280 on Showtime Saturday night right here. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.
Ryan Bader vs. Cheick Kongo
The first title fight between Bader and Kongo ended in a rather anticlimactic fashion after an inadvertent eye poke from “Darth” left his foe unable to continue, forcing the referee to call the fight in the very first round as a “No Contest.” 2.5 years later, the talented big men will run it back one more time to what’s what. Naturally, Kongo will have a slight height and reach advantage, but it’s something that hasn’t bothered Bader before. Aside from his world-class wrestling skills, “Darth” has shown he’s no novice on the feet, rocking Valentin Moldavsky early in their fight a few months back. In the time since their first encounter, Kongo has only competed twice, losing to Timothy Johnson via split-decision before getting back on track against Sergei Kharitonov. Despite his lack of appearances inside the cage for a while, it’s no secret what Kongo prefers to do: Stand and bang. That being said, he only has two knockout wins since 2014, so let’s not go making him out to be some kind of wrecking machine on the feet. Still, that will be his best route to victory because Bader will dominate the wrestling aspect of the fight should he get close enough to get a grip on him. Unlike their first fight, this one will make it past the first round, and I see it going all 25 minutes. It will be grueling and exhausting but Bader will do enough to retain his title.
Final prediction: Bader via unanimous decision
Yoel Romero vs. Alex Polizzi
Romero was initially slated to face off against Melvin Manhoef before an injury forced the longtime kickboxer out of the event a little over a week away from fight night. Now, “Soldier of God” will face off against Polizzi, who is an impressive 4-1 inside the Bellator cage. As for Romero, well, wins have been hard to come by for the Cuban-born fighter, suffering four straight defeats which includes ending his UFC career with three straight losses before coming up short in his Bellator debut against Phil Davis as Bellator 266. This is one of these fights that the heart wants “Soldier of God” to get back on track, but the mind is telling you it simply won’t happen. Polizzi is firing on all cylinders since making his pro MMA debut just four short years ago, racking up ten wins in 11 tries, four via knockout, and four by way of submission. That pretty much confirms his well-rounded attack. “Eazy” may not have the resume that Romero has, but he does have youth and momentum on his side. Romero is pushing 46 and he isn’t getting any faster or stronger, sadly. This could very well be a passing of the torch if Polizzi can thwart Romero’s wrestling. And I don’t foresee that being a problem because Romero has fallen in love with the striking game, which hasn’t proven to be the best of strategies. I see Romero coming out strong to start the contest but after Polizzi settles in, he will find his groove and pull off the upset after 15 minutes of action.
Final prediction: Polizzi via split-decision
Davy Gallon vs. Benjamin Brander
In a battle of lightweights with not a ton of experience inside the Bellator cage, Davy Gallon and Benjamin Brander will both look to make the most of their chance to fight on the main card of a major Bellator event. Gallon is an 11-year pro who is currently enjoying a four-fight win streak, earning three of those by way of knockout. He also has seven submission wins under his belt. The French-born fighter may not have the biggest name universally, but he is primed to make a statement in just his third fight for the promotion. As for Brander, he will be making his return to the company after coming up short in his Bellator debut in 2019, losing to Chris Bungard via first-round submission. He took a two-year break and has gone 2-1 since, earning an invite back to the big show. Unfortunately for “El Skeletto,” it could be one-and-done (again) if he can’t pick up a win. And that could be on the horizon because Gallon is a bit more polished everywhere.
Final prediction: Gallon via first-round knockout
Lorenz Larkin vs. Kyle Stewart
Lorenz Larkin has quietly won five straight fights since 2018 with his last loss coming against Paul Daley in 2017. But “The Monsoon” remains a player in the middleweight division even if he doesn’t steal headlines, earning the No. 6 ranking in the weight class thanks to his impressive body of work. Standing in the way of his sixth straight win is longtime veteran Kyle Stewart, who will be making his promotional debut. A former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) contender, Stewart is one of these fighters that is not particularly an expert in one area, but not bad, either. He has a decent well-rounded attack but his foes aren't exactly on the lookout for something specific once the opening bell rings. “Gunz Up” does have seven knockouts and three submissions, but the key here is that eight of those finishes came in the very first round, which means challengers have to expect a quick opening burst. But Larkin is so experienced that there isn’t anything Stewart will be able to throw at him to catch him off guard in the first five minutes. After that, Larkin will be in control.
Final prediction: Larking via unanimous decision
Mike Shipman vs. Gregory Babene
Gregory Babene will make his return to the Bellator cage after four years to face off against Mike Shipman in a battle of middleweights. “Blade” is on a six-fight win streak — two of those with Bellator from 2016-2017 — with all of them coming by way of submission, five of them in the very first round. So it stands to reason that Shipman has to have his Brazilian jiu-jitsu game on lock if he wants to survive Babene’s vice grip-like clamps. Shipman has been fighting for Scott Coker and Co. for five years now, but he hasn’t been able to build up much momentum despite earning a 5-2 mark. That said, a couple more wins — starting with Babene — could get him closer to his first-ever ranking in the Top 10. He is just 1-2 over his last three fights and is coming off a win over Pietro Penini. With eight knockouts and five submission wins under his belt, Shipman can get it done everywhere, but what this fight will come down to is the grappling and ultimately the submission game. While Shipman won’t be anyone's pushover, he will eventually fall to Babene’s rear-naked choke.
Prediction: Babene via second-round submission
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 280 tomorrow evening on Showtime right here. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.
See you then!