Bellator 282: “Mousasi vs. Eblen” will go down tomorrow night (Fri., June 24, 2022) from inside Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Headlining the event will be a Middleweight title fight between division champion, Gegard Mousasi, defending his belt against undefeated Johnny Eblen (11-0). In further action, the Bantamweight World Grand Prix continues to roll along with two stellar match ups as Leandro Higo takes on Danny Sabatello and Enrique Barzola tangos with Magomed Magomedov.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Johnny Eblen
Mousasi has been on a monstrous tear during his time with Bellator MMA, going 7-1 and scoring big wins over Rory MacDonald, Lyoto Machida and Douglas Lima, among others. Along the way, he captured the Middleweight strap and has already three title defenses under his belt. Now, he looks to add another one to his resume by taking out undefeated (11-0) Johnny Eblen, who is 7-0 with the Viacom-owned mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion. But, as stellar as Eblen's run has been, there are still levels to this game and the gap to reach the highest one in the sport is a very wide one. Mousasi has been in the game for nearly 20 years, while Eblen made his professional debut just five years ago. Mousasi has been there, done that and been around the block a few times, taking on the best on the planet in organizations ranging from PRIDE FC, DREAM, Strikeforce, UFC and now Bellator. Indeed, there isn’t much that will catch the wily veteran off guard and Eblen isn’t a specialist in one area that will keep Mousasi on his toes. In short, expect an overwhelming onslaught of offense in the second or third round from “The Dreamcatcher” to send “Diamond Hands” packing in rather violent fashion.
Final prediction: Mousasi via third round technical knockout
Leandro Higo vs. Danny Sabatello
After a rocky start to his Bellator career — going 1-3 in his first four fights — Higo has really found his groove by winning three straight fights, including defeating Darrion Caldwell via split decision in his previous bout. Now, he looks to make a statement in his opening round match up of the Bantamweight World Grand Prix against Danny Sabatello, who has really caught everyone’s attention in just two fights with the promotion. And it’s easy to do with wins over Brett Johns and Jornel Lugo, which helped him stamp his invitation to the $1 million tournament. Furthermore, the man has a rumbustious personality that has gained him some fans and the attention of Scott Coker and Co. And when you have the big dogs’ eye on you, it’s best to deliver if you want to reap the benefits. Sabatello made his professional debut just four years ago, so he isn’t as experienced as Higo, who has been fighting as a pro for 16 years now. Sabatello may have the flash, but Higo has the wisdom that comes with fighting for so long. That said, Sabatello’s wrestling is on another level and while Higo is a great grappler, he will have to have his jiu-jitsu game on point in this fight in order to catch Sabatello in something tight when on the ground, which is where this fight will be played out. In the end, Sabatello will pull off the upset thanks to his outstanding wrestling pedigree in a hard-fought war.
Final prediction: Sabatello via split-decision
Enrique Barzola vs. Magomed Magomedov
In the other 135-pound tournament match up, Barzola goes head-to-head with Magomedov in what is sure-to-be another highly-competitive bout. Magomedov is coming off a loss to Raufeon Stots — the favorite to win the tournament — which snapped his five-fight win streak. The great thing about making it into the tournament is that everyone starts with a clean slate and what happened previously doesn’t mean much. Magomedov relies heavily on his grappling, a staple of most Dagestani fighters. As for Barzola, the former UFC veteran has been up and down since 2019, but still managed to get in to the tourney by defeating Nikita Mikhailov at Bellator 278. Like Magomedov, Mikhailov also relies on his wrestling but he didn’t do a bunch of it against Barzola, which ultimately cost him big. All that said, Magomedov’s is on another level and he could very well have his way with Barzola in that department. And if he finds just enough of an opening, his jiu-jitsu skill are top notch. That said, Barzola is very seasoned and has never been finished in his career. While he will keep that streak going, he won’t be able to advance to the next round because Magomedov will be smothering him all night long.
Final prediction Magomedov via unanimous decision
Brennan Ward vs. Kassius Kayne
After five years away from action, Ward made his return to action at Bellator 274 earlier this year to score his first win since 2016 by manhandling Brandon Bell en route to a second round technical knockout win. The 15-fight Bellator veteran now hopes to earn his first back-to-back wins in seven years when he welcomes Kassius Kayne to the cage. Admittedly, I didn’t understand the logic of booking this fight since Kayne is making his debut, but it’s a great opportunity for “Killa” to make a name for himself with a win over an established veteran such as Ward, who is trying to get back to the day where he was once considered a posterboy for the promotion. In the tape I did see of Kayne, I didn’t see a ton that will convince me he has what it takes to stop Ward, or even go the distance with him.
Final prediction: Ward via second round technical knockout
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