Bellator 293 is set to go down TONIGHT (Fri., March 31, 2023) inside Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., airing live on Showtime. Headlining the event will be a hard-hitting Heavyweight affair as former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) big man, Marcelo Golm, battles up-and-coming contender, Daniel James. In the co-main event, Leah McCourt will take on Cat Zingano to see who earns the right to face Cris Cyborg for the women’s Featherweight strap.
Marcelo Golm vs. Daniel James
Golm didn’t exactly have the career he had imagined when he signed with UFC in Oct. 2017. Sure, he started things off great with a first-round submission win over Christian Colombo, but he then went on to lose three straight which resulted in him parting ways with the promotion. After picking up two wins on the regional circuit, the Brazilian bomber inked a contract with Bellator and earned back-to-back stoppage wins over Billy Swanson and Davion Franklin, good enough to earn him the No. 6 spot on the official rankings. Now, Golm is eying his third straight win and a spot in the Top 5, which will undoubtedly get him closer to the championship conversation. But standing in his way is a hard-hitting big man who isn’t wasting any time making his presence felt with the promotion. Making his debut at Bellator 288, James (No. 7) pulled off a big upset by knocking out Tyrell Fortune in round two, extending his win streak to four in a row, all stoppages. In fact, of 14 wins James has 10 knockouts and three submissions to his credit. If he can take Golm out in impressive fashion it will be him inching closer to the Top 5. Golm has knockout power, as well, but trading strike-for-strike against James may not be the best course of action here. For Golm, softening up his foe before taking it to the ground for a submission win will be the key to victory.
Final prediction: Golm via third-round submission
Cat Zingano vs. Leah McCourt
It’s been close to a year since we last saw Cyborg defend her title inside the Bellator cage, defeating Arlene Blencowe for a second time at Bellator 279 in April 2022. One of the big reasons she has been idle is because a clear-cut No. 1 contender hasn’t surfaced to peak her interest, which is probably why she hasn't re-upped her contract. But that will all change soon because the winner of Zingano (No.1) vs. McCourt (No. 4) should get the next title fight. Zingano was in talks to face Cyborg but that fight never came to be. Nevertheless, with three straight wins to kick off her Bellator career, Zingano is in prime position to get her long-desired title shot. McCourt, on the other hand, is 6-1 under the Bellator banner and is coming off a win over Dayana Silva six months ago at Bellator 285. But this will be one of her toughest tests to date because Zingano is as experienced as they come, facing the best UFC had to offer — including a title fight against Ronda Rousey — for five years. Zingano has the striking advantage here but we can’t sleep on McCourt, who showed heart in her tough loss to Sinead Kavanagh. Unfortunately she will need a lot more that that to get through the longtime veteran, who is determined to reach the big dance again.
Final prediction: Zingano via unanimous decision
John Salter vs. Aaron Jeffery
Salter hasn’t had the best run over the last few years. After losing to former Middleweight champion, Gegard Mousasi, in Aug. 2021 in a 185-pound title fight, he then went on to lose to current champion — Johnny Eblen — seven months later, giving him his first-two fight losing streak of his career. Now, he will try to avoid a third straight defeat when he takes on rising star Aaron Jeffery, who has impressed the masses in his first two fights with the promotion. After stopping Fabio Aguiar via strikes, he went on to defeat Austin Vanderford two months later, also via technical knockout (TKO), putting him at 7-1 over his last eight fights, with his lone loss coming to Caio Borralho on the Contender Series. A win for either man won’t get them a title shot because Jeffery is slowly trying to chip away and get closer to the Top 5, while Salter is simply trying to dig himself out of a hole. Unfortunately, it’s going to get a bit worse before it gets better for Salter because Jeffery is firing on all cylinders at the moment and is on the cusp of breaking through. It’s his time, and while Salter does have the chops to make it a competitive fight, I just don’t see it working out for him a third straight time.
Final prediction: Jeffery via unanimous decision
Sullivan Cauley vs. Luke Trainer
The main card will kick off with a banger of a fight between two rising Light Heavyweight contenders as Cauley and Trainer will battle in a bout that could very well steal the show and set the tone. Bellator prides itself in home-grown talent, and Cauley is just that, starting his pro career with the Viacom-owned promotion by winning his first five fights...all via first-round knockout. And that’s just what you get from Cauley, all action with no rest, which isn’t good for his opponents, obviously. Here’s the kicker: All of Trainer's wins have come via stoppage, as well, so something has got to give. But what that means is that this fight has the potential to end early or, believe it or not, can lead to a drawn out chess match ala Derrick Lewis vs. Francis Ngannou. While I don’t expect it to be that type of bore-fest, I do anticipate a feeling out process from both men. And it’s understandable because each respect the other’s power and know what he brings to the table. We can expect a lot of action on the feet but don’t be too surprised if Cauley reverts to his wrestling to get the job done. An accomplished wrestler, Cauley trains with Heavyweight king, Ryan Bader, so he has a couple of tricks ready to unleash when the time is right which will ultimately be his ticket for the win.
Final prediction: Cauley via unanimous decision
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See you then!