Bellator 297 is set to go down tomorrow night (Fri., June 16, 2023) inside Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois, featuring a Light Heavyweight title fight as division champion, Vadim Nemkov, defends his title against Yoel Romero. In the co-main event, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire will attempt to win a third title in as many divisions — a first for the promotion — when he battles Bantamweight champion, Sergio Pettis.
The winner of “Pitbull” vs Pettis will take part in a title unification bout against current interim champion, Patchy Mix, later this year.
Champion Vadim Nemkov vs. Yoel Romero
In his last fight against Corey Anderson at Bellator 288 — which he won via unanimous decision — Nemkov won the Bellator Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix, retained the Light Heavyweight world strap and broke the record for the most title defenses in the division with three. Now, the Russian champion will attempt to add to his legacy by taking out Romero, an established veteran who is hungry for his first taste of MMA gold. Romero failed in his quest to win the UFC strap on the three separate occasions, but looks to collect his first piece of MMA hardware against a champion who has shown minimal weaknesses. One would think this would be one of the best wrestling matchups in a while seeing as how Nemkov is a sambo champion, while Romero is a decorated Olympic silver medalist. But according to Nemkov, the fight will be anything but, saying he expects this fight to be a striking battle. Romero has shown to have power, but let’s face it he could be losing some of that as he gets older, he is currently 46. Nemkov, meanwhile, has a streak in which 11 of his first 12 fights were earned via KO/TKO, so it would stand to reason that he has the edge. But I don’t see either man getting finished here, and I do feel Nemkov has a bit better gas tank to take Romero into deep waters and ultimately pull out the win.
Prediction: Nemkov via unanimous decision
Champion Sergio Pettis vs. Champion Patricio Pitbull
Patricio “Pitbull” Freire passed his first challenge in his attempt to win the Bantamweight title by successfully making weight, hitting the scales at 134.2. His next step is to defeat current champion, Sergio Pettis, in the co-main event of Bellator 297. The Featherweight champion is attempting to become the promotion’s first-ever three division champion, and if we are being honest, he has a good chance at accomplishing his goal. That’s not to say Pettis isn’t a worthy champion, he is, but Freire is one of the toughest and most well-rounded fighters in the game. Pettis hasn’t stepped foot inside the cage since Dec. 2021, so there is no telling if he time off from injury will have a major impact on his performance against such a grizzled veteran like Freire. In that span, “Pitbull” won back his 145-pound title by defeating AJ McKee, defended it against Adam Borics and went on to defeat RIZIN’s 145-pound champion, Kleber Koike Erbst, in a non-title fight. Both men possess deadly striking, which could lead to one of the best title fights we’ve ever seen. But if it comes down to an all-out striking battle, I have to give the edge to “Pitbull.” The only thing that could have a bearing on his performance is the the weight cut he had to endure to hit 134.2 pounds.
Prediction: Pitbull via unanimous decision
Phil Davis vs Corey Anderson
Anderson and Davis never crossed paths inside the UFC Octagon, but now the two talented 205-pounders get the chance to see what’s what. Anderson is coming off a tough loss to Vadim Nemkov, losing out on his chance to win the title and a $1 million payday. It’s especially tough to swallow seeing as how he was firmly in control of their initial fight six months prior before it was ruled a no-contest. Now, “Overtime” will look to get back on track with a big win over Davis, who is looking to get back into the title picture. Davis has had quite a bit of success inside the Bellator cage, winning the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2015, then the division strap a year later. After losing the belt to Ryan Bader, Davis has gone 7-2 with his lone defeat coming at the hands of the current champion. Now, “Mr. Wonderful” eyes his third straight win to potentially earn a shot at the main event’s winner. If he wants to do that he will have to stick to what he knows and try to out-wrestle Anderson because if it stays standing I like “Overtime’s” chances here.
Prediction: Anderson via unanimous decision
Daniel James vs. Gokhan Saricam
James has wasted no time in making a splash inside the Bellator cage, winning his first two fights via technical knockout (TKO) extending his finish and win streak to five in a row. He will look to keep his hot streak going when he returns home to face Saricam, a Heavyweight who doesn’t get the respect he deserves at times. Sure he is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Oleg Popov, but prior to that he was on a four-fight win streak. The No. 10 ranked fighter in the division is out to make a statement against James, though he will have to be on his game if he wants to pull off the upset. James’ gameplan reminds of of Francis Ngannou’s in which he likes to go for the kill swiftly and violently. The only three times his fights have the decision he has come up short on every occasion. That’s why he prefers to let his strikes earn him the quick wins. But it doesn’t always work out that way. That said, since James is fighting in front of his hometown you know he will bring it in order to give his friends, fans and family what they want...a violent finish.
Prediction: James via first-round knockout
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