With the UFC nearly at two months of action at this point, the MMA world has quenched its thirst for combat. Friday night, we get to see the revival of Bellator as they come back for their 242nd event.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Bellator MMA, they are a United States based MMA organization run by former Strikeforce President Scott Coker. Bellator is colloquially understood as the best MMA promotion outside of the UFC (Dont get on my ass Rizin and ONE fans).
Bellator features a lot of former UFC talent and spectacular homegrown talent too. The main event Friday will offer a mix of the two, as Sergio Pettis takes on Ricky Bandejas. Here’s a quick look at the action:
The Main Event:
The marquee matchup for Bellator’s comeback event is between bantamweight knockout artist Ricky Bandejas (13-3 Career, 3-2 Bellator) taking on UFC veteran Sergio Pettis (19-5 Career, 1-0 Bellator).
Ricky Bandejas will certainly not be well known to casual fans of MMA, but what is extremely important to know is that he has earned a reputation to playing spoiler to opponents who are hyped to be stars.
In Bandejas’ Bellator debut, he was booked against Irish grappling phenom James Gallagher. Gallagher was unbeaten, and coming off four straight wins in Bellator, Bandejas dominated with a brutal head kick knockout victory, playing spoiler.
He is coming off of back to back knockout wins, and headlining Friday night against an opponent that he will not be as famous as once again.
Former UFC contender Sergio Pettis will be making his second appearance in Bellator this Friday. Pettis went 9-5 in the UFC, holding wins over Joseph Benavidez and Brandon Moreno. He is the younger brother of former UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis.
A handful of fighters come to Bellator after they struggle in the UFC and are released. Pettis is not in that position. When he spoke to Damon Martin of mmafighting.com, Pettis explained that Bellator made him a great deal and he wanted the flexibility to fight cross promotionally, so expect some Sergio Pettis action in Japan soon.
Pettis had his first bout in January of this year beating Alfred Khashakyan in round one. Friday he looks to carry that momentum forward.
What to Expect
I’d be lying to you if I wasn’t assuming that this fight was booked as a showcase for Sergio Pettis. He is the biggest star Bellator has at 135 lbs besides Kyoji Horiguchi who is currently injured and splits time in Japan. I think a strong grappling showcase from Pettis is what Bellator staff hopes to propel him to a contender level fight, followed by a big fight with Horiguchi.
Remember what I said about Bandejas though? That was the same build up treatment Gallagher was receiving and Bandejas made him pay for it. He has solid takedown defense and ballistic power. I’d expect that Pettis wins in some sort of choke of the sort, but if he isn’t careful, Bandejas may be the new star in the show.
The Co-Main Event
Speaking of former UFC talent on the fight card, just before the main event we will see Canadian veteran Jordan Mein (31-12 Career, 0-0 Bellator) taking on Jason Jackson (11-4 Career, 1-1 Bellator).
While Jordan Mein has 43 professional fights, it is hard to believe he is only 30 years old. He’s fought professionally for 14 years, most recently coming off of a 5-4 record in his nine UFC fights, and winning his last two before hopping to Bellator. He hasn’t fought in two years, but his first Bellator walk gives him a chance to make a big first impression.
Jason Jackson doesn’t have 9 UFC fights under his belt, but he was an Ultimate Fighter and Contender Series contestant in the UFC. He had a close loss with wrestling monster Ed Ruth, but Jackson won his last bout out and looking to shock the bigger name in Mein.
What to expect
Having seen a lot more of Mein than Jackson, I have to assume that Mein is going to try to turn this fight into a dog fight. Lots of grinding away on the cage, high volume output, and overwhelming endurance has to be the strategy of Mein. It will be interesting to see Jackson, who is a well rounded fighter, adjust to the onslaught.
Fighter To Watch – Aaron Pico
I’m going to focus on one fighter and one fighter only for this preview. If you do not know who he is, the best way I can describe him – is that he was seen to MMA in high school what LeBron James in high school was to basketball. Forgoing college wrestling and signing with Bellator as a teenager, Aaron Pico (5-3 Career, 5-3 Bellator) is one of the most captivating figures in MMA.
23 year old Pico has fought all eight fights of his career in Bellator. He lost his debut in 2017 when he was 20 years old and WAY overmatched in Madison Square Garden. From there, four straight knockouts in violent fashion, only to suffer back to back knockouts on the receiving end to Henry Corrales and Adam Borics.
He then moved to Greg Jackson’s gym where he has built a strong bond with the master trainer, picking up another knockout win in January.
I am SOLD on Aaron Pico. Most great mma fighters aren’t pro by 23, let alone have 8 fights. Most fighters aren’t on the main card of a PPV until they’re 10-15 fights in, Pico did this in his pro debut. He’s had crazy expectations so the win-loss record shocks people, but his talent is off the charts.
His fighting style is the definition of fan friendly. He has great wrestling, but uses it as a sprawl and brawl Chuck Liddell style to stand and bang with fighters. In his five wins, all ended by horrifying knockout, and his three losses were him all getting finished. Win or lose, he’s going to go to war and put on a show.
Once again, Pico is not getting an easy one, he will face Solo Hatley Jr. (8-2 Career, 1-0 UFC). Hatley Jr. is also 23 years old and has a wild style with power. It’ll be interesting to see if Pico brings that same energy or takes another route to attempt victory.
Main Card (7pm PST, Paramount Network)
Sergio Pettis def. Ricky Bandejas (Submission)
Jordan Mein def. Jason Jackson (Decision)
Tywan Claxton def. Jay Jay Wilson (TKO)
Aaron Pico def. Solo Hatley Jr. (KO)
Prelims (5:45 PST, Bellator’s YouTube Channel)
Steve Mowry def. Rudy Schaffroth (Decision)
Raufeon Scots def. Cass Bell (Decision)
Mark Lemminger def. Jake Smith (Submission)