A rematch almost a decade in the making took place at the Mohegan Sun Friday as number-one contender Ryan Bader (27-6) shut out number seven Lyota Machida (26-10) via unanimous decision (49-45 x2, 49-46) to kick off the Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix Quarterfinals. The Bellator 256 main event saw former champion Bader weathering the storm early on, absorbing a barrage of kicks from the 42-year-old Machida in the fight’s opening frame. The key to Bader avenging his knockout loss at UFC on Fox 4 was complete dominance from pillar to post due to the offensive wrestling from Ryan Bader. The 37-year-old Bader proceeded to take down Machida nearly at will from the second round on, landing a ton of damage via the ground and pound to completely halt the momentum built from Machida. It gives Bader his first win since losing his light heavyweight strap to current champion Vadim Nemkov back at Bellator 244 last August. He is now just one win away from getting the chance to reclaim what was once his and become a million dollars richer. Bader, who is also the promotion’s heavyweight champion now has his sights on climbing the 205-pound mountain as Bellator promoter Scott Coker hinted that a vacant heavyweight title fight will be booked in the not-so-distant future. The victorious Bader will not have long to wait to see who is up next. Next week’s Bellator 257 will be bringing us the other bout from his side of the bracket as Corey Anderson makes his second walk to the Bellator cage as he welcomes former ACA standout Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov for his promotional debut in the Bellator 257 co-main event.
The co-main, and feature fights on this card saw two former UFC standouts get their second wins in their new home as both Liz Carmouche (22-7) and Cat Zingano (12-4) emerged victorious. Carmouche, who once fought in the inaugural UFC women’s title fight now is inching closer to yet another chance at gold, this time in Bellator as a flyweight as the third ranked Carmouche defeated former Invicta FC flyweight champion Vanessa Porto via unanimous decision (30-27 x2, 29-28). In her post fight interview with commentator John McCarthy, she called for reigning champion Juliana Velasquez to be the next opponent inside the Bellator cage but could be looked over in favor for a rematch between Velasquez and longtime champ Illima-Lei Macfarlane. As for Zingano, the number three featherweight contender had a quick night at the Mohegan Sun as she made quick work of Olivia Parker as she submitted her via belly down armbar just 2:56 into the first. Like Carmouche, Zingano also called for the champ in Cris Cyborg, who Is defending her 145-pound title on May 21. Zingano’s argument for the belt comes about because she is the last person to defeat current UFC two-division champion Amanda Nunes, the same Nunes who took the UFC Featherweight title from her back at UFC 232 back in December of 2018.
As two stars entered the win column in Connecticut on Friday, a new female flyweight prospect was born as Diana Avsaragova defeated Tara Gaff by knockout 29 seconds into her preliminary card fight. The future is bright for the 22-year-old Russian as she landed several devastating right hands to flatten Gaff on her way to earning her first career knockout finish. Look for the promotion to try and push the upstart young prospect as she has over 200 thousand Instagram followers despite only being three fights into her pro career.
Bellator is back in action next Friday as Bellator 257 airs live once again from the Mohegan Sun. Two more Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix are on deck as current champion Vadim Nemkov rematches Phil Davis, and Corey Anderson takes on Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov. The main card starts at 9:00 PM only on Showtime.
(Cover Photo: Bellator MMA/ESPN)