Bellator is back with a doubleheader this weekend — two cards on two straight nights at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Bellator 245 is Friday night, headlined by a rematch between former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida and former Bellator light heavyweight champion Phil Davis. In the co-main event, former UFC title challenger Cat Zingano makes her Bellator debut against Gabby Holloway.
In Saturday’s Bellator 246 main event, Juan Archuleta meets undefeated prospect Patchy Mix for the vacant bantamweight title. Also on that card, Jon Fitch meets Neiman Gracie in a welterweight bout and Liz Carmouche makes her Bellator debut.
It’ll be a busy few days in Uncasville with titles, legacies and future glory on the line. Let’s take a look at the top five storylines going into the weekend.
What will we learn about veterans Lyoto Machida and Phil Davis?
If this fight seems to be straight out of the UFC in the early 2010s, that’s because it is. Machida and Davis fought at UFC 163 on Aug. 3, 2013. It was the co-main event of a card headlined by Jose Aldo defending his UFC featherweight title against “The Korean Zombie,” Chan Sung Jung. Davis won by unanimous decision.
Fast-forward seven years, and the two men are meeting again in Bellator, each at somewhat of a crossroads. A win here is crucial for both.
Davis, 35, has won two straight, and his lone loss in the last three years came against new Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov in a very close 2018 split decision. A win over Machida could potentially get him a title shot, a chance to become a two-time champ. Machida, meanwhile, had his four-fight winning streak snapped in a close one against Gegard Mousasi in a September 2019 middleweight bout. “The Dragon” is 42 years old now. It’s unclear how much time he has left in the sport. But if he can somehow beat Davis, it would show he’s still right there, able to compete in both the light heavyweight and middleweight divisions.
Can Patchy Mix be a breakout star for Bellator?
Don’t call him Patrick. Sure, that’s Mr. Mix’s given first name. But his family and friends have called him Patchy since he was a kid, and that’s what he prefers. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about what Mix has accomplished in his career in somewhat quiet fashion. The native of western New York is undefeated, has finished his last eight wins and has looked fantastic in his three Bellator fights. Mix, 27, owns a finish over current UFC fighter Andre Ewell. There’s little doubt he’s a top bantamweight prospect. Just ask his coaches at JacksonWink MMA, who rave about him.
On Saturday, Mix has a chance to become champion in Bellator’s bantamweight division, where the title has been vacant since Kyoji Horiguchi surrendered the championship last November while recovering from injury. Both Mix and Juan Archuleta are excellent but unheralded fighters. Bellator could really use a “homegrown” talent — one who has never fought in the UFC — to emerge as a star. Mix (or Archuleta) could end up being that fighter. A finish in a headlining title fight could propel him.
Will Cat Zingano establish herself as next up for Cris Cyborg?
In terms of high-level opposition for featherweight champion Cyborg on the current Bellator roster, Zingano stands out. She’s a former UFC bantamweight title challenger and has headlined UFC cards. Zingano owns a win over the best female fighter on the planet right now, Amanda Nunes. So there would certainly be a fair amount of interest in Cyborg vs. Zingano for the Bellator women’s featherweight title.
First, though, Zingano has to beat Gabby Holloway in her Bellator debut Friday night. Zingano has fought only once at featherweight, a bizarre loss to Megan Anderson at UFC 232 in December 2018. She’ll certainly be the favorite against Holloway, and a victory is likely to get her Cyborg next. But Zingano hasn’t competed since that Anderson loss, and given her inexperience in the heavier weight class, it’ll be very interesting to see if she can make good on the path that Bellator has set out for her.
Will Liz Carmouche set up a teammate vs. teammate title fight?
Fighting a teammate is a taboo topic in MMA. Two training partners fighting doesn’t happen very frequently, and most fighters don’t even want to entertain the idea of getting in the cage with someone so close to them. The philosophy happens to be way different when it comes to Carmouche and Bellator women’s flyweight champion Ilima-Lei Macfarlane. They actually want to fight each other. Macfarlane has said she’d be excited about giving her longtime confidante with Team Hurricane Awesome in San Diego a crack at her belt.
That very well could be the direction Bellator goes in, too. Carmouche is legitimately one of the best 125-pound female fighters in the world. Before joining that weight class, she was a top 135-pounder. She fought in the first UFC women’s fight against Ronda Rousey in 2013. To get the title shot she’s after, Carmouche will need to win Saturday against veteran DeAnna Bennett and Macfarlane will likely have to defend her belt against Juliana Velasquez. If both fulfill their ends of the bargain, it could be teammate vs. teammate for the Bellator title in 2021.
Can Jon Fitch continue his late-career resurgence?
Back in the mid-to-late aughts, Fitch was basically the second-best welterweight fighter on the planet. The problem for him was that Georges St-Pierre — the best welterweight of all time — was in the way of Fitch becoming a champion. GSP beat Fitch at UFC 87 on Aug. 9, 2008. After that, Fitch went unbeaten in six straight, further establishing himself as the runner-up to GSP’s crown during that era. Fast-forward more than a decade later, and Fitch is still — somehow — racking up wins at age 42. Fitch, the former World Series of Fighting welterweight champion, is unbeaten in six straight and has not lost since 2014. In that time, he has beaten Paul Daley, Jake Shields and Yushin Okami, none of them slouches, and has fought to a draw with Rory MacDonald.
Neiman Gracie, nephew of Renzo, is Fitch’s opponent Saturday. Gracie lost his undefeated record to MacDonald in his last fight. This is very much a fork-in-the-road fight for both Grace and Fitch. Each man is trying to maintain traction in the Bellator welterweight division. For Fitch, it’s another chance to cement himself as one of the most underrated fighters in MMA history and get closer to another title shot.