Corey Anderson Climbs to Top of Bellator Mountain With Win in Belfast

March 25, 2024
2 months

Corey Anderson had to think that his time at the top would never come in mixed martial arts. Anderson, 34, lost a title eliminator in soul-crushing fashion to Jan Błachowicz in February 2020 during his time in the UFC. Shortly after, Anderson decided to leave the organization and jump ship to Bellator.

Within three fights, Anderson was in the Bellator Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix Final. His fight ended in a no-contest due to an accidental headbutt with Vadim Nemkov. The two men fought again for the title at Bellator 288, with Nemkov winning by decision.

When the Professional Fighters League acquired Bellator, no one was sure what anyone’s future with the organization would be. Anderson was chosen to headline the first Bellator fight post-merger. Anderson fought Karl Moore for the vacant light heavyweight championship in Belfast.

It wasn’t a pretty affair. The best MMA news sites show a few competitive rounds, but it was a slow-paced battle for the crown. But Anderson didn’t care about style points. He came away with a unanimous decision win and became champion of a major MMA promotion for the first time in his career.

Pitbull Still Has Some Bite

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire is 36 years old and is the Bellator featherweight champion. At lighter weights, the amount of worthy contenders who fill up the weight class typically develops quickly for champions attempting to protect their posts. Entering the fight on a two-match losing streak had people questioning if maybe Freire was due for a slide in quality.

But Freire, who is in his third title reign as Bellator featherweight champion, added his ninth title defense in the weight class with a third-round TKO win over Jeremy Kennedy. Kennedy entered the fight on a three-fight winning streak, but found that to take the belt off a strong champion, you need to be prepared for everything.

Freire connected with a jab and a cross late in the third round to force Kennedy along the fence. Kennedy attempted to shell up along the fence, but Freire followed up with vicious knees, body shots, and elbow strikes for 25 seconds to send Kennedy to the canvas and force a stoppage.

Edwards Gets Back on Track

Fabian Edwards, brother of UFC champion Leon Edwards, was disappointed not to win the middleweight championship last September. But there’s a question about whether Edwards was ready for a title push to fight current champion Johnny Eblen. When the two met at Bellator 299, Edwards suffered his first knockout in the third round.

But Edwards insisted that was a freak occurrence and that he was ready for a rematch. First Edwards needed to prove himself against Aaron Jeffery. Edwards controlled the fight with his striking and earned a unanimous decision. While Edwards did earn another chance to fight Eblen for the championship, this wasn’t the most exciting performance to build momentum going into another shot at the belt.

Eblen didn’t turn in the best performance at the PFL vs. Bellator event in February. There is some thought he may be vulnerable. With Edwards’ uninspiring performance against Jeffrey and already losing by KO to Eblen, this should be an interesting challenge for Edwards to improve.

Higo Would Like to be More Active

Leandro Higo is the no. 6 ranked bantamweight in the Bellator rankings. But Higo hasn’t had much work to do over the past few years. Since beating Ricky Bandejas at Bellator 249 in October 2020, Higo has only fought once a year. 

Higo stepped in on a week’s notice to fight James Gallagher, who had high ambitions for what could happen after the fight. But Higo looked good at featherweight after accepting the fight on a week’s notice. He employed his well-rounded style and won a unanimous decision. 

With eight of these Bellator Contender Series fights on the docket for this year, Higo will hope to get back to action soon. He would like to not wait as long before taking on another challenge.

Sousa is Happy to Finally Fight in the Cage

Manoel Sousa has been doing plenty of fighting over the past year and a half. But the undefeated prospect has mostly been waging legal battles against the PFL. Sousa has claimed the PFL blocked him from appearing on Dana White’s Contender Series.

Sousa, who is undefeated, initially fought in the PFL Challenger series in 20203. He wanted to earn a spot on the roster but didn’t after picking up a split-decision win over Paulo Henrique. Sousa finally received his opportunity to fight in Bellator.

Sousa didn’t disappoint. He knocked out Tim Wilde with 12 seconds left in the first round of a lightweight bout. While Sousa may not be happy with the PFL and could avoid re-signing when his contract is up, Sousa had to be happy to step into the cage and improve his record to 12-0.

Clarke Stays Undefeated

One of Bellator’s hallmarks as a promotion was promoting local fighters wherever they held events. For this fight in Northern Ireland, there were a number of local fighters sprinkled in throughout the card. MMAfighting latest updates show that Ciaran Clarke improved to 9-0 in the promotion with a dominant win over Darius Mafi.

Clarke caught Mafi 41 seconds into the round with an arm-triangle choke. Clarke is rare because he is a fighter who didn’t have to work in smaller promotions before ending up in Bellator in 2019. 

Here’s a look at the other fights on the card that weren’t mentioned above:

  • Lightweight, Alfie Davis win by decision over Oscar Ownsworth, 30-27 (x3)
  • Light Heavyweight, Luke Trainer win by decision over Grant Neal, 30-27 (x3)
  • Featherweight, Nathan Kelly win by KO (elbow) over Vikas Singh Ruhil, Round 1, :40
  • Heavyweight, Abraham Bably win by decision over Isaiah Pinson, 30-27 (x3)
  • Amateur Catchweight, Nate Kelly win by submission (armbar) over Jordan Elliot, round 1, 1:48

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By Dean McHugh.