Bellator 255 kicks off an action-packed April in terms of MMA events. What a way to start but with Bellator MMA’s greatest fighter: Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. The dual champion is a sizable -260 favorite per the Bellator MMA betting lines. But I think the odds are underestimating his opponent, Emmanuel Sanchez (+210) a bit too much, which could lead to a stunning upset.
But that’s not all. Bellator 255 features plenty of fights between upcoming contenders and fighters you should get acquainted with. Let’s break down the three main fights beginning with the much-anticipated rematch.
- Date: Saturday, Apr. 2, 9 p.m.
- Venue: Mohegan Sun Arena, Uncasville, CT, USA
- Watch on: Showtime
Sanchez Puts on Performance Against Pitbull
Weight Class: Featherweight Championship (145)
Rounds: Five (Main Event)
Odds: Patricio Freire -280, Emmanuel Sanchez +210
Pitbull (31-4-0) and Sanchez (20-4-0) meet again as a rematch to their 2018 tilt was a back-and-forth affair. This will also be the semifinals of the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix and the winner not only gets the belt but advances to meet unbeaten A.J. McKee in the finals.
Picking against Pitbull is usually a losing endeavor. The Brazilian hasn’t lost a fight in over five years and that loss came via an injury. His last loss before that was in 2015. Now at 33, Pitbull has won the featherweight title twice and defended it a total of six times.
But Pitbull is far from invincible. All four of his losses have come under the Bellator banner and he’s had many close calls as the champion including his first title defense against Sanchez.
The spirited Sanchez managed to win two rounds against Pitbull in their first bout. Sanchez was very aggressive and did not fear Pitbull’s power. That was both to his advantage and disadvantage as he managed to do damage but also take some.
But three years is a lot of time for the Mexican-American to adjust. He already has the size advantage and a whopping 11-inch reach advantage.
I like Sanchez to live up to his moniker as the “El Matador” and come up with a more tactical approach here. Even the champ recognized his improvements. It may not be as exciting as the first affair, but Sanchez will utilize his reach and size advantage to make this fight very close.
I still lean on Pitbull to edge a decision here, maybe a split. But at these odds, I’d rather bet on El Matador to pull off the upset.
Pick: Emmanuel Sanchez +210
Nurmagomedov Smashes Hamel in Debut
Weight Class: Lightweight (155)
Odds: Usman Nurmagomedov -1000, Mike Hamel +600
Ah, you know when your name is “Nurmagomedov” you will have massive betting odds in your favor. But Usman Nurmagomedov (11-0-0) makes his Bellator debut in a winnable fight against Mike Hamel (7-4-0). This should be a straightforward win for Khabib’s cousin but the betting line is crazy.
Nurmagomedov, like his cousin, is primarily a wrestler. While he has a long way to go to dominate as much as Khabib, his wrestling should be enough to seal the victory here for him as Hamel is more of a “stand-and-bang” type. But even he’s struggling to do that lately.
If Nurmagomedov wants to make a statement, he’ll stand with Hamel and knock him out maybe with a body shot or a well-placed counter. But he can also just take him down, beat him up.
Either way, Nurmagomedov should dominate here. Throw him in a parlay if you want to adjust the odds a little.
Pick: Usman Nurmagomedov -1000
Jackson Stuns Gracie
Weight Class: Welterweight (170)
Odds: Jason Jackson -120, Neiman Gracie -110
This welterweight scrap between two of Bellator’s brightest prospects could steal the show. I don’t fault the oddsmakers for having this at almost dead even as this will be a chess match between two well-versed fighters.
Jackson is, as his memorable nickname alludes, an “Ass-Kicking Machine”. He is 6’1” and sports a lengthy 77.5” reach. But even that doesn’t do justice to how big he is in the cage. He is also athletic, spry, and continuing to evolve with the sport.
Gracie, as his name alludes, is an expert Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player. He’ll look to take this fight to the mat where he can outgrapple Jackson and submit him. But if the fight stays standing, he’s shown improvements to his stand-up as well.
The question is whether Gracie can get Jackson to the mat. As much as I like him, I think Jackson is explosive and strong enough to keep Gracie off where he can keep the fight standing. When this happens, I like for him to outstrike Gracie and earn a decision.
Pick: Jason Jackson -120