Recent Bellator signee Gegard Mousasi has a simple, but ambitious plan.
“I have to beat (Alexander) Shlemenko first, then the (middleweight) title fight, then maybe a matchup against Rory MacDonald, and then maybe light heavyweight,” Mousasi told MMAjunkie.
Mousasi looks to put his plan in motion on Friday when he faces Alexander Shlemenko in the main event of Bellator 185.
In the co-main event, Zak Bucia steps in as a late injury replacement in the hopes of handing grappling star Neiman Gracie his first MMA defeat.
Also on the card is former boxer-turned MMA fighter Heather Hardy, who became a quick fan favorite with a knockout win in her Bellator debut, as she faces the debuting Kristina Williams.
Bellator 185 takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., and airs on Spike following prelims on MMAjunkie.
Here are five reasons to watch the event.
1. A familiar face finds a new home
As far as Bellator free-agent signings go, Mousasi is one of the biggest. A former light heavyweight champion with Strikeforce and DREAM, he can compete at both middleweight and light heavyweight. If he wants, he can also participate in the kickboxing side of Bellator. He has a 5-0 record in that sport.
At Bellator 185, Mousasi, who is on a five-fight winning streak, steps into the cage as a middleweight, the division he’s called home since 2014. According to the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middleweight rankings, Mousasi is the No. 6 at 185 pounds.
Bellator’s middleweight division is not particularly deep right now. A win over Shlemenko (56-9 MMA, 12-3 BMMA) could put Mousasi (42-6-2 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) in the mix to face the winner of the December bout between champion Rafael Carvalho and former UFC fighter Alessio Sakara.
Since losing the middleweight title in 2014, Shlemenko has fought five times in Russia and twice for Bellator. One of those Bellator fights, a knockout win over Melvin Manhoef, was changed to a no contest after Shlemenko tested positive for steroids as well as a testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio of 50-1, which is probably the reason Mousasi requested his opponent be drug tested for this contest.
Shlemenko’s most recent win under the Bellator banner came in October 2016 when he stopped Kendall Grove via TKO.
2. Ready for the next step?
Highly decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Gracie doesn’t fight often, but when he does, he usually ends things with a submission. Since turning pro in 2013, the unbeaten welterweight with the famous surname has tapped out five of six opponents.
Gracie (6-0 MMA, 4-0 BMMA) gets a late injury replacement in this co-main event bout. Bucia (18-8 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) is the Shamrock FC welterweight champion. He won the title in May with a decision-victory over former Strikeforce/UFC fighter Bobby Voelker. Bucia is a BJJ purple belt with nine submission wins to his name. He fights well on his feet, where he uses his kicks and hand speed to keep opponents at distance.
If Bucia can prevent takedowns and keep his opponent standing, this fight could be a good indicator as to Gracie’s readiness to take a step up in competition.
3. She seems to really like this MMA thing
After finding success in the boxing ring, Hardy decided to give MMA and debuted at Bellator 180 in June. Following her third-round TKO win over Alice Yauger, she said of MMA, “I think I just fell in love.”
Hardy started off slow in that fight, but once she found her groove she didn’t take her foot off the gas. The Brooklyn-born pugilist threw nearly 300 punches before the bout was waved off with three seconds left in the third stanza.
Now that she has a feel for the MMA game and what it takes to fight 5-minute rounds, it’s going to be interesting to see what Hardy (1-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) brings to her flyweight fight against Williams (0-0 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), who makes her professional debut.
That presents a bit of an odd matchup for Hardy since she just defeated a fighter who was competing in her 10th pro bout.
4. Another boxing crossover joins Bellator
Former world champion boxer Ana Julaton returns to MMA for the first time in nearly two years at Bellator 185. Julaton, a black belt in Kenpo karate and Taekwondo, has four ONE CHAMPIONSHIP bouts on her record. Her return to MMA comes on the heels of a failed bid to land a spot on season 26 of “The Ultimate Fighter.”
It’s probably not a coincidence that Julaton, a teammate of former UFC heavyweight champion and recent Bellator signee Frank Mir, is fighting on the same card as Hardy.
“I think that would be a great fight. It would be a big money fight,” Julaton said of potential matchup against Hardy on MMAjunkie Radio. “Especially if it’s done correctly, in the right stage.”
Before Julaton (2-2 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) can focus on Hardy she has to get past Lisa Blaine in this flyweight matchup. Blaine (1-0 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) made her pro debut in June. She scored a second-round TKO in that bout under the Premier Fighting Championship banner.
5. A hot prospect tries to stay unbeaten
Jordan Young started his Bellator career on a high note. At Bellator 171 he defeated Chris Harris by unanimous decision. The loss was the first of Harris’ career. A few months later Young (7-0 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) spoiled another fighter’s unblemished record when he submitted Tim Caron in the first round. Now 7-0, the 22-year-old American Top Team product faces Alec Hooben (5-3 MMA, 0-0 BMMA).
Young is a lanky fighter. His long limbs allow him to work from the outside and control distance on the feet. On the ground, his physique lends itself well to submissions. Five of his victories have come via first-round tapout.
There is some concern about where Young will fight in Bellator. He missed the middleweight limit in the Harris fight and this contest, like his bout against Caron, is a 195-pound catchweight affair.
The 24-year-old Hooben makes his Bellator debut on this card. He had a three-fight winning streak come to an end in his most recent bout when Mike Rodriguez knocked him out in the first round of a CES card in May.
For more on Bellator 185, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie