Bellator MMA will kick off its two-night doubleheader tomorrow night (Fri., April 21, 2022) as Bellator 294 takes place inside Blaisdell Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. Liz Carmouche will defend her women’s Flyweight title against DeAnna Bennett, a rematch three years in the making, though Bennett won’t be able to win the belt after failing to make weight. Heavyweight brawlers Tim Johnson and Said Sowma will collide in the co-main event, while Danny Sabatello returns to face Marcos Breno.
Liz Carmouche vs Deanna Bennett
Carmouche finally put Julianna Velasquez in her rear-view mirror by defeating her a second time at Bellator 289 with a slick armbar, earning her first-ever defense of her 125-pound strap. Now, the former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title contender will face off against another familiar foe as she rematches Bennett. “Girl-Rilla” defeated “Vitamin D” in her debut with the promotion in Sept. 2020 via rear-naked choke, and now she looks to put her in the dust one more time like she did Velasquez. Since her loss to Carmouche, Bennett has been on a tear, racking up three straight wins to climb up to the No. 4 spot on the rankings. Bennett’s last win via stoppage came nearly a decade ago, so she tends to try to grind out her opponents over the course of 15 minutes, while Carmouche prefers to step on the gas right away. And the proof is in the pudding because she has earned stoppage wins in her previous three fights. If the champ opts to come out aggressive from the jump it won’t bode well for Bennett, so I don’t expect a different outcome this time around. Unfortunately for Bennett, she will not be able to win the title if she gets revenge on Carmouche because she missed championship weight. In an interesting twist, Carmouche opted to keep her belt on the line, which means if she loses the title will become vacant.
Prediction: Carmouche via second round-submission
Tim Johnson vs Said Sowma
Johnson has seen better days. At one time the big man was ranked No. 1 in the Heavyweight division, and even fought for the interim strap against Valentin Moldavsky, coming up short in his bid to win gold at Bellator 261. That loss was a sign of things to come because the big man has now lost three in a row, including a first-round knockout loss at the hands of Fedor Emelinaneko, which was preceded by another first-round beatdown at the hands of Linton Vassell. Now, Johnson will attempt to revive his career and avoid a further downfall by getting a win of Sowma, who is struggling with his own two-fight losing streak. Bellator isn’t really in the business of cutting top contenders, but it’s still a must-win situation for both men. Johnson is still hanging around the Top 10 while Sowma is trying to break in and a win here will definitely get him there. I just don’t see it happening. I fully expect Johnson to bounce back with a big knockout win here.
Prediction: Johnson via first-round knockout
Danny Sabatello vs. Marcos Breno
Sabatello’s run in the Bantamweight Grand Prix — which will conclude Saturday (April 22) at Bellator 295 — was cut short by current interim champion, Raufeon Stots, and now “The Italian Gangster” will attempt to get back in the win column after having his seven-fight win streak snapped when he battles Marcos Breno. Sabatello has talked a good game but a lot of his momentum went out the window with his latest defeat, so if he wants to be one of Bellator MMA’s main characters in the future, he needs to win the big ones. While Breno isn’t exactly a player in the promotion, yet, he is off to a fine start by making a successful debut by earning a unanimous decision win over Josh Hill. Currently on a three-fight win streak, Breno is no slouch, but he might be just a tad bit over his head here, especially when it comes to the wrestling department. But Sabatello likes to bang it out on the feet, so this fight has all the makings to be the best one of the night.
Prediction: Sabatello via unanimous decision
Arlene Blencowe vs. Sara McMann
Sara McMann will make her Bellator MMA debut after inking a deal with the promotion late last year. The former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Bantamweight title contender will have tough draw in her first fight with the promotion against No. 2 ranked Featherweight, Arlene Blencowe, who is coming off a championship loss to Cris Cyborg. All of Blencowe’s losses under the Bellator banner have been title fights, so that should tell you just how tough and skilled she is. But McMann has championship experience, too, so this fight should be very competitive from the jump. It goes without saying that McMann’s best bet is to make it a wrestling war where she has the advantage over just about everyone in the division. Blencowe will have to keep her hands busy early and often if she wants to have her hand raised at the end of 15-minute bout, which will go the distance.
Prediction: McMann via unanimous decision
Levan Chokheli vs. Michael Lombardo
Chokeli is a rising Welterweight contender, but if he wants to get into the mix, he first has to crack the Top 10. And that starts with being more consistent when it comes to the wins because since joining Bellator he has alternated wins and losses to rack up a 2-2 record. He is coming off a win over Roman Faraldo five months ago, so he is looking to break his win-loss pattern here. As for Lombardo, he is 1-1 so far in his young career with the promotion and was last seen defeating Mark Lemminger four months ago and is 5-1-1 over his last seven outings, which includes a win on the Contender Series. A win over Chokheli will be huge for his stock moving forward, but it’s going to be a tough task to say the least.
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See you then!