Bellator 254 Features a Handful of New England MMA Veterans
Travis Lizotte "Full Contact Writer"
Stop me if you have heard this one before but we are checking back in with Bellator MMA again this week as they continue to do business from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. As expected Bellator 254 will feature a steady dose of local talent as they continue to pick from the cream of the crop of New England fighters during their extended stay here in the region. Speaking of extended stays in New England; Providence, Rhode Island's Nate "The Snake" Andrews (16-3) will make his Bellator MMA debut Thursday night (December 10th). Once one of the most dominant Lightweights without ties to a major promotion, Andrews signed with PFL in 2019 where he dropped two of three decisions, with both losses coming to Long Island, New York's Chris Wade (17-6). After his initial Bellator MMA debut, scheduled for March against Kilys Mota, was cancelled due to Covid-19, Andrews was held in limbo until he signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator MMA in November, amidst the promotions upturn following lockdown. The Snake will get to enjoy some "home turf" advantage as the former CES Lightweight Champion makes his first walk to the Bellator cage, as part of the Main Card at Bellator 254, against a moderately favored Submission Artist, in Curitiba Brazil's Goiti Yamauchi (25-4) in a Lightweight feature.
Owner of a mind numbing 20 submission finishes in his 25 professional wins, you'd be hard pressed to find a more highly touted Lightweight across the Bellator roster. Since losing a tough decision to Michael Chandler in 2018, Yamauchi has reeled off three straight wins in the Bellator cage, including submission stoppages of both Saad Awad and Daron Cruickshank. Yamauchi makes the trip to Andrews' backyard as he welcomes the promotional debut of, one of, the most dominant Lightweights to even reign over New England soil. With 15 career finishes in his 16 professional victories, (10 Submissions, 5 Knockouts) Andrews has the ability to make some waves in the Bellator Lightweight division, he could, in fact, put the entire division on notice Thursday night with a victory over the streaking Yamauchi.
Update: Breaking News; Goiti Yamauchi failed to make weight Wednesday morning, showing up to weigh-ins 6.8 pounds over the contracted 156 pound Lightweight limit and the fight with Andrews has been scrapped. Story Here.
The undercard at Bellator 254 Thursday night will be riddled with even more homegrown talent, starting out in the Welterweight division; It's another 170 pound Gracie, for another New England Welterweight hopeful. Last month at Bellator 252 Citadel MMA's Trevor Gudde shocked the Bellator contingent with a third round knockout of Royce Gracie's son; Khonry Gracie. This time, Robson Gracie Jr. (3-0, 3 Submissions) will serve the legendary Gracie lineage, as New England fires back with up and comer; Billy Goff (2-2). At just 22 years of age, Goff has gathered a ton of experience early on in his career, as he will be looking to notch his second Bellator MMA victory, while handing Robson Gracie the first loss of his professional career. Goff would love to follow in the footsteps of fellow New Englander Gudde, and further his prospect status at the expense of the sports' royal family. Goff sat down with out Steve Domenico on The Room Podcast to discuss the tribulations that finally lead to this matchup with Robson Gracie Jr.
Former two promotion Amateur Featherweight Champion (AMMO Fight League, Cage Titans FC) and Hartford, Connecticut's own; Kenny "Rise of the Phoenix" Champion (2-0) has needed just under two and a half minutes in cage time to dispatch his first two challengers in the professional ranks, using strikes to pile up two quick first round knockouts to kickoff his pro campaign. Champion gets his first Bellator call against former NCAA division II Wrestling Champion; Cody Law (1-0, 1-0 Bellator MMA) out of the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown. The 25 year old Law made his professional debut at Bellator 250 in October, with a first round D'arce Choke of fellow pro debuter; Orlando Ortega. Law will be faced a much stiffer set of circumstances this Thursday night against the always tough Kenny Champion. Kenny also spoke with our Steve Domenico leading up to this matchup with Law Thursday, where the "late blooming" Champion explained why the youngster Law is just another step in his efforts to be the best Kenny Champion he can possibly be.
In October at Bellator 249 Massachusetts' Kemran Lachinov (10-2) walked through previously unbeaten Kyle Crutchmer (6-1), quite literally (video), on his way to a Unanimous Decision victory, the biggest of his professional career. When asked at the post fight press conference why he chose to drop his hands mid fight and walk his opponent down? Lachinov answered: "I go in there to win, or die." Team Link's Lachinov will find himself right back in that very same predicament Thursday night as its once again "do or die" against another undefeated opponent in Shamil "The Chechen Wolf" Nikaev (9-0, 1 No Contest). The 25 year old Nikaev has an impressive resume, even holding a Split-Decision win over currently UFC rostered; Christos Giagos, however the one knock on Nikaev may be his killer instinct, or lack there of. In his ten trips to the cage, Nikaev has gone to the judges scorecards nine times, a situation that does not insert itself well to Lachinov's "win or die" equation explained above. Kemran will also be looking to keep his own streak alive, as the New England veteran looks to improve upon his current eight fight win streak, leaving another undefeated prospect in his wake. Lachinov was also in "The Room Podcast" last week with Steve Domenico where he talked about keeping that current winning streak alive at Ballator 254.
Rounding out the roster of New England veterans competing at Bellator 254 Thursday night; Middleweight Justin "The Fort" Sumter (7-3) will be making his third walk to the Bellator cage, in hopes to pick up his second promotional win against another NCAA Division II Wrestling standout, and also undefeated Romero Cotton (4-0). Cotton went directly from the wrestling mats to the Bellator cage in 2016 when the Kansas native signed an exclusive deal with Bellator MMA, forgoing an amateur MMA career. Since making his pro debut in 2017, Cotton's record; perfect, with three wins coming by first round stoppage. Cotton will find himself with the toughest ask of his young career Thursday night against Fighting Arts Academy's Sumter, who will be looking to right the ship after suffering losses in two of his last three outings. You cannot discount Sumter's talents based on his two recent losses, both defeats came at the UFC's Apex in Las Vegas Nevada on Dana White's Contender Series, to fighters who are now signed with the UFC in Ian Heinisch (14-3) and Maki Pitolo (13-7). A vintage Sumter performance Thursday night against the upstart Cotton could be just what the doctor ordered as Sumter looks to put his career path back on the upward trajectory.
Bellator 254 will culminate with Women's Flyweight World Champion; Undefeated Hawaiian; Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (11-0) as she puts her unblemished record and Flyweight Title on the line against Undefeated Challenger; Juliana Velasquez (10-0) in the evenings main event. Fight fans can tune in to the Bellator MMA Youtube page Thursday December 10th at 7:30 pm for the preliminary card, at 10 pm hop over to CBS Sports Network for the Bellator 254 main card. Below is a look at the entire nine fight card, as it is set to unfold from the Mohegan Sun Arena, in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Bellator 254 Main Event
125 lbs: Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (11-0) vs. Juliana Velasquez (10-0)
Bellator 254 Main Card (10 pm ET)
135 lbs: Magomed Magomedov (16-1) vs. Matheus Mattos (12-1-1) Heavy: Linton Vassell (19-8) vs. Ronny Markes (19-7) Heavy: Davion Franklin (2-0) vs. Anthony Garrett (4-2)
Bellator 254 Prelims (7:30 pm ET)
185 lbs: Romero Cotton (4-0) vs. Justin Sumter (7-3) 205 lbs: Grant Neal (4-0) vs. Maurice Jackson (7-2) 170 lbs: Shamil Nikaev (9-0) vs. Kemran Lachinov (10-2) 145 lbs: Cody Law (1-0) vs. Kenny Champion (2-0) 170 lbs: Robson Gracie (3-0) vs. Billy Goff (2-2)