Bellator announces 8-man light heavyweight grand prix featuring ‘Rumble’ vs. Romero

Bellator on Tuesday announced that its next grand prix will be at light heavyweight, and it features a dream matchup right out of the gate.

The tournament is set to get underway April 9 at Bellator 256 with the first two quarterfinal matchups: Ryan Bader vs. Lyoto Machida and Corey Anderson vs. promotional newcomer Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov. The other two quarterfinal matchups are scheduled for April 16 at Bellator 257, with champion Vadim Nemkov defending his title against Phil Davis and Anthony Johnson vs. Yoel Romero.

All four fights on both events will take place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., and air on Showtime.

Courtesy of Bellator

Like previous Bellator tournaments, the title will be on the line in each round leading up to the final.


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The fight between Bader (27-6 MMA, 5-1 BMMA) and Machida (26-10 MMA, 2-2 BMMA) is a rematch from 2012, when Bader knocked out Machida at UFC on FOX 4. For heavyweight champion Bader, 37, the grand prix marks the start of his quest to reclaim the 205-pound title he lost to Nemkov last August. Machida, 42, a former UFC light heavyweight champ, is looking to snap a two-fight losing streak.

Anderson (14-5 MMA, 1-0 BMMA), 31, signed with Bellator last year after a lengthy run in the UFC. He made a successful promotional debut last November when he finished Melvin Manhoef in the second round at Bellator 251. Yagshimuradov (18-5-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), 31, fights out of Ukraine and will make his promotional debut riding an eight-fight winning streak after most recently competing in the ACA and ACB promotions.

For his first title defense, Nemkov (12-2 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) draws Davis (22-5 MMA, 9-2 BMMA) in a rematch. Their November 2018 bout ended with Nemkov, 28, winning by split decision. Since then, Davis, 36, has reeled off three consecutive wins to earn a shot at claiming the belt for a second.

Ever since Johnson (22-6 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) and Romero (13-5 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) signed with Bellator late last year, fans have salivated at the possibility of a matchup between the two heavy hitters who have competed for UFC titles. Johnson, 36, is making his return to the cage for the first time since announcing his retirement after a loss to Daniel Cormier in April 2017. Romero, 43, has spent the past eight years competing at middleweight and will look to snap a three-fight losing streak as he moves up a division.


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