On Thursday, December 10th, Bellator returns to action live from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT, for Bellator 254: Macfarlane vs Velasquez. The main event of the night is a women’s flyweight title fight as Ilima-Lei Macfarlane defends her title against Julian Velasquez.
The co-featured bout is a bantamweight showdown as Magomed Magomedov makes his highly anticipated Bellator debut against Matheus Mattos. Also on the main card is Goiti Yamauchi vs Nate Andrews and Linton Vassell vs Nate Andrews.
As of this writing, Bellator 254 is scheduled to have 10 fights with a main card start time of 10PM ET on CBS Sports Network.
Bellator betting sites have released odds on the full slate of fights. Let’s step inside the betting octagon to examine these odds, identify any potential betting value, and force these predictions to tap out.
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Bellator 254 Preliminary Card
As of this writing, Bellator 254 is set to feature six preliminary card fights with a start time of 7:15PM ET.
Billy Goff vs Robson Gracie Jr.
Billy Goff (+375)
Robson Gracie Jr. (-500)
This matchup will finally happen after two failed attempts by Bellator to schedule it this year. In March, the promotion was shut down due to the pandemic and in September Gracie Jr. pulled out due to an injury.
Goff will return to Bellator for the first time since February 2019. He won in his promotional debut via unanimous decision. Unfortunately, Goff has gone on to lose two straight fights since then. Additionally, he hasn’t fought in 15 months. All four pro fights came in 2019.
Goff has gone the distance in two of his four pro fights. He’s also scored one TKO/KO win and has been knocked out as well.
Robson Gracie Jr. is another member of the famous Gracie family and has competed under the Bellator banner for all three of his pro fights. He last fought 13 months ago and defeated Ameer Basheer via 1st round submission. All three wins have come via submission.
Like an owner feeds a python a rat or two, Bellator is feeding Gracie a Billy Goff this weekend. Gracie will win this fight via submission. The only question is if he will play with his food before forcing the tap out.
Billy Goff vs Robson Gracie Jr. –Gracie Jr. (-500)
Kenny Champion vs Cody Law
Kenny Champion (+235)
Cody Law (-295)
Kenny Champion makes his Bellator debut this weekend after going 2-0 in his pro career with both wins coming via TKO. He last fought in February for Premier FC. Both wins also came in the 1st round.
Cody Law will make his second trip inside the Bellator cage after fighting just before Halloween and winning via 1st round submission. He went undefeated in his amateur MMA career and has shown potential as a strong grappler.
This matchup appears to be a striker vs grappler matchup, which should bode well for Cody Law. I expect him to get this fight to the mat and force Champion to tap out.
Kenny Champion vs Cody Law –Law (-295)
Davion Franklin vs Anthony Garrett
Davion Franklin (-200)
Anthony Garrett (+160)
Anthony Garrett returns to Bellator for the first time since fighting to a No Contest against Jake Hager 14 months ago. The fight ended prematurely due to Garrett suffering a knee to the groin.
Following that fight, Garrett didn’t compete again until two months ago where he won via 1st round submission in Fighting Alliance Championship.
All five of Garrett’s wins have come via stoppage with three by way of TKO/KO. Both of his losses have come via TKO/KO.
This man has a habit of dropping serious 💣s in the #Bellator cage.
Davion Franklin has two pro bouts in his career with both coming under the Bellator banner. Additionally, both contests took place this year, so this will be his third fight of 2020.
Franklin won his Bellator debut in February via 1st round TKO. He won his second fight via technical decision in September.
I expect Franklin to remain unbeaten by defeating Garrett via TKO/KO on Thursday. Hopefully, Garrett will make it through the contest without any groin strikes this time around.
Davion Franklin vs Anthony Garrett –Franklin (-200)
Kemran Lachinov vs Shamil Nikaev
Kemran Lachinov (+215)
Shamil Nikaev (-275)
After starting off his career 2-2, Lachinov has gone on to win eight straight fights. During that stretch, he’s gone 4-0 in Bellator. Overall, Kemran has a 5-0 record in Bellator. His last fight was in October and he defeated Kyle Crutchmer via unanimous decision.
Five of his 10 pro wins have come via stoppage with three by way of submission. He’s 5-1 when going the distance.
Shamil Nikaev will make his Bellator debut this week. He’s unbeaten and spent most of his career in ACB. However, he hasn’t fought since February 2018. It will be interesting to see how much the 25 year old has evolved as a fighter. Eight of his nine pro wins have come via decision.
I’m going with the highly touted Belgian prospect Nikaev to win this fight via unanimous decision. It’s pretty clear that the bout will go the full 15 minutes as these two men have combined to go the distance in 14 of their 21 pro bouts.
Kemran Lachinov vs Shamil Nikaev –Nikaev (-275)
Maurice Jackson vs Grant Neal
Maurice Jackson (+275)
Grant Neal (-350)
Maurice Jackson has been out of action since February 2018, but he will return to the cage with a Bellator debut this week. His last fight was a 2nd round TKO win over Melvin Guillard. He’s won six of his last seven contests.
Four of Jackson’s seven pro wins have come via TKO/KO. He’s 3-0 when going the distance.
Neal is unbeaten with three of his four wins coming in Bellator. He made his debut for the promotion 13 months ago and won via unanimous decision. Neal followed that up with a TKO win in February and then another unanimous decision win in August.
Two of his four pro wins have come via stoppage with one victory for submission and TKO/KO apiece. He’s 2-0 when going the distance.
Grant Neal looks like he has plenty of potential. His last two fights showed glimpses of what he could possibly evolve into. I’m not quite sure what we will get from Jackson in this contest since it’s been almost three years since he last competed.
I’m taking Neal to win. I think the safe play is Neal winning via decision.
Maurice Jackson vs Grant Neal –Neal (-350)
Romero Cotton vs Justin Sumter
Romero Cotton (-215)
Justin Sumter (+175)
The main fight of the preliminary card is a middleweight contest between Justin Sumter and Romero Cotton.
Sumter last fought in July 2019 and lost via 1st round TKO to Maki Pitolo on DWCS. Prior to that, he competed in Bellator where he beat Reginaldo Felix via 2nd round submission in February 2019. For his career, Sumter is 1-1 in Bellator.
Sumter has had some bad luck. In his most recent losses, he took on solid prospects on DWCS in Pitolo and Ian Heinisch. Both ended via TKO/KO in the 1st round.
Five of his seven pro wins have come via stoppage with three by way of submission. He’s 2-0 when going the distance. All three pro losses have come via TKO/KO.
Cotton made his pro debut in July 2017 and won via split decision in Bellator. He’s competed in the promotion for his entire pro career, which spans four fights. His last bout came 13 months ago and he won via TKO in the 1st round.
Three of his four pro wins have come via stoppage with two by way of TKO/KO. He’s 1-0 when going the distance.
Combined, these two men have finished a fight inside the distance for 11 of 14 total bouts. It’s safe to say that this contest will also end inside the distance.
As for the winner, I’m taking Romero Cotton to pick up the TKO/KO probably in the second round so consider betting on the under in this fight. He will extend his win streak to five in a row including three by way of TKO/KO.
Romero Cotton vs Justin Sumter –Cotton (-215)
Bellator 254 Main Card
The main card for Bellator 254 features four fights with a start time of 10PM ET on CBS Sports Network.
Linton Vassell vs Ronny Markes
Linton Vassell (-275)
Ronny Markes (+215)
Ronny Markes makes his promotional debut for Bellator this week. He’s spent the last few years with PFL where he went 2-2. He also competed in KOTC, M-1 and the UFC where he went 3-2 inside the octagon.
Markes last fought in June 2019 and won via 2nd round TKO over Sigi Pesaleli. 12 of his 19 pro wins have come via stoppage with seven by way of TKO/KO. He’s 7-1 when going the distance.
Vassell has been with Bellator for over seven years now and has an overall record of 8-5 with the promotion. He made the jump to heavyweight in the spring of 2019 and has gone 1-1 in the division.
Vassell last fought in November 2019 and defeated Sergei Kharitonov via 2nd round TKO. It was his best win in three and a half years. The victory also ended a three fight losing streak, which was the longest of his career.
15 of his 19 pro wins have come via stoppage with eight by way of submission. He’s 4-3 when going the distance.
Despite the odds, I do believe this fight is going to be a close one. Markes is a gritty veteran as is Vassell. With that said, I am leaning towards Vassell in the opening bout of the Bellator 254 main card. I think we could go the distance. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Vassell found the late round TKO/KO either.
Linton Vassell vs Ronny Markes –Vassell (-275)
Goiti Yamauchi vs Nate Andrews
Goiti Yamauchi (-355)
Nate Andrews (+280)
Nate Andrews will make his promotional debut for Bellator this week. He’s gone 1-2 in his last three fights with all of them coming in PFL. The two losses were close decisions to the same opponent in Chris Wade. Prior to that stretch, Andrews had won nine fights in a row.
15 of his 16 pro wins have come via stoppage with 10 by way of submission. He’s 1-3 when going the distance. Although Andrews has 10 submission wins, there are levels to the grappling game and Yamauchi is probably two levels above him.
Over half of his 2️⃣0️⃣ submission wins coming by way of RNC, it’s safe to say that @GoitiOfficial has things well in hand.
Gotti Yamauchi is one of the most underrated fighters for all of Bellator. He’s gone 11-3 for the promotion in his career and is 6-1 since going up to lightweight a little over four years ago.
He’s taken on some of the best in this weight class and could be in line for a title shot with a win this week. His lone loss in this division came against Michael Chandler in January 2018.
21 of his 25 pro wins have come via stoppage with 20 victories by way of submission. He’s 4-4 when going the distance. Nine of his 11 Bellator wins have come via stoppage with eight coming via submission.
Yamauchi’s eight submission wins are the most in Bellator history. His five submission wins in the lightweight division are tied for the most. As you can see, this is a dangerous grappler with world class Jiu-Jitsu skills.
With that said, I am taking Yamauchi to win this bout via submission. I believe he will get Andrews to the mat and outwork him until he finds a limb to lock in a submission hold. You are looking at the next lightweight title contender.
Goiti Yamauchi vs Nate Andrews –Yamauchi (-355)
Magomed Magomedov vs Matheus Matos
Magomed Magomedov (-300)
Matheus Matos (+240)
The highly anticipated debut of Magomed Magomedov will take place this week and it’s penciled in as the co-main event. Despite what the Bellator betting sites have the odds listed at, this is going to be a highly competitive matchup.
Both men were top fighters in the ACB promotion in Russia. Furthermore, each man has suffered one career loss to the UFC bantamweight champ Petr Yan. Yet, Magomedov actually split with Yan as he’s the only fighter to have beaten Yan in his career.
Mattos was a title contender in the ACB and will also make his Bellator debut this week. He hasn’t competed in nearly three years. Yet, Magomedov hasn’t competed in over two years. So, neither one will have the advantage when it comes to rustiness.
10 of Mattos’ 12 pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of TKO/KO. He’s 2-0-1 when going the distance. The lone loss on his record was a 3rd round KO to Petr Yan in September 2017.
11 of Magomedov’s 16 pro wins have come via stoppage with seven by way of submission. He’s 5-1 when going the distance with the lone loss coming to Petr Yan via unanimous decision in April 2017.
It’s not often that we get two fighters making their debut the same week and both being potential title contenders in a deep bantamweight division. But, that’s what we have here.
If Magomedov wins as expected, he will jump up the rankings and probably compete for a title next year. If Mattos wins, the same could be said.
For me, I do give Magomedov the edge in this contest, but not by the wide margin indicated by the betting odds. I think this will be a close fight that could actually go the distance. Four of Magomedov’s last seven bouts went the distance. Two of Mattos’ last three went the full 15 minutes.
Magomed Magomedov vs Matheus Matos –Magomedov (-300)
Ilima-Lei MacFarlane vs Juliana Velasquez
Ilima-Lei MacFarlane (-105)
Juliana Velasquez (-125)
You can’t ask for much more than two undefeated fighters competing for the gold. Yet, what makes this bout even more exciting is that we have a grappler vs striker and sports betting websites listing the champ as the underdog.
Velasquez is 5-0 with Bellator with three wins coming via stoppage. In her debut three years ago, she won via submission. Two more wins have come via brutal TKO/KO victories.
Her last bout was one year ago and she won via unanimous decision over Bruna Ellen. Her wins, stoppage victories, and knockouts are all second behind Macfarlane.
Five of her 10 pro wins have come via stoppage with four by way of TKO/KO. She’s 5-0 when going the distance.
Take a look back at the last W @JuVelasquezMMA scored as she extended her undefeated record to 1️⃣0️⃣ & 0️⃣.
Velasquez commented on her time in Bellator and is happy to be fighting for the title:
“I thought I was going to fight with her after the fight with Kristina Williams, because they announced it after the fight. But after that, they gave me Bruna Ellen as the alternate fighter. I’m just ready to go and do whatever they say, like a good fighter, good worker. And that’s it. But I did believe that last December, I would have a fight with Macfarlane. But it didn’t happen.”
MacFarlane has been with Bellator since her second pro fight which came in August 2015. She’s gone 10-0 with the promotion which includes five title fights. Her four title defenses are tied for most among active champions.
Her 10 fight win streak is second to A.J. McKee’s 17 wins in a row, but it’s the most consecutive win by a female fighter. She also has the most stoppage victories (7) among female fighters.
Eight of her 11 pro wins have come via stoppage with six by way of submission. She’s 3-0 when going the distance. As for her opponent this weekend, MacFarlane had the following comments:
“I’ve been intrigued for a long time. She’s definitely been on my radar, obviously. I actually think that she made a strong case for the belt a couple fights ago. It’s finally here, it’s finally happening, so I think this is the fight that a lot of fans have been waiting for.”
Will MacFarlane Lose the Belt?
Velasquez is the bigger fighter, the better striker and packs more power. She has the advantage in the striking battle and could win the fight if it stays upright for too long.
MacFarlane is the better grappler and has a big advantage on the mat where she can use her submission holds and also fight off her back.
The key to this fight will be how well Velasquez defends the takedown. For MacFarlane, she’s going to need to close the distance in a hurry and get this fight to the mat. There’s no need to risk suffering a knockout by standing upright and exchanging punches.
For me, I am going with MacFarlane to win. In addition to the grappling, she has the experience advantage in title fights. This is her 5th title defense and 6th overall championship fight. This will be Velasquez’s first title shot in a major promotion. She did hold gold in a regional promotion.
I see MacFarlane getting the fight to the mat where she will spend long stretches in control. I don’t see a stoppage in this contest. More than likely we will see this bout go the full distance. Take MacFarlane to win by at least a split decision. I love the betting value with the champ.
Ilima-Lei MacFarlane vs Juliana Velasquez –MacFarlane (-105)
Bellator 254 Card
Ilima-Lei MacFarlane (11-0) vs Juliana Velasquez (10-0)
Magomed Magomedov (15-1) vs Matheus Matos (12-1-1)
Goiti Yamauchi (25-4) vs Nate Andrews (17-3)
Linton Vassell (19-8) vs Ronny Markes (19-7)
Romero Cotton (4-0) vs Justin Sumter (7-3)
Maurice Jackson (7-3) vs Grant Neal (4-0)
Kemran Lachinov (10-2) vs Shamil Nikaev (9-0)
Davion Franklin (2-0) vs Anthony Garrett (3-2)
Kenny Champion (1-0) vs Cody Law (1-0)
Billy Goff (2-2) vs Robson Gracie Jr. (3-0)
As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed “King of the Blog” in his first year with the site. …