Bellator 289 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, will feature two semifinal fights on Friday night as part of the Bellator Bantamweight World Grand Prix. One of those two contests serves as the main event, and it also features a contest for the interim title between Raufeon Stots and Danny Sabatello.
For a chance at the interim title and the $1 million reward, as well as a position in the tournament finals, Magomed Magomedov competes against Patchy Mix in the other tournament bout.
At the competition, Juliana Velasquez will face Liz Carmouche, the opponent she defeated to win the flyweight championship. Both ladies will aim to dispel any doubts about who is the better fighter after a contentious conclusion to their first fight.
There are numerous storylines going throughout the event, as with any fight card. These storylines may be greater or more exciting with Bellator 289 than with most other fights. In light of this, let’s examine the top three stories leading up to the occasion.
For Stots and Sabatello, it’s time to either put up or shut up.
Although Bellator has established some noteworthy rivalries throughout the promotion’s history, very few of them have generated the level of heat that Stots and Sabatello have in recent months. Before meeting Stots, Sabatello had never seen a person who was willing to respond to his verbal jabs. That prompted some outrageous media appearances, which continued in every interview each man gave prior to the fight, and sassy conversation. Stots has consistently lambasted Sabatello as a guy and a competitor, saying things like, “Everything about Sabatello is a mask for his shortcomings,” in an interview with MMA Junkie Radio. “He is arguably Bellator’s most one-dimensional fighter, but he is skilled at making people forget that. His entire façade is that he is come here to destroy this man. Then you’re going to enter the room and cuddle someone’s goddamn legs for the entire f—-ing five rounds, despite the fact that you want to despise this person.”
However, once the bell rings, nothing will matter because this battle is for Stots’ interim bantamweight title as well as a spot in the Grand Prix finals. Now it’s up to Sabatello to show that his wrestling-based, grinding approach can compete at Bellator’s elite levels, or it’s up to Stots to show that his dynamic, quick-fire attack is effective against a one-dimensional opponent.
Combat sports offer the most immediate response in all of athletics to a rivalry that is rife with trash language. It’s one on one as soon as the cage door closes. After months of claiming to be the better fighter and guy, neither man wants to leave Connecticut as the loser.
The victor defends her championship for the first time.
Liz Carmouche holds a significant position in MMA history. Although women’s MMA had already been established before the UFC decided to permit them to enter the Octagon as anything other than a “Octagon Girl,” the decision nonetheless marked a significant turning point for the sport. And in the first-ever women’s bout in the UFC, Carmouche squared up against Ronda Rousey. Carmouche even threatened Rousey early on before losing through submission late in the opening frame.
Carmouche was a career footnote until her most recent battle. In addition to the match with Rousey, Carmouche was a title contender in Strikeforce and the UFC twice, but he was never in charge of a top division. Then, at Bellator 278 she used elbows to finish Juliana Velasquez in the fourth round of a hard-fought contest to win the women’s flyweight title.
In a rematch with Velasquez, who disputed the outcome of the first fight because of what she believed to be an unfair stoppage, Carmouche will make her maiden defense. Carmouche must now continue to develop her new narrative in which she is a champion rather than a footnote.
The other Grand Prix match features some fire as well.
While Patchy Mix and Magomed Magomedov’s bout will determine the other Grand Prix finalist and the following challenger for the interim bantamweight title, Stots and Sabatello are garnering the majority of the media attention. It’s also a pretty interesting match. Before losing his shot with Juan Archuleta for the vacant bantamweight title in September 2020, Mix had a 13-0 record. Mix had a terrible performance, but he has since recovered with three victories, including a victory over Kyoji Horiguchi, the tournament favorite, in the Grand Prix quarterfinals.
Before suffering his first loss—a decision loss in Russia to Petr Yan, who would later go on to win a UFC championship—Magomedov also won 13 straight fights to start his career. After four fights, Magomedov joined Bellator and looked like he would dominate the division. But Magomedov found himself in the cage with Stots in only his third Bellator contest. Stots managed to win by decision in one of Bellator’s top fights of 2021, delaying Magomedov’s attempt to take control of the division.
Now, Mix and Magomedov square off in the semifinals, each man vying for redemption and a chance to conquer the summit. Although Mix vs. Magomedov may not have the same trash-talking flair as Stots vs. Sabatello, it is nonetheless a significant battle with significant ramifications for two of the top bantamweights.