Bellator is back and the Bellator Middleweight Championship is on the line. Bellator 264 features a main event between Gegard Mousasi, one of MMA’s most experienced champions, and John Salter, the #1 Bellator middleweight contender.
Other highlights of the Bellator 264 main card include and bantamweight title eliminator, and a couple of prospects looking to show out.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the Bellator 264 main card.
Middleweight: Ty Gwerder vs. Khadzhimurat Bestaev
Ty Gwerder (5-2, 1-2 Bellator) is an athlete out of Las Vegas, Nevada and fights out of Xtreme Couture. He is originally from Hawaii, and he’s had a pretty good start to his young MMA career. He has stumbled a couple times in Bellator, but Gwerder is a game striker that’s always improving.
Gwerder is a well-rounded striker who relies on a mixture of kicks and punches. He is coached by Ray Sefo, and it shows in the way Gwerder throws his combinations. He utilizes a lot of ducking and headmovement in his combinations. In addition, Gwerder has good footwork to stay out of danger and cut angles.
Khadzhimurat Bestaev (10-4, 0-0 Bellator) is a fighter out of California and he is a phenominally tall middleweight at 6’6″. This is only his second bout in almost two years. He most recently fought on the 2020 season of Dana White’s Contender Series where he was TKO’d by Phil Hawes in round one. Outside of his appearance on Contender Series 2020, there is little to no recent, relevant footage of Bestaev.
After the Hawes fight, some things became more clear about Bestaev. We saw that Bestaev has a great arsenal of kicks and he fights with his hands low if you threaten the takedown. Additionally, he is open to the leg kick, and is leaves his chin high.
What to Expect: While my gut tells me this is a rebound fight for Gwerder, there’s something about this matchup that makes it seem closer than it will ultimately be. Gwerder ducks a lot and moves his head a lot. Against a tall kicker like Bestaev, that’s a dangerous tactic. That said, if Gwerder can cleanly touch Bestaev’s chin (likely), then he should get a stoppage victory.
Heavyweight: Davion Franklin vs. Everett Cummings
Davion Franklin (3-0, 3-0 Bellator) is a 27-year-old heavyweight out of Albuquerque, New Mexico. He trains out of Jackson Wink MMA and he has been perfect thus far in his MMA journey. He is primarily a wrestler, and he has some seriously powerful takedowns as a result. He is the second recipient of the Jackson Wink MMA scholarship, the first being Christian Edwards. While he’s only 3-0, Franklin has only fought people with more fights than him that have winning records.
Franklin has developing striking, and he throws hard. He can attack with spinning kicks and big punches. These strikes have impact, but there’s no set up strikes, and every strike has 100% effort. Strikes that big are fantastic if they connect, but they often just wear down the conditioning of Franklin. Franklin cracks on the ground, too, with some vicious and quick ground strikes when he gets the chance.
Everett Cummings (15-0, 2-0 Bellator) is an athlete out of Corona, California. He is an inexperienced 15-0 due to his average level of competition. His opponents have an MMA record of 44-58, which is a horrible sign. He’s done most of his fighting in Gladiator Challenge, which often specializes in mismatches so guys can build a record. All that said, Cummings has finished every opponent he’s faced, with 11 of his 15 wins coming in the first round. So, after a certain point, he’s done what he’s supposed to with lackluster competition and that’s great. Unfortunately, he’s facing a dangerous young athlete out of one of most experienced camps in the world.
What to Expect: I expect Davion Franklin to stay undefeated and finish Cummings early via strikes. I think Cummings might start fast, and come forward quickly, but I’m certain he will walk into a takedown with that tactic. Even though Cummings has 5x the fights that Franklin has, I don’t think that will play too big a factor in this one.
Bantamweight: Magomed Magomedov vs. Raufeon Stots
Magomed Magomedov (18-1, 2-0 Bellator) is an athlete out of Makhachkala, Russia and he fights out of DagFighter MMA Team. Magomedov is the last fighter to beat former UFC Bantamweight Champion Petr Yan (2016), although Yan won in a rematch about a year later (2017). Magomedov has fantastic wrestling and some solid striking. He is currently riding a five-fight winning steak, with three of the five wins coming via submission.
Magomedov is great on the cage, and he utilizes many of the same Dagestani tactics that have put the region on the map. He is a bit flat-footed while striking, but he’s often looking for takedowns anyway.
Raufeon Stots (16-1, 4-0 Bellator) is an athlete out of Milwalkee, Wisconsin and he is the main training partner of Bellator MMA Bantamweight Champion Sergio Pettis at Roufusport MMA Academy. Stots stated in the Bellator 255 post-fight presser that he would like to “play bodyguard” for Pettis, and I guess a fight against Magomedov meets that goal. Stots is on a seven-fight winning streak that dates back to 2017, most recently besting fellow Bellator bantamweight contender Josh Hill.
Stots is a great striker, and being from Roufusport, that makes sense. That said, Stots is a wrestler at heart, and his top control on the ground is seriously good. He lacks the vicious ground and pound of his Bellator 264 opponent Magomedov, so his fights tend to go the distance.
What to Expect: I think this battle hinges on two things: Center cage control, and who can get the takedown. Stots clearly has the better striking and if he can push Magomedov backwards, it will stifle the threat of Magomedov’s takedowns. If Magomedov can secure takedowns, he might run away with it. Stots isn’t used to being on his back and I’m not sure how comfortable he is there. I’m not sure who wins this one, but I’m excited to watch it play out.
Welterweight: Andrey Koreshkov vs. Sabah Homasi
Andrey Koreshkov (23-4, 15-4 Bellator) is a longstanding member of the Bellator Welterweight division, having fought for the promotion since 2012. He captured the welterweight belt in 2015, and before that he won two Bellator Welterweight Tournaments. In fact, other than a split-decision loss to Lorenz Larkin, Koreshkov has only lost to current or former Bellator champions. He fights out of RusFighters MMA in Omsk, Russia. Koreskov most recently competed under the AMC Fight Nights promotion, and he’s taking his first Bellator bout since 2019.
Koreshkov is a consummate all-rounder, and is able to to win in a variety of positions. He is a great striker, and that is primarly how he looks to win. Koreshkov gauges distance very well, but he’s comfortable in a close-range firefight if he needs to be. Typically, Koreshkov attacks with long kicks and punches. His grappling and top control are top-notch as well. All that said, he’s aged a bit and he’s not as durable as he used to be.
Sabah Homasi (16-8, 4-0 Bellator) is an athlete out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. He is a striker and a former UFC athlete. Unfortunately for Homasi, he went 0-3 in the promotion, getting stopped in all three showings. He was on a four-fight winning streak until he lost to Paul Daley. There’s reason to believe that Homasi is going to get back on track by going through the former champ, Koreshkov. Homasi is not the most refined striker, but he has some seriously dangerous weapons. He is super active with calf kicks and kicks to the body. In terms of his boxing, Homasi jabs decently well, but his main punches are an overhand right and a solid counter-left hook.
What to Expect: This is a huge test for both athletes, and it has huge ramifications for the Bellator welterweight division. I imagine Homasi might have a little trouble getting past the long range of Koreshkov. If he can get inside, Homasi is fully capable of putting Koreshkov away with punches. I’m curious to see how reliant Koreshkov is on his wrestling, because he should use it against Homasi. I get the feeling that it’s Homasi’s time to shine, but maybe the time off gave Koreshkov some much needed rejuvenation. Can’t wait for this one.
Bellator MMA Middleweight Championship: Gegard Mousasi vs. John Salter
Gegard Mousasi (47-7-2, 5-1 Bellator) is the defending Bellator Middleweight Champion and with over 50 fights to his name, he is no stranger to competition. Mousasi is the former DREAM Middleweight and Light Heavyweight Champion, former Cage Warriors Middleweight Champion, former Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion, and two-time Bellator Middleweight Champion. Mousasi is an expert striker, solid grappler, and a good wrestler.
The most novel thing about Mousasi is his ability to slow the fight down. Mousasi likes a slower, more deliberate chess match of a fight. He likes single strikes: jabs, leg kicks, and body kicks. Mousasi has combinations, too, and he’ll turn up the pace if he smells blood.
Mousasi also has a fantastic grappling game. His top game is heavy, and Mousasi can snap up chokes and joint locks if they’re presented. That said, the classic way to beat Mousasi is to take him down, grind, and avoid full guard.
John Salter (18-4, 8-1 Bellator) is the challenger out of Wilmington, North Carolina with Gym-O and Salty Dog Jiu Jitsu. He is a former UFC athlete where he went 1-2, but he was a very inexperienced 4-0 when he made his UFC debut. After the UFC, Salter kept working and is now the top middleweight contender with a serious shot at winning the belt.
Salter’s bread and butter is wrestling, ground control, and ground strikes. He is great in scrambles, and he’s willing to pull bottom position to fish for takedowns. It’s honestly impressive to watch. His conditioning is usually pretty great, and he’s dang tough.
On the feet, Salter is looking for the takedown. His striking is fine, but it’s all in service of grabbing a leg or clinching. He is vulnerable to a striker like Mousasi, and I don’t see him offering much useful striking offense against the champion.
What to Expect: It’s no secret that Gegard Mousasi is a huge favorite to win this one. It’s easy to see why. Salter’s striking offense and defense seems utterly ill-equipped to deal with the kickboxing game of Mousasi. I agree with the sentiment, and I think it’s likely the correct take.
That said, John Salter is a tough, grinding wrestler that knows how to win. When Mousasi suffers a shutout loss, it’s usually to a tough, grinding wrestler. Mousasi got ground out to a UD loss just two fights ago in that exact fashion. It’s a long shot, but if Salter can avoid damage on the feet and consistently find the takedown, he can definitely win. But, that’s a big “if”.
And that’s it! Thank you for reading.