MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the Bellator’s top bouts. Today, we look at the co-main event for Bellator 257.
Bellator 257 takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The main card airs on Showtime following prelims on MMA Junkie.
Corey Anderson (14-5 MMA, 1-0 BMMA)
Height: 6'3" Age: 31 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 79"
Last fight: TKO win over Melvin Manhoef (Nov. 5, 2020)
Camp: Nick Catone MMA (New Jersey)
Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
Risk management: Good
Supplemental info: + “The Ultimate Fighter” season 19 winner + Regional MMA title + 2x All-American wrestler + Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt + 6 knockout victories + 4 first-round finishes + Consistent pace and pressure ^ High-volume approach + Improved boxing ability ^ Defensively and offensively + Strong inside the clinch + Solid strike-to-takedown transitions ^ Favors level-changing doubles + Good top game ^ Improved pressure and controls + Active ground striker
Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (18-5-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA)
Height: 5'11" Age: 31 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: N/A"
Last fight: Decision win over Alexey Butorin (Dec. 14, 2019)
Camp: Branibor Team (Turkmenstan/Ukraine)
Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
Risk management: Good
Supplemental info: + ACA light heavyweight title + 11 knockout victories + 4 submission wins + 10 first-round finishes + KO power + Fast hand and foot speed + Accurate right hand ^ Coming forward or off the counter + Diverse kicking acumen ^ Surprisingly accurate spin kicks + Strong inside the clinch ^ Strikes well off the breaks + Shows solid wrestling ability + Serviceable transitional grappling +/- Coming off of a 16-month layoff
Point of interest: Output vs. opportunities
The co-main event in Connecticut features another installment of the organization's light heavyweight grand prix, as [autotag]Corey Anderson[/autotag] welcomes [autotag]Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov[/autotag] into the Bellator cage. Although tracking down fight footage and official information was admittedly a bit difficult for Yagshimuradov, the native of Turkmenistan appears to be an experienced and well-rounded talent who is well-versed in the arts of sambo and wushu sanda that are synonymous with his surrounding regions. Whether Yagshimuradov is launching casting counters or unleashing surprisingly accurate spin kicks, the nine-year pro displays deceptive hand and foot speed that smacks of Mark Hunt (given his accompanying stature, of course). Yagshimuradov also seems to have sharpened his counter-striking acumen since his time spent with the Gorets Fight Team in Dagestan (home to fighters like Rashid Magomedov and Ramazan Emeev), and I suspect he'll be leaning more on those skills rather than his heavy leg kicks given the level-changing threat Anderson represents. A fighter who is steadily figuring out how to stoke his own fire, Anderson brings a suffocating pressure that is palpable through many facets of his game. Finding a balance between sticking and moving, Anderson achieves his desired cooking temperatures through a high-output approach of striking volume and transitional takedown threats. Using this rinse-wash-and-repeat method, Anderson will steadily tenderize his opposition without letting off the gas. Even though Anderson’s striking volume has won him many rounds in the cage, his transition game is what ultimately glues everything together. Similar to his stablemate, Frankie Edgar, Anderson mixes in volume and variety to keep his opposition behind the 8-ball. However, despite Anderson displaying much meaner offensive wherewithal to go along with better head movement and overall boxing technique, he still opens himself up to undesirable traffic due to the nature of the numbers he puts up. For this reason, striking stanzas between the two should stay potent for as long as they last. Next point of interest: Wrestler's wrath
Point of interest: Wrestler's wrath
Considering that Yagshimurdov appears to have a propensity to back himself toward the cage when looking to counter, I will be curious to see if the 31-year-old from Turkmenistan will employ more of a pressuring approach to stay out of the American's wheelhouse. Anderson, who is an effective transitional wrestler in the open, tends to chain takedowns very well from the cage and has only improved on his ability to make his opposition work in said space. Not only is Anderson able to ground his opponents consistently (as he was the former takedown leader at light heavyweight in the UFC), but "The Ultimate Fighter" winner has also done a better job at keeping them down, a problem that had been a persistent theme when looking closely at earlier fights. Anderson always displayed a solid understanding of levers and wrist-rides as he would actively pick off his opposition’s posts, but his eagerness to apply his high-volume offense would often allow for openings to stand. Noting this issue, Anderson showed to adjust his approach over the years, utilizing heavy shoulder pressure to keep positions, as well as implementing safer rides to get damage off from a three-quarter mount. If Anderson is able to get his game going, then we'll likely get a lot more answers to the abilities of Yagshimuradov. Although he can be found listed as a sambo stylist, Yagshimuradov looks to have some serviceable offensive wrestling chops that he uses to combat pressure. Whether he's hitting reactive shots off the back foot or reaching down to snatch up singles in the open, Yahshimuradov seems to prefer working his way toward bodylocks to finish his takedowns. But considering that only two men have taken Anderson down since 2014, I find it hard to bank on Yagshimurdov having a ton of success in the wrestling department, despite spending this past camp training at American Top Team. That said, Yagshimuradov does seem to strike hard off separations, which could be something worth watching out for this weekend. Next point of interest: Odds, opinion and prediction
Point of interest: odds and opinions
Despite oddsmakers setting the American as an underdog, public money has come in on the more popular fighter, making Anderson -170 and Yagshimuradov +150 as of this writing. Unlike the reasoning I used for my main event pick on this card, I find myself going against the more proven product and siding with the more opportunistic finisher. Don't get me wrong: I get why Anderson is the odds-on favorite, as I wouldn't be shocked to see him make Yagshimuradov pay for his low-output, backfoot approach. But unlike Phil Davis, Anderson is a wrestler who will put himself in harm's way to get the job done – which can be a tricky proposition if you don't have a vaunted chin to fall back on. For that reason, I'll semi-reluctantly side with the newcomer Yagshimuradov to land a devastating countershot to secure his win in the first round.
Prediction: Yagshimuradov inside the distance