Bellator vs UFC. It's an exciting debate for mixed martial arts fans of both brands. With Bellator as the clear number two promotion in the industry, they are the latest dance partner in this popular form of fantasy booking. Remember Pride Fighting Championship and Strikeforce?
However, this won't be a list just booking each organization's champions against each other. We both know that's a cheap way out, and a waste of time in some instances because there are some wide talent gaps at the top of certain divisions. No, this is meant to be a cleverly crafted and subjective dream card that could offer some better-than-expected matchups. Let's get into it.
UFC vs Bellator prelims opener
10. Neiman Gracie vs. Sean Brady
Sean Brady and Neiman Gracie are two of the best welterweight grapplers in the world. Making a clash between the two on a special versus event all the more fitting. Although their base styles are Brazilian jiu-jitsu, they both go about it in different ways. Brady is a bit more powerful and athletic while Gracie is slick and energy-efficient like a Tesla. Watching to find out who wins would be a treat for fans of a classic mat battle.
9. Yaroslav Amosov vs. Colby Covington
You're probably wondering why I wouldn't match up Bellator welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov against his UFC counterpart Kamaru Usman. Welp, as much as I respect the undefeated Ukrainian "Dynamo," I just don't think he's proven he could beat Usman just yet. But Colby Covington? Oh, that would be very interesting. Both have dominated in their victories with superior grappling and an endless gas tank. Both have managed wins against dangerous strikers (See: Lima, Douglas, and Lawler, Robbie). Not to mention, both are sound strikers. It's an even matchup between elite welterweights that could turn into an outright battle of wills.
8. Sergio Pettis vs. Aljamain Sterling
Sergio Pettis versus Aljamain Sterling is the first title bout on this championship sextuplet-header card. Both men are brand new bantamweight champions with questions around their reigns. Sterling was awarded the title fair and square, after an illegal knee to this head from Petr Yan at UFC 259. In a fight, he was losing decisively. Pettis has been unbeaten at bantamweight since signing with Bellator, but the division is still in the growing stages and a case could be made that flyweight is his best weight class. Either way, both are immensely talented world champions that offer the other serious problems in a hypothetical fight. I would gladly watch that booking.
7. Douglas Lima vs. Gilbert Burns
Douglas Lima and Gilbert Burns are a couple of welterweight savages. Until his recent setbacks to Gegard Mousasi and Amosov, Lima was viewed by many as the best pound-for-pound fighter outside the UFC. While Burns has put together a stellar resume the last few years in becoming one of the best welterweights in the world not named Kamaru Usman. The big question is, which version of Lima would show up? The one that stuffed every takedown and won back the Bellator belt from Rory MacDonald in their 2019 rematch, or the one out grappled by Amosov at Bellator 260. If it's the former, this fight could be a barnburner.
6. Ryan Bader vs. Francis Ngannou
Of course, Francis Ngannou would be a big favorite over Ryan Bader in a clash of UFC and Bellator heavyweight champs. However, what's been Ngannous biggest weakness? Wrestling. What has Bader used to become an Ultimate Fighter winner and score titles in two divisions in Bellator? Wrestling. Would Bader be the best wrestler Ngannou has ever faced? Yes, and by a lot. Would Bader be the fastest opponent of Ngannou's career? Probably. "The Predator" should win, but there are quite a few reasons Bader could be Jack to Ngannou's Cameroonian giant.
Main card opener
5. Vadim Nemkov vs. Glover Teixeira
The featured prelim on our dream card pits new UFC light heavyweight champ Glover Teixeira versus Bellator belt counterpart, and star Fedor Emelianenko pupil, Vadim Nemkov. Although he was able to overcome the "Polish Power" of Jan Blachowicz at UFC 267, the speed Nemkov could offer would be a difficult challenge for the 42-year-old titleholder. The Russian has twice beaten a skilled grappler in Phil Davis, but the Brazilian offers something a bit more deadly in his grappling. Both would have some interesting advantages on fight night.
4. Gegard Mousasi vs. Israel Adesanaya
The best version of Gegard Mousasi to face Israel Adesanya would have been the man we knew in 2016. However, credit the current Bellator middleweight champion for being six years removed from his peak but is still the type of talent that would give Israel Adesanya a hard time. Of course, like every other fighter alive, the reigning UFC middleweight king would be a problem on the feet for Mousasi. However, "The Dreamcatcher" has managed the striking gifts of men like Douglas Lima, Lyoto Machida, and Uriah Hall to get wins. And if Mousasi did get "The Last Stylebender" to the mat, the advantage swings heavily in favor of Mousasi.
3. Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes
It's the rematch most of us wanted and never got. A redux between Cris "Cyborg" Justino and Amanda Nunes could very well go similarly to their historic clash in 2018 at UFC 232. However, it's hard to not feel when watching that first bout that the current Bellator featherweight queen underestimated the two-division UFC champion and fought all kinds of recklessly. The Justino we've seen since that destructive loss, versus "The Lioness" now would seem like a serious test for the women's MMA GOAT. Something she isn't getting from her current UFC competition.
2. Patricio Pitbull vs. Charles Oliveira
Freire is the greatest fighter in Bellator history and currently owns a Bellator belt in two divisions. In a battle of Bellator vs UFC, he has to be in one of the top fights of the night. A matchup between him and UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira would be one of the most fascinating on the card and a showcase of elite Brazilian MMA.
"Do Bronx" would be a serious problem for Freire because of his eight-and-a-half-inch reach, but "Pitbull" has made a career out of fighting taller and longer foes. He offers similar explosive striking as Michael Chandler, a better chin, and more challenging jiu-jitsu. And Chandler versus Oliveira was a very competitive affair at UFC 262. Oliveira is a truly gifted talent, but his eight losses prove he's not invincible. This would be a pick 'em.
1. AJ McKee vs. Alexander Volkanovski
New Bellator featherweight champion and promotional pound-for-pound #1 AJ McKee is the best fighter in the world not in the UFC. A matchup with his UFC counterpart Alexander Volkanovski would be a talent-rich showcase of the best the two promotions have to offer at 145 pounds. Should "The Great" beat him? Probably. But the UFC featherweight king hasn't been tested by a grappler like McKee. No doubt, he handled Brian Ortega well at UFC 266, but "Mercenary" is a dangerous mix of BJJ and wrestling that would be a legitimate test for the Aussie. This kid is one that should not be doubted.