This weekend happens to be one of the rare occasions where both Bellator and the UFC hold events on the same day and roughly the same time. The UFC's fight night card being headlined by Sean "Tarzan" Strickland (23-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) and Uriah "Primetime" Hall (17-9 MMA, 10-7 UFC). Many fans and analysts alike and have deemed the card to be lackluster, and with the news that the scheduled co-main event with Shamil Abdurakhimov (20-5 MMA, 5-3 UFC) and Chris Dauakus (11-3 MMA, 3-0 UFC) falling through makes the card even weaker compared to the Bellator main event and supporting main and preliminary card. Bellator 263 takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, California, and is headlined by the long-reigning featherweight and lightweight champion Patricio Pitbull (32-4 MMA, 20-4 BMMA) facing off against the rising star and son of MMA fighter Antonio McKee, AJ "The Mercenary" McKee Jr. (17-0 MMA, 17-0 BMMA) for the finals of the Featherweight Grand Prix where the winner receives a $1 Million cash prize and the Bellator Featherweight Championship.
The Grand Prix itself consists of 16 fighters in the opening round with names such as former 2-time featherweight champion Daniel Straus, 2-time featherweight champion Pat Curran and former bantamweight champion Juan Archuleta. The quarterfinal matchup for the current champion was Pedro Carvalho (11-5 MMA, 4-2 BMMA), who was undefeated in Bellator before being matched up with Pitbull. The fight was not close, with the champion having his way on the feet until he put down Carvalho with a right cross which knocked him out at 2:10 in the first frame. With the title challenger McKee, he faced Bellator veteran and former title contender Derek "The Stallion" Campos (20-11 MMA, 9-9 BMMA). The first round was domination from McKee, getting the takedown and controlling his back for the majority of the round. The second saw McKee drop Campos with a lead uppercut but, after a scramble, had AJ on his back throwing elbows from the bottom. Early in the third, however, McKee caught him a triangle armbar, leading to a tap giving McKee the submission win at 1:08 in the 3rd Round.
Eventually, it came down to the semifinals, where McKee faced off against another former featherweight champion Darrion "The Wolf" Caldwell (14-5 MMA, 11-4 BMMA), the fight started evenly on the feet, but the moment it hit the ground, McKee locked up a submission which looked like a modified neck crank from full guard, which he named the "McKee-otine" that got the tap at 1:11 in just the first frame. However, with the current featherweight champion Patricio Pitbull, his semifinal matchup was a pivotal one, his opponent Emmanuel "El Matador" Sanchez (20-5 MMA, 12-4 BMMA) had brought Pitbull to a close 5 round decision back for the Bellator featherweight championship in November of 2018, and this fight was to show if that performance Sanchez put on was a fluke and to see who can get the edge for the rematch. The fight did not last too long, with both men exchanging on the feet until Pitbull landed a beautiful left hook that dropped Sanchez, and as he tried to recover back to his feet, Pitbull jumps to a guillotine choke which put him unconscious, and Sanchez suffered his first stoppage loss in his MMA career, and Patricio moved onto the finals that determine the winner of the Grand Prix and the $1 Million cash prize. But there is more to the event than just the main event, with much at stake on the main card and the prelims as well.
Main Event - Patricio Pitbull V.S A.J McKee
The biggest difference-maker about this bout is the style both fighters fight with. The champion Patricio Pitbull utilizes a boxing style using the body jab and check hooks among the MMA's elite fighters. He has fluid stand-up that models the upper echelon of MMA striking, which makes his ground game as a whole is very polished, having a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and including 12 submission wins in his MMA career. His recent performances against both Pedro Carvalho and Emmanuel Sanchez show that his hands have been better than ever, so they will put McKee's durability to the test. Neither McKee nor Pitbull has ever been finished due to strikes or submission in their careers, and many predict that this weekend that will change. McKee personifies the new era of MMA with flashy but technical and aiming for the knockout. The creativity that "The Mercenary" holds when on the ground and off his back will most likely lead this fight to be mainly stand up. McKee's ability to find holes in people's guards his second to none showed with his performances against Derek Campos and John Macapa, to name a few.
Prediction - McKee By 3rd Round TKO
Co-Main Event- Emmanuel Sanchez V.S Mads Burnell
The aforementioned Sanchez is coming off a first-round guillotine loss to Patricio Pitbull and is looking to break back into the win column with a victory over Mads Burnell (15-3 MMA, 2-0 BMMA). Currently ranked #8 in the Bellator featherweight rankings, Burnell fought in the UFC, going 1-2, which includes two submission losses to Michel Prazeres and Arnold Allen back in 2017 and 2018. However, he found himself rebounding with 4 straight wins under the Cage Warriors banner with an insane 2 fight Japanese necktie submission wins in a row in 2019 and 4 Japanese neckties in his career. He entered the promotion with two straight wins with 2 finishes against Darko Banovic and Saul Rogers. On paper, Burnell has the ground advantage, having a Brazilian Black Belt under Chris Hauter and won the 2014 IBJJF European No-Gi Championship. However, Sanchez ranked #3 behind the two fighters in the main event, is also known for his superior grappling, notching 8 submission wins to his credit. For all you Jiu-Jitsu lovers, tune into Bellator 263 and watch this fight to see high-class grappling from both ends.
Prediction - Mads Burnell By 2nd Round Submission
Main Card Bout - Usman Nurmagomedov V.S Manny Muro
Before anyone questions it, yes, you are seeing it correctly. Usman Nurmagomedov (12-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) is the cousin of the former UFC lightweight champion and one of the pound for pound greats Khabib Nurmagomedov and will have him in his corner against Manny "The Dragon" Muro (12-6 MMA, 3-0 BMMA). Usman is not the wrestler you expect to see from the other Dagestan fighters that trained under Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov (Rest In Peace), such as Khabib himself, UFC lightweight contender Islam Makhachev and Bellator bantamweight contender and the only fighter to give Petr Yan a legitimate lose, Magomed Magomedov. Usman likes to strike and openly has said he likes to keep it more on the feet, and it shows with 7 KO/TKO wins on his resume. He defeated Mike Hamel (7-5 MMA, 0-2 BMMA) on the scorecards 30-27 x2 and 29-28 on route to receiving a Unanimous Decision win in his Bellator debut. "The Dragon" comes into this bout on a 3 fight win streak and as well as 2 straight in the Bellator cage. However, many believe that Muro does not stand much of a chance against the much more skilled Nurmagomedov. But in the sport of MMA, everyone has a puncher's chance, but Nurmagomedov's skill and knowledge on the feet might be too much for Muro to handle.
Prediction - Usman Nurmagomedov By Decision
Main Card Bout - Islam Mamedov V.S Brent Primus
Brent Primus (10-1 MMA, 8-1 BMMA) has been a Bellator mainstay since his debut all the way back when Spike TV used to air Bellator events in 2013. Primus holds wins over names like Tim Wilde, Derek Anderson and a title victory over Michael Chandler at Bellator NYC. The win was called over Chandler, receiving an apparent leg injury, and was unable to continue; however, Primus would lose the belt back to Chandler by Unanimous Decision in the rematch. For a guy who has a muscular build and talks about how strong his punching power is, he has 6 out of his 10 wins by submission and is on a 2 fight win streak notching 2 submissions against Tim Wilde and Chris Bungard. On the other hand, Bellator newcomer Islam Mamedov (19-1-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) is looking to make a splash in the Bellator Lightweight rankings with a win over a guy like Brent Primus. Mamedov has not lost a fight since 2009 and has gone on and gathered an 18 fight win streak, including wins over former UFC veteran Thiago Tavares and the 2018 and 2019 PFL lightweight champion Natan Schulte as well as capturing 12 finishes in that span. He comes into Bellator after competing in the PFL season for 2018 and 2019, amassing a record of 2-0 in 2018 and 2-0-1 in 2019, proving he can hold his own and beat the highest levels of competition.
Prediction - Islam Mamedov By Decision
Main Card Opener - Chris Gonzalez V.S Goiti Yamauchi
By far the biggest fight for Chris "CG" Gonzalez (6-0 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) after submitting Roger Huerta with strikes in the second frame of their Bellator 255 bout, Gonzalez is set to face Goiti Yamauchi (25-5 MMA, 11-4 BMMA) as the main card opener for Bellator 263. Goiti has been a title contender for years under Bellator, notching the record for most submission victories under the Bellator promotion with 8 and has submitted names like Daron Cruickshank, Ryan Couture, and Saad Awad, just to name a few. However, coming off a close split decision defeat to Dan Moret, Yamauchi is looking to increase his submission record up to 9 against Gonzalez. Chris trains out of Team Alpha Male alongside names such as Cody Granbrandt, Joseph Benavidez, and Chad Mendes. Before his victory over Huerta, Chris rattled off 4 straight decision victories in his first 4 Bellator appearances, with fellow prospect Aaron McKenzie being one of his casualties. He fights with heavy ground control and power, and many fans deem the style of fighter "boring," but it gets the job done, and he shut up the crowd with his first professional stoppage victory back in April. This is a classic battle over wrestling versus Jiu-Jitsu, with "CG" being the wrestler in this example and Yamauchi being the Jiu-Jitsu practitioner. Gonzalez showed he can handle a jump in competition with his most recent win but can he pull off another win with an even bigger jump in competition?
Prediction - Goiti Yamauchi by 3rd Round Submission