BELLATOR MMA’s massive return to the SAP Center at San Jose on Friday, March 10 now includes a heavyweight rematch between a former champion and a past title challenger when top-ranked Valentin Moldavsky (11-2, 1 NC) faces No. 2-ranked Linton Vassell (23-8) during the main card of BELLATOR 292.
The title eliminator rematch between Moldavsky and Vassell joins a main card that already features the launch of the highly anticipated, one-million-dollar BELLATOR Lightweight World Grand Prix, where in the main event newly crowned lightweight world champion and No. 7 pound-for-pound talent Usman Nurmagomedov (16-0) will defend his belt against former UFC Lightweight Champion and No. 3-ranked Benson Henderson (30-11), while in the co-main event, No. 2-ranked knockout artist Tofiq Musayev (20-4) will clash with No. 4-ranked Alexander Shabliy (22-3).
BELLATOR 292: Nurmagomedov vs. Henderson will air LIVE in the U.K. on BBC iPlayer from midnight GMT on Friday, March 10.
In addition, the preliminary card is filling out with the addition of a clash between two top-ten ranked bantamweights, when Brazil’s Leandro Higo (21-6) goes toe-to-toe against Ireland’s No. 8-ranked James Gallagher (11-2). The prelims will also see the long-awaited flyweight debut of undefeated Keri Taylor Melendez (5-0), who will jump right into action against the always tough Bruna Ellen (6-4).
A renowned protégé of Fedor Emelianenko, Valentin Moldavsky is presently the BELLATOR heavyweight division’s No. 1-ranked contender. The 30-year-old has already held interim BELLATOR gold and is eager to achieve the hallowed status of world champion sooner, rather than later. The combat sambo world champion would also like to set up a rematch with current champion Ryan Bader, who he faced early in 2022. In their first meeting, Moldavsky outpointed Vassell in 2019 to the tune of a unanimous decision, and he will now look to make history repeat itself come their second meeting to solidify the first victory and punch his ticket to another world title shot.
Linton Vassell looks to continue his run of success since moving north to the heavyweight division against Moldavsky on March 10. “The Swarm” has proven to be a pest for ranked heavyweights since his debut in the division in 2019, rattling off four straight victories replete with three knockouts on his path to his upcoming bout. The six-foot-four Kill Cliff FC product will look to avenge his BELLATOR 218 decision defeat to Moldavsky to set up a second crack at BELLATOR gold. Wins over Sergei Kharitonov, Ronny Markes, Tyrell Fortune, and Tim Johnson have Vassell primed for success, but it will take a win over his past rival to cement his chance at a coveted heavyweight title shot.
Ireland’s James Gallagher was kept out of competition in 2022 due to injury but is eager to return to the win column this March in a compelling bantamweight match-up against Leandro Higo. A submission specialist with nine such finishes to his name, Gallagher was originally slated to compete in the BELLATOR Bantamweight World Grand Prix but withdrew before it began. Still only 26 years old, Gallagher is known as one of BELLATOR’s fastest-rising stars and has been one half of some of the promotion’s biggest events in his beloved Ireland.
Brazil’s Leandro Higo is likewise a talented submission grappler. Along with three knockouts, the 33-year-old former BELLATOR title challenger boasts 12 submissions on his impressive professional résumé. While Higo fell short to Grand Prix semi-finalist Danny Sabatello in his last outing, Sabatello spoke highly of Higo’s abilities and the risks posed by his dangerous finishing potential in his post-fight comments. The winner of three of his last four, including a victory over former champion Darrion Caldwell in a rematch of their 2018 title fight, “Alter” Higo will look to despatch of Gallagher and re-establish himself as a viable title contender.
Undefeated through five professional outings, Keri Taylor Melendez will return to the BELLATOR cage for the first time since 2020 against Brazil’s Bruna Ellen. The wife of former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez, “Scary” Keri has carved out a legacy of her own in BELLATOR, showcasing a dynamic, crisp striking arsenal and a potent submission game during her unbeaten run to date. Melendez will look to continue her winning ways and earn a place among the upper echelon of the flyweight division with a victory in her 125-pound debut on March 10.
Continuing her run of taking on the toughest opponents available in the BELLATOR flyweight division, Brazilian standout Bruna Ellen will look to give Taylor Melendez a rough welcome back to the BELLATOR cage when the door locks behind both women on March 10. At 26, Ellen is one of the younger competitors in BELLATOR’s 125-pound division, but that hasn’t stopped her from facing two former world champions in her eight-fight promotional tenure.
BELLATOR 292: NURMAGOMEDOV VS. HENDERSON MAIN CARD:
Saturday, March 11 – 3 a.m. GMT
Lightweight World Championship Main Event: C-Usman Nurmagomedov (16-0) vs. #3-Benson Henderson (30-11)
Lightweight Grand Prix Quarterfinal: #2-Tofiq Musayev (20-4) vs. #4-Alexander Shabliy (22-3)
Heavyweight Bout: #1-Valentin Moldavsky (11-2, 1 NC) vs. #2-Linton Vassell (23-8)
Friday, March 10 – Midnight GMT
Bantamweight Bout: Josh Hill (21-5) vs. Cass Bell (6-2)
Bantamweight Bout: #7-Leandro Higo (21-6) vs. #8-James Gallagher (11-2)
Flyweight Bout: Keri Taylor Melendez (5-0) vs. Bruna Ellen (6-4)
Featherweight Bout: Laird Anderson (3-0) vs. Rogelio Luna (1-0)
Heavyweight Bout: Wladmir Gouvea (1-0) vs. Sean Tucker (1-3)
Middleweight Bout: Theo Haig (1-0) vs. Adam Wamsley (2-2)
Welterweight Bout: Dupree Stewart (Pro Debut) vs. Demetri Georgiades (2-2)