It’s that time of year again. Every year in March, the sports world stops what it’s doing to watch tournaments. Make no mistake, however: This is a different kind of March Madness that we’re talking about today.
Friday, while the NCAA Selection Committee will be sweating it out in Indianapolis as it works around the clock to construct this year’s 68-team bracket in time for the official live reveal on CBS on Selection Sunday, the MMA world’s eyes will be fixated out west. San Jose’s SAP Center serves as the setting for Bellator 292.
In total, Bellator 292 will feature 13 fights (barring any further postponements or alterations between now and this weekend). The evening will be capped off by the first half of the Bellator MMA Lightweight World Grand Prix Quarterfinals, beginning in the Bellator 292 co-main event.
No. 2 Contender Musayev Fights No. 4 Contender Shabliy in Bellator 292 Co-Main Event to Start Grand Prix
MMA’s Elite Eight at 155 lbs. will be trimmed to a significant six on Friday night. Quarterfinal number one pits No. 2 contender Tofiq Musayev (20-4 MMA, 1-0 Bellator) against No. 4 contender Alexander Shabliy (22-3 MMA, 3-0 Bellator) in the Bellator 292 co-main event. Its winner awaits the survivor of the yet-to-be scheduled fourth quarterfinal between No. 1 contender Patricky Pitbull (Freire) (24-11 MMA, 15-9 Bellator) and No. 4 contender AJ McKee (20-1 MMA, 20-1 Bellator) later on in the year.
Throughout the Lightweight Grand Prix, all fights will be a maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round. Immediately following the co-headliner between Musayev and Shabliy, the Bellator 292 main event sees incumbent champion Usman Nurmagomedov (16-0 MMA, 5-0 Bellator) meeting No. 3 contender Benson Henderson (30-11 MMA, 7-6 Bellator.)
Important Notes and Quarterfinal Implications
If Usman Nurmagomedov loses during any phase of the Lightweight Grand Prix, he will surrender the championship. The tournament champion would then become the new champion at lightweight.
After Friday’s opening quarterfinal bouts, the tournament will resume on May 12 during Bellator MMA’s next visit to Paris. That evening, Grand Prix alternate and No. 6 contender Brent Primus (11-3 MMA, 9-3 Bellator), who previously held the lightweight title, will face off against unranked Parisian Mansour Barnaoui (20-4 MMA, 1-0 Bellator), with the Usman/Henderson winner awaiting in the semifinals.
Primus will take the place of Sidney Outlaw, (16-5 MMA, 4-2 Bellator) who was disqualified from the Grand Prix amid a failed drug test back in February. Outlaw had anastrozole, cardarine, and ostarine found in a urine sample.
Bellator 292 Co-Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds
Heading into the opening bout of the Grand Prix in the Bellator 292 co-main event on Friday night, Tofiq Musayev stands as the taller gladiator at 5-foot-10, compared to the 5-foot-9 frame of Alexander Shabliy. Musayev owns a 1 1/2-inch reach advantage (72 inches even to 70 1/2 inches) over Shabliy.
As of Monday night, the oddsmakers currently have Alexander Shabliy installed as a -145 favorite, with Tofiq Musayev countering as a +115 underdog. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.
Tofiq Musayev Looking to Build Off of Knockout Win From Debut in Bellator 292 Co-Main Event
Tofiq Musayev enters the Bellator 292 co-main event having gone 4-1 in his last five fights. Back in July of last year, he needed just 27 seconds to knock out the previously-mentioned Outlaw with a right hook during his Bellator MMA promotional debut in Bellator 284.
After the win, Musayev said that the fight went as he expected.
“If you watch my interview, that’s exactly how I planned it to be,” Musayev answered through his translator. “So, yeah, I was planning to end the fight with a knockout.”
Later, Musayev took a moment to acknowledge Sidney Outlaw.
“I respect my opponent,” he said. “I appreciate him for a good fight. How the fight was, I think fans can tell better.”
Even though Tofiq Musayev was in the Bellator cage for just a few seconds last summer, he followed the Metallica mantra of seek and destroy and got an impressive knockout. Can he do it again in the Bellator 292 co-main event? Tune in and find out.
Alexander Shabliy Believes He’s Top Dog at Lightweight
In the other corner, Alexander Shabliy has posted a record of 5-0 in his last five appearances. Currently, he’s on a seven-fight winning streak. Last time out, he knocked out the aforementioned Brent Primus during Bellator 282 in June (right cross followed by ground and pound) in round two.
Upon finishing Primus, Shabliy met with the press, where he sent a message to the rest of the 155-lb. division: “I have a target on my back. Hit me with your best shot.”
“This was a big fight for me,” Shabliy said of his knockout of Primus. “He was champion. I am the next champion. I’m happy.”
Shabliy believed that he would be squaring off versus Pitbull if he were to have defeated Sidney Outlaw in July of 2022. That fight, which would have taken place as the Bellator 283 main event, never came to pass due to Patricky Freire’s injury and subsequent withdrawal.
After Usman Nurmagomedov defeated Freire to take the title, Shabliy could find himself in line to win the belt off of Nurmagomedov if the Grand Prix goes his way, but he’ll have to take it one fight at a time. It starts with the Bellator 292 co-main event on Friday.
Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction
Stylistically, the Bellator 292 co-main event looks to favor Tofiq Musayev, a blue belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu with championships in Pankration and Kung-Fu, compared to Alexander Shabliy’s background as a Thai boxer and Combat Sambo fighter.
Musayev Can Throw Punches in Bunches
Of Tofiq Musayev’s 20 career wins in MMA, 16 have come by knockout. On New Year’s Eve in 2019, Musayev landed a knockout against Johnny Case during RIZIN 20’s Lightweight Grand Prix.
During the first round of the fight, Case threw a couple of feints to keep Musayev honest, with the men exchanging leg kicks a few moments later. Musayev switched to the southpaw fighting stance to land a leg kick, and while Case landed some punches, it was clear that Musayev was the aggressor on this night.
About two minutes into the round, Musayev took complete control of the fight, knocking Case down with a nasty two-punch combination. While Case recovered, Musayev just took him right back down. At that point, it was all over but the shouting.
Even though Case got back up after getting to the clinch, Musayev wobbled Case with more punches, including one that landed right on the button to knock him down. A vicious flurry of ground and pound ended the contest.
If Musayev comes out like a house on fire, he could be semifinal bound after the Bellator 292 co-main event. His opponent is also a knockout specialist, however.
Alexander Shabliy Can Get The Job Done in a Hurry
In the other corner, it’s best not to look away from the screen or blink when an Alexander Shabliy fight is on. You might end up missing everything.
Although Shabliy’s 2016 fight against Ryan Quinn was slated to last three rounds, he only needed a short 19 seconds to collect his paycheck for the evening. A two-punch combination put Quinn on the cage mat, leaving Shabliy the opening he needed to pour it on with ground and pound shots.
The referee couldn’t wave off the bout quickly enough. Simply put, all Shabliy will have to do is land one punch on the button to punch his ticket to the semifinal round. If he does that, his effort won’t be too shabby.
Even though this will be a lightweight fight, our film study today chronicles a constant that fight fans normally can associate with heavyweight bouts: As little as one punch can end the Bellator 292 co-main event.
Get your sandwich made and your bag of chips opened up before the fight starts. You might not have enough time to make that fridge run while the fight’s going on.
Prediction: Tofiq Musayev by First-Round TKO.
Featured Image Credit: Getty Images