Live coverage of Bellator 296 begins at 11:25 am ET/ 8:25 am PT on the Bellator MMA YouTube channel with the undercard. Main card action then follows at 4 pm ET/ 1 pm PT on Showtime. Barring any further postponements between now and fight night, Bellator 296 will feature 15 contests.
After a quarterfinal battle in the Bellator Lightweight World Grand Prix takes place in the co-main event, the Bellator 296 main event sees a championship eliminator at middleweight between top contenders.
Gegard Mousasi’s Retirement Tour Continues vs. Fabian Edwards
No. 1 contender Gegard Mousasi (49-8-2 MMA, 7-2 Bellator) makes the walk to the cage for the 60th time in his MMA career on Friday night when he meets No. 2 contender Fabian Edwards (11-2 MMA, 7-2 Bellator.) The winner receives a guaranteed shot at the strap against undefeated champion Johnny Eblen (13-0 MMA, 9-0 Bellator) in his next appearance.
As with all Bellator MMA main events since the start of 2022, this headliner is an advertised maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round to close the show.
Bellator 296 Main Event Fighter Comparison and Betting Odds
Heading into the Bellator 296 main event on Friday night, Gegard Mousasi stands as the taller competitor at 6-foot-2, compared to the 6-foot-1 frame of Fabian Edwards. The latter owns a 3 1/2-inch reach advantage (79 1/2 inches to 76 inches even) over the former.
As it stands currently, the oddsmakers have Gegard Mousasi installed as a -312 favorite, with Fabian Edwards countering as a +174 underdog. If you plan on betting on this or any other fight happening this weekend, please wager responsibly.
Gegard Mousasi Ready for 60th Career Fight in Bellator 296 Main Event
Gegard Mousasi has posted a record of 4-1 in his last five fights. He saw his four-fight winning streak snapped last time out at the hands of the aforementioned Johnny Eblen in Bellator 282 on June 24, 2022.
“It’s going to be 11 months since my last fight,” Mousasi began. “Bellator didn’t come with a fight and also, I wanted to fight earlier, but even if they would have given me a fight, I probably wouldn’t be ready because I had problems with injuries and I was dealing with that stuff, so it’s perfect timing for the fight.”
Regardless of what happens for the rest of his retirement tour, Gegard Mousasi is undoubtedly an all-time great. Can he keep his top contender status after the Bellator 296 main event? Tune in and find out.
Fabian Edwards Tuning Out Distractions of Elimination Bout
In the other corner, Fabian Edwards has posted a mark of 3-2 over his last five fights. Currently, he’s on a two-fight winning streak, one which was extended in his most recent fight against Charlie Ward (10-6 MMA, 7-3 Bellator), a UFC alum, by unanimous decision.
Ordinarily, a fighter in the main event spot might easily get distracted by the gravitas a fight of this caliber would bring. This isn’t a problem for Edwards.
Earlier Wednesday, he used his pre-fight media scrum to discuss how he’s handling the pressure of the Bellator 296 main event.
“I’m calm, you know?”, Edwards said. “Very, very calm, honestly, considering that this is a main event and the magnitude of this fight, but I’m calm. I think it’s just the work that I’ve done.”
It’s daunting for a fighter to try and clear his or her head of any outside disturbances when they’ve been booked to appear on a flagship card. When it’s the main event with the No. 1 contender status on the line, the pressure is multiplied exponentially.
Can he tune out the distractions all the way up to the main event? Only time will tell.
Analysis, Film Study, and Prediction
Stylistically, the Bellator 296 main event looks to favor Gegard Mousasi, a kickboxer with a black belt in Judo, compared to Fabian Edwards’ MMA background.
Gegard Mousasi Intense with Submissions
Of Gegard Mousasi’s 49 career wins, 12 have come by submission, including a 2014 win versus Mark Munhoz. During the first round of a scheduled five, Mousasi dumped Munhoz and went to work with ground and pound shots.
From there, he tried to lock in a submission but couldn’t complete the attempt. Undaunted, Mousasi took Munhoz down from the clinch a second time.
This time around, it stuck, as he secured a rear-naked choke to get Munhoz to tap out. All it will take Mousasi to win the Bellator 296 main event is just one successful takedown.
Watch For Edwards’ Ground Game
In the other corner, Fabian Edwards also has a decent ground attack. During the second round of his fight against Ward last fall, he was able to wrestle with Ward as a defense mechanism.
At that point, Edwards pacified Ward’s efforts, albeit briefly. Ward managed to get back to his feet, yet the former dumped him again to take back mount. The fight was halted briefly due to a groin shot from an illegal knee.
Once the fight resumed, Edwards made sure to turn it into a wrestling match down the stretch in round two. If Edwards dumps Mousasi with regularity, it’s game on.
The Bellator 296 main event is a battle of two fighters at a crossroads. Gegard Mousasi’s retirement tour could be punctuated with a title bid if he wins.
On the other hand, Fabian Edwards is trying to derail Mousasi’s potential storybook ending. May the better man win.
Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew enjoys a good game and a better fight. When he's not writing, you can find him playing video games and listening to music.