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Bellator MMA

Bellator MMA is back in business. The promotion returns to television screens on Friday night with its first card of 2021 and ready to kick off a new era with Showtime Sports. This will be the first fight card on the premium cable network and first of three straight from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

In the main event, featherweight and lightweight champion Patricio Pitbull will put his 145-pound championship on the line against Emmanuel Sanchez. The fight is a rematch of a November 2018 clash won by Pitbull. The fight also serves as the second semifinal fight in the World Featherweight Grand Prix. The winner will advance to meet AJ McKee in the finals later this year.

Plus, Neiman Gracie is back in the co-main event when he faces off with rising contender Jason Jackson in a welterweight contest. Both fighters are riding hot coming into the showdown. Gracie is 3-1 in his last four -- the lone loss stands as his only pro defeat in a title shot against Rory MacDonald. He's submitted nine of his 10 opponents. Jackson, meanwhile, has won three straight since dropping his promotional debut by decision.

With a big card on tap, our experts took a crack at picking each of the main card fights. Here are your pick makers: Brian Campbell (host of "Morning Kombat"), Brent Brookhouse (staff writer), Brandon Wise (editor) and Jack Crosby (editor). 

Bellator 255 predictions

FightCampbellBrookhouseWiseCrosby
Patricio Pitbull (-260) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (+210)Pitbull
Pitbull
Pitbull
Pitbull
Jason Jackson (-120) vs. Neiman Gracie (+100) Jackson
Jackson
Gracie
Jackson
Usman Nurmagomedov (-800) vs. Mike Hamel (+550)UsmanUsman
Usman
Usman
Alejandra Lara (-175) vs. Kana Watanabe (+150)Watanabe
Watanabe
LaraLara
Tyrell Fortune (-650) vs. Jake May (+475)FortuneFortuneFortuneFortune

Campbell on why Pitbull will win: There are so many reasons to love the chances Sanchez has of pulling the upset, especially given how much he has improved since their 2018 title bout. But this is Patricio 'Pitbull,' a two-division champion who is on such a savage roll at the moment that he's liable to finish Sanchez just to show off his pound-for-pound greatness. 

Brookhouse on why Pitbull will win: There's little that needs to be said about picking this fight beyond that Pitbull is simply the better fighter. Sanchez is a good, solid fighter who will give a lot of fighters fits. Pitbull, however, is an elite fighter who would be expected to be competitive -- at the absolute least  -- with the best fighters in the world. Pitbull also has a strong edge in finishing ability in the fight, which gives a big boost as there's a reduction in the "puncher's chance" line toward a potential Sanchez win.

Campbell on why Jackson will win: Gracie is a lot better than he likely gets credit for. That doesn't mean the red-hot Jackson isn't streaking at the exact right time to potentially make this his coming-out party. The native of Jamaica has won six of seven overall, with his only defeat coming in a disputed split decision against Ed Ruth in 2019. Gracie has more ways of controlling this fight but Jackson has more ways to finish it. 

Brookhouse on why Nurmagomedov will win: There are prospects and there are prospects. Nurmagomedov is a prospect. Hamel is little more than an introductory fight here. When you look up and down Hamel's record, he has been beaten by many men who don't have the all-around skills of Nurmagomedov. This should be little more than a cakewalk for Nurmagomedov's debut.

Brookhouse on why Watanabe will win: Watanabe vs. Lara is a very good fight and it's a very tough fight to pick. Watanabe is an incredibly strong fighter for the division and her judo skills could be what give her the edge in this one. There should be some strong flurries of offense through the fight going both directions. Watanabe is primed to make a big statement in this fight and her pressure could simply be too much for Lara to handle.

Wise on why Fortune will win: This is not a bad short-notice bout. Fortune was expected to face veteran Matt Mitrione, but after he was forced to withdraw, May stepped up to the challenge. These two previously met in 2020 with a groin strike ending the fight in no contest. Fortune is the much better overall fighter and carries some serious power in his hands. While he may struggle more with higher level competition, Fortune tends to feast in these situations.