Neiman Gracie and Logan Storley are on championship campaigns at Bellator 274. The top contenders meet at the doorstep of Bellator welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov with both needing impressive showings to draw the attention of the titleholder.
Gracie needs to make an emphatic statement against Storley on Saturday night. The submission specialist showed off his hands against late replacement Mark Lemminger courtesy of a first-round TKO, but he knows what his bread and butter are. A seriously impressive showing against Storley could propel Gracie (11-2) to a title shot over Jason Jackson, who recently beat Gracie and is scheduled to fight Douglas Lima in May.
"This fight is hard to say how it's going to be done because I see it ending so many different ways," Gracie told CBS Sports. "It can be by submission or by knockout. One thing I can guarantee is that this fight will end before the fifth round. I'm going to do everything that I can to finish this fight.
"He is going to try to take me down and hold me there on the floor for five rounds and not do anything and win by the judges. So I train a lot on fighting that and avoiding the stalling. I'm going stop his stalling."
Storley, a four-time NCAA Division I All-American at Minnesota, seeks to push the pace against Gracie in what will be the promotion's first five-round, non-title main event. Storley (12-1) was well-angled for a title shot after pushing Amosov in a split decision loss in 2020, where Amosov went on to challenge for and win the title in his next fight. Storley's stock got clocked after barely getting by Bellator debutant Dante Schiro.
"For me, it's just getting in there and pushing the pace, landing my shots moving forward and setting a hard pace," Storley told CBS Sports. "I've done it since I was five years old wrestling, and wrestling at a Division I level at the Big Ten against top-ranked guys every single week and just kind of embracing the grind. That's kind of what you have to do in this fight against top guys is you have to find a way to break guys. That's why I don't have to do this fight.
"I trained with some of the best guys in the world on a daily basis, from the likes of Gilbert Burns, Shavkat Rakhmonov and Jason Jackson guys. Rory MacDonald, who already fought Neiman, and then we have great black belts in the gym as well. So things are different in competition, obviously, but I also have been tested against the best of the best for the last five years since I've been in south Florida."
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Both Gracie and Storley expect to propel to a title shot with a win over the other, but they have to clean up their image. Gracie needs to deliver a better performance than Jackson does against Lima; meanwhile, Storley has to prove the near-blunder against Schiro was a one-off.
"I think I need to make a statement," Gracie said. "It all depends on how the fight is going to end. Especially with that B.S. loss that I had to Jason Jackson, which I don't think I lost that fight. That decision wasn't a good decision, but he still has a win over me. So I need to win this fight in a good way to get my chance to the title shot next."
"I got into this business for one reason and it was to be world champ," Storley said. "To wear the gold. That's why I started. Obviously, I'm going to take care of Saturday night first. But I want a title shot. To right that wrong from the last Amosov fight. I got to take care of Nieman first to do that."
Here's the fight card for Bellator 274 with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook.
Bellator 274 card, odds
Neiman Gracie -165
Logan Storley +140
Andrey Koreshkov -380
Chance Rencountre +300
Adam Piccolotti -330
Georgi Karakhanyan +260
|Brennan Ward -550||Brandon Bell +400||175-pound catchweight|
|Said Sowma -190||Davion Franklin +160||Heavyweight|
Bellator 274 viewing information
Date: Feb. 19 | Start time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: Mohegan Sun Arena -- Uncasville, Connecticut
TV/Stream: Showtime or the Showtime App
Neiman Gracie vs. Logan Storley: A modern-day match-up between jiu-jitsu specialist and standout collegiate wrestler, this Bellator main event appears to have people split. The promotion has done well to groom both welterweights and it is time to see whether Gracie or Storley has the most upside. Storley can dictate where the fight takes place. He can use his offensive wrestling to work in ground-and-pound at the risk of succumbing to a submission. He can also use his defensive wrestling to avoid grappling threats. Gracie has infinitely more experience in five-round fights and has shown an ability to snatch late submissions. There is always the chance that their grappling cancels out and fans are treated to five rounds of striking. While Storley has not been granted the opportunity to show what he can do across 25-minutes, he trains with some of the best in the world at Sanford MMA. This fight is a toss-up, but I suspect Storley will prevail. Pick: Storley via split decision