It's nearly time for a rematch of the biggest matchup in Bellator MMA history. After AJ McKee took less than two minutes to rock and then submit then-champion Patricio Pitbull at Bellator 263, the two seemed as though a rematch was a sure thing. That rematch will go down in the main event of Bellator 277 on Friday night with the featherweight crown once again at stake.
Pitbull has twice held the featherweight championship and is also a former lightweight champion. Between his title reigns, seven title defenses and two Bellator tournament victories, he is seen as arguably the greatest fighter in the history of the promotion. McKee, however, is making his own case as one of the Bellator greats. After being slowly brought up through the Bellator ranks, McKee was finally unleashed on the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix where he ran through the competition -- including Pitbull -- to become champion.
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The main event isn't the only title fight of the night, however, as light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov is set to face Corey Anderson in the co-main event. That fight is not only for the title but is also the final fight in the Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix. Nemkov has been perfect in the Bellator cage, but Anderson has dominated the competition since his surprising jump from the UFC.
The undercard also features a pair of interesting non-title bouts. Featherweight prospect Aaron Pico is back when he takes on Adli Edwards in a catchweight contest at 150 pounds. Pico was once hailed as one of the hottest prospects in MMA history when Bellator signed him to a deal out of high school. The 25-year-old has hit some bumps in the road but seems to have righted the ship with five straight wins and only one reaching the judges' scorecards. Plus, heavyweights Tim Johnson and Linton Vassell are set to slug it out in the opener.
Here's the fight card for Bellator 277 with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook.
Bellator 277 card, odds
- AJ McKee (c) -330 vs. Patricio Pitbull +260, featherweight championship
- Vadim Nemkov (c) -160 vs. Corey Anderson +135, light heavyweight championship (Grand Prix final)
- Aaron Pico -1100 vs. Adli Edwards +700, featherweights
- Linton Vassell -140 vs. Tim Johnson +120, heavyweights
- Tyrell Fortune -1100 vs. Rakim Cleveland +650, heavyweights
- Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov -180 vs. Rafael Carvalho +155, light heavyweights
- Gaston Bolanos -310 vs. Daniel Carey +250, contractweight (140 pounds)
- Kyle Crutchmer -260 vs. Michael Lombardo +210, welterweights
- Bobby Seronio III -1000 vs. Calob Ramirez +650, bantamweights
- Tyson Miller -440 vs. Rhalan Gracie +340, welterweights
- Edwin De Los Santos vs. Alberto Mendez, flyweights
- Rogelio Luna -220 vs. Socrates Hernandez +180, featherweights
- Laird Anderson -575 vs. JT Donaldson +425, featherweights
- Theo Haig -900 vs. Alan Benson +600, light heavyweights
Bellator 277 viewing information
Date: April 15 | Start time: 10 p.m. ET
Location: SAP Center -- San Jose, California
TV Channel: Showtime | Live stream: Showtime.com or the Showtime app (subscription required)
AJ McKee vs. Patricio Pitbull
Brent Brookhouse: It's unlikely the rematch is a carbon copy of the first meeting. Pitbull will have a greater respect for what McKee brings to the cage and shouldn't leave any early openings again. Still, the four-inch height advantage McKee brings to the cage is clearly a problem for Pitbull because McKee has such a dynamic attack that he can unload kicks or punches from a variety of angles. And, unlike most fighters, McKee doesn't have much concern if Pitbull catches a kick and takes him down. Pitbull is a great fighter, truly, but it feels like McKee is the exact fighter you'd build in a lab to be a Pitbull destroyer. Pick: AJ McKee wins
Shakiel Mahjouri: How can anyone pick against McKee after he tore his way through the Featherweight World Grand Prix and steamrolled Pitbull? McKee, who has competed in Bellator for all 18 of his professional fights, is the promotion's biggest success story. A potent striker with seriously slick submissions, McKee can really start building a case as the world's greatest featherweight. Pitbull is a phenomenal talent and should present a greater challenge to McKee the second time around, but McKee deserves to be a meaningful favorite. Both are supremely well-rounded, but McKee has a greater ability to finish the fight. Pick: AJ McKee wins
Brandon Wise: It is really difficult to beat the same opponent twice, much less with no other opponent in between meetings. Pitbull is arguably the greatest fighter in Bellator history for a reason and he's been a one-man wrecking crew until he met McKee last July. He only has five losses on his resume and he's never lost back to back. The odds will tell you that history repeats itself here, but there does feel like some adjustment to the gameplan coming from Team Pitbull. Expect a much different fight to play out that definitely lasts longer than 120 seconds. Pick: Patricio Pitbull wins
Vadim Nemkov vs. Corey Anderson
Brent Brookhouse: This is an incredibly tough fight to call. Nemkov is a skilled fighter while Anderson is on an absolute tear at the moment. Nemkov is not going to be easy for Anderson to take down, nor is he likely to panic in the face of Anderson walking forward and throwing big strikes. Instead, Nemkov's calm may be a point of frustration for Anderson, who wants to dictate the terms of the fight and is at his worst when he is reacting to an inability to do so. Nemkov will likely have to survive a hard-charging Anderson in the first round but so long as he can do that, Nemkov should be able to pull away down the stretch. Pick: Vadim Nemkov wins
Shakiel Mahjouri: Much like the featherweight division, light heavyweight is another weight class in which Bellator arguably has the world's best fighter. Nemkov has emerged as one of the top light heavyweights in any promotion and a solid victory over Anderson will only support his case. Anderson has looked like a world-beater since making the jump from UFC to Bellator. Sure, he left his old home on a quick knockout loss to former UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz, but there is enough evidence to suggest that Anderson would win the rubber match. Anderson's newfound confidence in his striking game pairs well with his aggressive, suffocating wrestling skills. There is reasonable concern for how his chin will hold up against a devastating finisher like Nemkov, but this improved version of Anderson seems well-equipped to work his way into dominant positions while avoiding a cataclysmic shot. Anderson via late TKO or unanimous decision. Pick: Corey Anderson wins
Brandon Wise: This bout has the potential to go a couple of different ways. It could play out as a classic brawl if neither man is able to establish their clinching and wrestling games or it could become a classic lay and pray if it does reach the mat. I tend to think that Anderson is operating near his ceiling as a fighter while Nemkov still has room for growth. Expect Nemkov to stuff most of Anderson's takedown attempts while stunning him with his kickboxing work. Four of Anderson's five losses have come by knockout and this fight feels like another waiting to happen. Pick: Vadim Nemkov wins