Bellator's 2020 schedule was badly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in the a series of event cancellations from March to July. Following a strong close to the year, the promotion looks as though a bright future awaits, ready to welcome a host of big signings to the cage in 2021.
There are many big fights Bellator could make in the coming year that could make waves, and some that we already know, including the final two fights of the Featherweight World Grand Prix tournament. Knowing this, the CBS Sports experts sat down to select the three fights we most want to see go down in the Bellator cage in 2021.
Narrowing the list down to just three was a tall task. Read on to see our selections.
- AJ McKee vs. Patricio Pitbull
There's already a strong chance we see this pairing, assuming Pitbull is able to get past Emmanuel Sanchez in the semifinals of the Grand Prix. McKee is already in the finals after his incredible submission win over Darrion Caldwell. Even if Pitbull falls victim to an upset, this fight would be one to make in 2021. McKee has seen his career built perfectly in the Bellator cage, taking appropriate fights through his career, increasing in challenge until entering the featherweight tournament, where he has faced the toughest challenge of his career in every round without a stumble. Pitbull is the greatest fighter in Bellator history and a current two-division champion. McKee could truly put his stamp on the promotion if he were able to beat Pitbull.
2. Juan Archuleta vs. Kyoji Horiguchi
It was unfortunate when injuries forced Kyoji Horiguchi to vacate the bantamweight championship. Though less unfortunate for Archuleta, who had the door opened to fight for the vacant title. Archuleta won the title by outworking Patchy Mix, giving him a victory and long overdue recognition as maybe the quietest, impressive run in the sport with a 19-1 run over his 20 fights prior to winning the belt -- with the lone loss coming against Pitbull after moving up to featherweight for the grand prix. Horiguchi has recovered from his injury, beating Kai Asakura at Rizin 26 on New Year's Eve by first-round knockout. Pairing Archuleta and Horiguchi allows Bellator to answer who the top bantamweight truly is, either allowing Horiguchi to regain his spot on the throne, or legitimize Archuleta as a true champion.
3. Vadim Nemkov vs. Corey Anderson
Nemkov's complete domination of Ryan Bader was a big statement to the world, not only in winning the light heavyweight championship, but also announcing him as one of the better 205-pound fighters in the world. Anderson made a pretty shocking move from the UFC to Bellator after losing to Jan Blachowicz. Had Anderson beat Blachowicz, he'd likely have been in a UFC title fight in his next outing. Anderson is still a good fighter and Blachowicz's crushing knockout of Dominick Reyes to capture the vacant UFC light heavyweight title shows there's no shame in Anderson's loss. What Anderson now represents for Nemkov is a sort of measuring stick to compare him to the UFC champion. With Scott Coker repeatedly making the claim that Bellator has a better light heavyweight division than the UFC, this is a fight that could help with that debate.