This is an opinion that’s been circling around the MMA world: with the signing of Anthony Johnson and Yoel Romero, Bellator has a better light heavyweight division than the UFC. That’s an absurd claim, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves. Let’s look at the lists:
UFC top 15 (According to the UFC)
C: Jan Blachowicz
- Glover Teixeira
- Thiago Santos
- Dominick Reyes
- Aleksandar Rakic
- Jiri Prochazka
- Anthony Smith
- Volkan Oezdemir
- Nikita Krylov
- Johnny Walker
- Misha Cirkunov
- Magomed Ankalaev
- Ryan Spann
- Jim Crute
- Paul Craig
- Jamahal Hill
Bellator top 15 (According to Tapology)
C: Vadim Nemkov
- Corey Anderson
- Anthony Johnson
- Yoel Romero
- Gegard Mousasi
- Phil Davis
- Ryan Bader
- Liam McGeary
- Muhammed Lawl
- Julius Anglickas
- Lyoto Machida
- Jordan Young
- Kent Kauppien
- Alex Polizzi
- Jordan Young
- Rafael Carvalho
So we have Yoel Romero and Anthony Johnson just signing with the Bellator light heavyweight division. Let’s even throw Gegard Mousasi in there as he is probably getting tired of winning most of his fights at middleweight. Put them at 1, 2, and 3. Look at me dead in the eyes and tell me with a straight face that Bellator’s light heavyweight division is better than the UFC’s.
UFC Light Heavyweight and Bellator Light Heavyweight
I think the reason that people seem to think that Bellator has a better light heavyweight division is because of nostalgia. Fans miss the days of Lyoto Machida, Yoel Romero, and Anthony Johnson terrorizing the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Names like Jiri Prochazka and Magomed Ankalaev are not household names and people don’t recognize the young talent in the light heavyweight division just yet.
So, let’s say we slide in Anthony Johnson at the number one contender slot, Yoel Romero in at the two, and Gegard Mousasi at three. But, if we’re adding in fighters that hasn’t fought in light heavyweight yet, or recently, we have to do the same for the UFC as well. So, I’ll throw Israel Adesanya in at the number one contender spot. We will leave out Jon Jones because, A, he’s already beat all contenders, and B, he’s a heavyweight now.
So, there is not a single soul in the UFC or Bellator’s light heavyweight division that beats Israel Adesanya. Not a chance. Nemkov, Blachowicz, Johnson, nobody will touch Adesanya. But, we will start from the bottom.
Jamahal Hill just beat the brakes off Ovince Saint Preaux. The same Ovince Saint Preux that kicked Corey Anderson’s head off his shoulders in 2017. Granted OSP also lost to Gegard Mousasi and Ryan Bader. But when you look at head to head matchups of Bellator vs. UFC, it looks to be in Bellator’s favor.
UFC vs. Bellator head to head
Jan Blachowicz def. Corey Anderson (2020)
Jiri Prochazka def. Muhammed Lawal (2019)
Jiri Prochazka def. Vadim Nemkov (2015)
Glover Teixeira def. Ryan Bader (2013)
Corey Anderson def. Johnny Walker (2019)
Corey Anderson def. Glover Teixeira (2018)
Anthony Johnson def. Glover Teixeira (2016)
Gegard Mousasi def. Thiago Santos (2016)
Muhammed Lawal def. Jiri Prochazka (2015)
Corey Anderson def. Jan Blachowicz (2015)
Phil Davis def. Glover Teixeira (2014)
But, if you think about it a little more critically, Anderson’s win over Blachowicz is canceled out and Blachowicz gets the upper hand because that loss was avenged in 2020. Same goes for Prochazka vs. Lawal. So the advantage is 5-4 Bellator. But, the UFC talent’s more recent wins in 2019 and 2020 put them over the top for me. Then there is the issue of spot for spot.
Take a look at the hypothetical card below. How do you score this?
Israel Adesanya vs. Vadim Nemkov
Jan Blachowicz vs. Corey Anderson
Glover Texieira vs. Anthony Johnson
Thiago Santos vs. Yoel Romero
Dominick Reyes vs. Gegard Mousasi
Looks fun so far right? Pretty compelling matchups! Then the other two thirds of the card kicks in:
Aleksandr Rakic vs. Phil Davis
Jiri Prochazka vs. Ryan Bader
Anthony Smith vs. Liam McGreary
Volkan Oezdemir vs. Julius Anglickas
Johnny Walker vs. Lyoto Machida
Misha Circunov vs. Jordan Young
Magomed Ankalev vs. Kent Kauppien
Ryan Spann vs. Adam Polizzi
Jim Crute vs. Jordan Young
Paul Craig vs. Rafael Carvalho
Top half I’m going Izzy, Jan, Rumble, Romero, and Reyes. 3-2 UFC at the top. Then, I’m going Rakic, Prochazka, Smith, Oezdemir, Machida, Circunov, Ankalev, Spann, Crute, Craig. 9-1 UFC. In the end, it’s a landslide for the UFC.
It’s okay to want to see your old favorites…
Seriously, Bellator is a great promotion and I don’t want to take anything away from the great ground they’ve gained on the UFC talent wise. I think that skill gap will shrink as time goes on too. With so many great fighters coming up around the world, more promotions are going to snatch them up.
Now, quit saying wild things like Bellator is better than the UFC when it comes to light heavyweight and such. It’s simply not true.