There was a point in time where both Peruvian talent Enrique Barzola (18-7-1) and Mexican prospect Erik Perez (20-8) were young, highly touted fighters.
These two are expected to face one another at Bellator 292, going down at the SAP Center in San Jose, California on March 10, 2023.
Headlining the event is a Bellator lightweight championship bout between newly crowned champion Usman Nurmagomedov (16-0) and former WEC & UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson (30-11). Co-headlining the card is also an intriguing matchup, this one too coming at 155 lbs between former Rizin lightweight champion Tofiq Musayev (20-4) and Alexander Shabliy (22-3).
But let’s get into our bantamweight showcase between these Central and South American talents.
Erik Perez first came to the UFC in 2012 with a record of 10-4, and he quickly went 3-0 inside the promotion that year with three first round finishes. Perez would then lose a split decision to top five contender Takeya Mizugaki, before going 4-1 over his next five outings.
It wasn’t quite the same Perez we’d seen in 2012 though, all four of his wins came via decision, and the defeat came to Bryan Caraway via submission (rear naked choke).
Perez then left the UFC, where he’d pick up back-to-back victories via KO and rear naked choke for Combate Americas before joining the Bellator roster. He was KO’d in just 54 seconds of his promotional debut, before losing a unanimous decision to longtime staple Josh Hill in this sophomore effort.
Perez rebounded from these back-to-back defeats with a unanimous decision win at Bellator 258 back in May of 2021, and he hasn’t fought since.
Enrique Barzola on the other hand came to the UFC in 2015 with a record of 10-2-1 following a successful 2-0 stint on The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America II up at 155 lbs.
Barzola’s first UFC defeat, like Perez’, also came via split decision, his to Kyle Bochniak when he dropped back down to 145 lbs. Barzola would win his next four-straight fights before going 1-2-1 over his next four.
The fourth of these fights came against Rani Yahya, and following the bout resulting in a draw, Barzola, like Perez, had fought out his contract and became a free agent, where he quickly signed with Bellator MMA.
It would be nearly two years before he’d fight again due to Covid-19, but when he did return, Barzola shocked the world by stopping (TKO) former Bellator bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell in round three.
Barzola followed this up with a unanimous decision win over the 9-1 Nikita Mikhailov before losing his last two-straight to the likes of former ACB bantamweight champion Magomed Magomedov (guillotine choke) in round four of a fight he was winning, and then former Bellator bantamweight champion Juan Archuleta (UD) back in October.
Who do you see coming out on top in this epic bantamweight showdown going down at Bellator 292?
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I became a fan of combat sports when I was 12 years old. I was scrolling through the channels and landed upon versus, where WEC was televised. Urijah Faber fought Jens Pulver for the second time that night. That’s the first fight I saw, and the fight that got me hooked on the sport. Since then, the sport has grown so rapidly, and my goal is to enlighten everyone on what’s going on in the sport today.