There has always been a lot of focus on the up-and-comers for the UFC and along with the regional scene. With that said, Bellator arguably has some of the best young talents around as in the last few years they have signed and built up so many fighters. In this feature, I will list the top 20 prospects Bellator has. This list will only include prospects that have fought 1-5 times inside the Bellator cage.
Light-heavyweight, Christian Edwards (5-0 MMA,)
Edwards with all the success he’s been having he’s currently ranked at #8 following a win over Simon Biyong. Edwards made his professional debut for Bellator and has been with the promotion ever since. He was brought in as a prodigy of Jon Jones as he was a main sparring partner of his own at JacksonWink MMA. Bellator has built up Edwards perfectly giving him a step up in competition with each fight. His latest dominant win against another tough prospect Simon Biyong proved how good Edwards is.
Light-heavyweight, Grant Neal (6-0)
Neal has a similar career compared to Christian Edwards who is listed above. Neal is raked at #7 and has been a force inside the Bellator cage since he signed with them in late 2019. As an amateur, Neal went 6-0 and was the SCL and the Tuff-N-Uff light-heavyweight champion. He was 1-0 as a pro when he signed with Bellator. In his last fight, he was set up with another 205er Tyree Fortune who were both 5-0 and thriving up-and-comers. Neal won by first-round submission putting himself out there as one of the better 205ers in Bellator.
Welterweight, Jaleel Willis (15-2)
Way back in 2016, Willis fought for Bellator and came out as the winner. It was a one-fight deal though but it all played out the way it was supposed to. Willis went on to do great things in his career capturing the V3 title and the LFA welterweight title. While he was 13-2 Willis had offers from both Bellator and the UFC but decided to go with Bellator. Today he’s 2-0 with the promotion since signing an exclusive deal. Willis hasn’t had the slow build either as he’s already fought Mark Lemminger and Maycon Mendonça. Two good fighters and Willis won. He’s not ranked yet but he very well should.
Middleweight, Johnny Eblen (8-0)
2017-2018 Eblen made his mark on the Missouri circuit and quickly got noticed by Bellator and snatched up. Eblen is already 4-0 inside the Bellator cage. He is one of their best prospects and sitting at #5 confirms just that. Not as tested when he was fighting for Shamrock FC he was tested in his last two fights. Eblen beat Taylor Johnson who is very good and tool out veteran Daniel Madrid with a first-round knockout. Eblen has the capability to make a real run in this division.
Middleweight, Dalton Rosta (5-0)
Dalton Rosta is another guy Bellator signed right off his amateur career. All five of his pro fights have been for Bellator and he’s done darn good. Rosta signed as a light-heavyweight but eventually moved down to middleweight. His last three fights were at 185 and looked even better. He’s tied at #10 in the rankings following his big win over Tony Johnson. You can see while watching his career he’s progressed so much in just a little amount of time.
Welterweight, Shamil Nikaev (10-0, 1 NC)
Nikaev surprisingly out of the blue signed with Bellator in 2020. Like Magomed Magomedov, Nikaev fought his career ACB. Not with the same success as Magomedov, Nikaev went 7-0 (1 NC) for the Russian promotion. Unfortunately, since signing in 2020 he’s only fought once. That one fight was a memorable back and forth war with Kemran Lachinov. Nikaev definitely has the fan’s attention with his fights/performances.
Light-heavyweight, Luke Trainer (4-0)
Still unknown for the most part be prepared to hear the name Trainer a lot in the next coming years. Trainer earned his exclusive Bellator contract after winning a one-night eight-man tournament held in England. Since signing with Bellator he’s only fought once and stopped the other guy in the first round. Not as active as he should be but at 25-years-old, training out of Team Titan, and standing at 6’6″ he’s gonna be a problem.
Featherweight, Cody Law (3-0)
In between 2018-2020 Cody Law was one of the best amateur prospects. Bellator didn’t pass up the opportunity to sign Law right as he decided to turn pro in October of 2020. In the span of seven months, Law racked off three wins inside the Bellator cage. As he’s still getting built up slow, Law has looked apart. The American Top Team prospect is someone to watch for.
Bantanweight, Jaylon Bates (3-0)
Like Cody Law, Bates was another stellar amateur fighter that was signed when he turned pro. Bates had an awesome amateur career. He was the double champ at 135 and 145 for Tuff-N-Uff and rained the Full Contact Fighting Federation bantamweight title for two years. He’s had an understandable slow build with Bellator and he’s really looked outstanding so far. Very well-rounded and still so much time to grow.
Bantamweight, Danny Sabatello (11-1)
Sabatello was a former Titan FC champion who fought for on the contender series in 2020. Even with a dominant win on the contender series, he didn’t get a UFC contract. He went back to Titan FC to defend his title. Waiting on a call from the UFC it was Bellator that made the move. In fact, Sabatello was signed on short notice to fight former UFC ranked bantamweight, Brett Johns. Sabatello was a big underdog and he dominated Johns bell to bell. This smack-talking Danny Sabatello was UFC’s loss and Bellator’s gain.
Lightweight, Usman Nurmagomedov (12-0)
Nurmagomedov is actually the cousin of former UFC lightweight champion and one of the best to ever do it, Khabib Nurmagomedov. His competition hasn’t been too stellar, fighting four opponents with a losing record or making their debut. He is still one the most intriguing prospects out of Russia and Bellator once again took one of Russia’s bright young prospects. Nurmagomedov made his Bellator debut last April and beat Mike Hamel dy decision. His dynamic style will be someone to watch out for coming up.
Light-heavyweight, Alex Polizzi (8-1)
Prior to signing with Bellator in 2020, Polizzi was the LFA light-heavyweight champion. He made his debut in September of last year and beat former Bellator middleweight champion, Rafael Carvalho. His sole loss was against Julius Anglickas who is another top 205er in Bellator. Polizzi is 3-1 in Bellator and last month beat Gustavo Trujillo by armbar in the first round.
Light-heavyweight, Julius Anglickas (10-1)
Anglickas is the sole man to beat Alex Polizzi who is listed above. Anglickas is another guy who the UFC didn’t sign off a dominant showing on the contender series. He fought on the contender series in 2019 beating Karl Reed. He didn’t get the contract surprisingly and three months later made his Bellator debut. Anglickas is currently 3-0 in the Bellator cage handing Polizzi and Jordan Young their first loss. Right now he’s sitting at #5 in the rankings looking real good.
Lightweight, Lance Gibson Jr. (4-0)
One of the most underrated prospects in Bellator is Canada’s Lance Gibson Jr. He’s had a problem being active only fighting his two Bellator fights in the span of almost two years. He’s had a problem getting fights and more so keeping them intact. Even though he went the distance for the first time in his career in his last fight he proved how well-rounded he is. Someone that will jump out to me people the more he fights.
Bantamweight, Jornel Lugo (6-0)
Bellator had Lugo in their sights early as a pro where he was given a one-fight deal back in October of 2019. With a unanimous decision win over John Douma, he took another fight for SFT. A win there and then Bellator signed him to an exclusive contract. Now today, Lugo is 3-0 in Bellator and two of those came in the last nine months. Lugo has still yet to fight on the main card but will get there if he is that level of material.
Heavyweight, Steve Mowry (9-0)
Mowry was signed back in 2018 by Bellator and before that was a stand-out for Titan FC. Mowry the giant at 6’8″ has fought his last five fights with Bellator. Notable wins are against Gokhan Saricam, Shawn Teed, and Said Sowma at Titan FC 49. With each outing, Mowry had gradually gotten better and better evolving into more of a complete fighter. Mowry is sitting nicely at #6 in the rankings.
Welterweight, Kyle Crutchmer (7-1)
Crutchmer burst onto the MMA scene in 2018 following a very successful Division I career at Oklahoma State University in wrestling. He was a two-time All-American and a two-time Big 12 champion. At 4-0 he was signed to the UFC and right now is 3-1 for the promotion. His one loss was to Kemran Lachinov in a fight he arguably won. Not even a month ago he handed hot prospect Levan Chokheli his first loss. To this day Crutchmer is still slept on and he shouldn’t be
Heavyweight, Davion Franklin (3-0)
Franklin didn’t only make his pro debut for Bellator but made his MMA debut for them as well. Being linked up JacksonWink and all the success teammate Christian Edwards was having Bellator took a shot. He’s only 3-0 but beat experienced guys such as JW Kiser, Ras Hylton, and Tyler King. Knocking out Tyler King in the first round in his last fight put his name on the map. Franklin is ranked #8 in the heavyweight division.
Lightweight, Mandel Nallo (8-1)
When Nallo was signed to the UFC in 2017 he was on the brink of known. He started off his two Bellator fights better than anyone could. Nallo knocked out a guy with a head kick in only 18-seconds and then knocked out Carrington Banks with a brutal knee. He had a setback against Killys Mota and then a no-contest against Saad Awad. Nallo got back to his highlight-reel ways last April knocking out Ricardo Seixas with a superman punch. He does need to be much more active as he is already 31-years-old.
Lightweight, Chris Gonzalez (6-0)
When Gonzalez signed with Bellator in 2019 all that was known was he’s 1-0, had a wrestling background, and trained out of Team Alpha Male. Now in 2021 Gonzalez has a 6-0 record and quietly has put together a solid resume. He’s beaten a tough Aaron McKenzie, handed Vladimir Tokov his first career loss, and finished the well-known Roger Huerta. I’m sure with another win Gonzalez will find himself in the rankings.