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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    The Wrestling Fan's Guide to the MMA Weekend (6/24/22)

    2010 NCAA champion Bubba Jenkins (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    Friday night is jam-packed with MMA action featuring former wrestling stars. Across the Bellator, Professional Fighters League and Xtreme Fight Night, wrestlers will be in action across Showtime, ESPN and UFC Fight Pass. The following is a preview of the bouts going down.

    Friday: Bellator 282

    Johnny Eblen vs. Gegard Mousasi

    Eblen has earned a shot at the Bellator middleweight title thanks to an undefeated 11-0 record. During his time at Missouri, he spent several years in the starting lineup. As a senior in 2015, he won the MAC championship to qualify for the NCAA tournament. He will be facing a tough challenge in Mousasi. The UFC veteran and current Bellator champion has been competing professionally since 2003 and has defeated several former wrestlers such as Mark Munoz, Dan Henderson and Chris Weidman.

    Danny Sabatello vs. Leandro Higo

    Sabatello got a late invite to the Bellator bantamweight tournament and made the most of it with a first-round victory over Jornel Lugo. The former Purdue wrestler has not been afraid to show his brash personality in the cage and has been dominant on the ground. During his time with the Boilermakers, he was a three-time NCAA qualifier. Higo will have an experience edge in this contest and has knocked off wrestlers Darrion Caldwell and Shawn Bunch in the last few years.

    Brennan Ward vs. Kassius Kayne

    Ward was a Division III All-American during his time at Johnson & Wales. Interestingly enough, he was prevented from reaching the podium a second time by multiple-time Greco world team member Joe Rau. He returned to action earlier this year from an extensive layoff and picked up a second-round stoppage over Brandon Bell. Kayne has mostly struggled when he has stepped up in competition, so Ward should be the favorite here.

    Cody Law vs. James Gonzalez

    Law spent time at Penn State before finding a home at Pitt-Johnstown. At the Division II school, he became a three-time NCAA champion. Law has certainly looked like a prospect during his time with Bellator. He made his professional debut with the promotion in 2020 and has gone a perfect 6-0 in their cage. Gonzalez has gone 8-5 mostly on the Northeast circuit. Law should be the favorite, but this is a modest step up in competition.

    Eblen, Sabatello and Ward are all part of the main card, which airs live on Showtime at 9:00pm ET. The undercard, which will feature Law, starts on YouTube at 6:00pm ET.

    Friday: PFL 5 2022

    Bubba Jenkins vs. Reinaldo Ekson

    After leaving Bellator in 2016, it looked like Jenkins might be done with top promotions, but he has found new life with the PFL. The former Penn State and Arizona State wrestler has gone 3-1 with the PFL after joining the promotion last year. During his collegiate days, Jenkins was an NCAA finalist for Penn State before transferring to Arizona State for his final year. With the new school, he returned to the finals and scored a legendary upset over David Taylor. Ekson holds an 18-5 record and made his U.S. debut earlier this year on the PFL Challengers show.

    Lance Palmer vs. Sheymon Moraes

    Palmer long dominated the PFL/WSOF featherweight division, but that has not been the case recently. He is riding a three-fight losing streak and in desperate need of a win. Back in his Ohio State days, Palmer was a four-time All-American. As a senior in 2010, he made the finals before coming up short against Brent Metcalf. Moraes went 2-4 with the UFC between 2017 and 2021. He joined PFL after leaving the UFC and has won three-straight fights.

    Juan Adams vs. Sam Kei

    Adams signed with the UFC in 2018 after winning only four fights. He won his first fight in the Octagon before dropping three-straight fights and being released by the company. Since leaving the UFC, the former VMI wrestler has bounced back with a 3-1 record for Fury FC. As a senior in 2015, Adams went 22-12 for VMI. Kei has an 8-5 record and will be making a big step up in competition.

    All of these former wrestlers will be part of the PFL preliminary card, which will air live on ESPN+ at 5:30pm ET.

    Friday: Xtreme Fight Night 381

    Nick Piccininni vs. Shawn Gustafson

    Piccininni has been training with fellow Oklahoma State veteran Daniel Cormier at American Kickboxing Academy. He made his professional MMA debut last June and has won both of his fights in a combined time of under three minutes. During his time with the Cowboys, Piccininni won well over 100 matches and was a multiple-time All-American. Gustafson went 3-3 as an amateur before winning his professional debut last October. It will be interesting to see if he can become the first fighter to last a round with the Cowboy.

    Jacobe Smith vs. Zachariah Kelley

    Smith is also part of the Oklahoma State contingent training at AKA. He moved to 2-0 as a professional in February with a 23-second victory over William Florentino. Smith spent three years with Oklahoma State after transferring from Northeastern Oklahoma and finished eighth in 2018 to become an All-American. Per Tapology, Kelley has a 5-33-1 professional boxing record and in the last two years fought in boxing, kickboxing, bare-knuckle boxing and MMA.

    Bella Mir vs. Jessica Link

    Mir is the daughter of former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir. She already holds a 2-0 professional MMA record despite only recently graduating from college. Mir was originally scheduled to compete at the Pittsburgh Wrestling Classic, but dropped out due to an injury. The promotion for that event said she was going to attend college at Iowa. Mir finished fifth at the 2020 U20 women's nationals. Link has a 1-3 amateur MMA record, but she is also coming off a bare-knuckle boxing victory this past April.

    XFN 381 will air live on UFC Fight Pass at 8:00pm ET.

    Sunday: Fury FC 65

    Mo Miller vs. Joshua Weems

    The main event of Fury FC 65 features Miller's return. Miller was a three-time Division II All-American for Notre Dame College. He earned a shot on Dana White's Contender Series but did not receive a UFC contract even after winning. Following the show, he picked up his first loss against Jose Johnson. However, since then, he turned things around with a first-round finish over Evers Anderson. Weems holds a 9-2 record with some impressive wins. A win here could signal Miller is ready for the UFC.

    The main card of Fury FC 65 airs live on UFC Fight Pass at 5:30pm ET.

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