Bellator 297 Card Complete, Austin Vanderford Returns

Bellator 297

The fight card for June’s Bellator 297 event in Chicago is now complete, as two world title fights are set.

Bellator officials have completed the fight card for the June 16 Bellator 297 event, which takes place live on Showtime from the Wintrust Arena in Chicago.

The double-main event will see Vadim Nemkov defend his light heavyweight title against Yoel Romero, while Patricio Pitbull tries to add the bantamweight belt to his collection vs. titleholder Sergio Pettis.

Among the new additions will be the return of one-time title challenger Austin Vanderford, the husband of Paige VanZant. Vanderford will battle unbeaten Imamshafi Aliev in a middleweight contest.

Other new fights include Mike Hamel vs. Shamil Nikaev, Leandro Higo vs. Nikita Mikhailov, Cody Law vs. Edwin Chavez, Wladmir Gouvea vs. Kevin Childs, Max Metzgar vs. David McKinney and Kyle Crutchmer vs. Bobby Nash.

Bellator 297 card features pair of title fights

All of those are in addition to the championship matches, which will take top billing. Rounding out the rest of the Showtime main card, which begins at 9 p.m. ET, will be Corey Anderson taking on Phil Davis and Daniel James battling Gokhan Saricam.

Nemkov claimed the belt back in 2020 and has since defended it three times, including wins over Anderson and Davis. Romero, a former UFC contender and Olympic silver medalist, has reeled off back-to-back third round finishes to earn his shot.

Pitbull, the reigning featherweight champion, is looking to become a two-time champion in multiple divisions at the same time. He also accomplished the feat with a win over Michael Chandler to hold the featherweight and lightweight titles.

If he wins, he would become the first MMA fighter in a major promotion to hold three division titles and the first to do it twice.

Here is a closer look at the newest fights added along with the current card:

#5-Austin Vanderford vs. Imamshafi Aliev — Middleweight Bout

No. 5-ranked middleweight contender and former BELLATOR world title challenger Austin Vanderford (11-2) will look to get back to his usual winning ways against undefeated Dagestani Imamshafi Aliev (9-0) in a preliminary matchup. The 33-year-old Vanderford will be eager to add to his highlight reel and re-assert his case for title contention when he steps into the BELLATOR cage for the first time since August, while Aliev will try to build upon the momentum earned in his dominant BELLATOR debut in Chicago last November.

Jordan Newman vs. Matthew Perry – Middleweight Bout

Undefeated top up-and-comer Jordan Newman (5-0) proved he is much more than just a wrestler in Chicago last November when he out struck and then submitted Jayden Taulkerat BELLATOR 288. At BELLATOR 297, the two-time NCAA Division III National Champion will take on Matthew Perry (5-3) in a matchup worthy of getting the Friends together.

Mike Hamel vs. Shamil Nikaev – Lightweight Bout

Elsewhere on the preliminary card, fellow BELLATOR 293 victor Mike Hamel (10-5) joins Archie Colgan in a quick turnaround when he faces surging Russian standout Shamil Nikaev (10-0) in a lightweight clash. A five-fight BELLATOR veteran, Hamel sports an impressive three-fight winning capped off by his lightning quick knockout of Nick Brownein March. Winning streaks are no stranger to the undefeated, Kill Cliff FC-trained Nikaev, who will make his long-awaited return to the BELLATOR cage after besting Kemran Lachinovin 2020. 

Cody Law vs. Edwin Chavez – Featherweight Bout

At featherweight, blue-chip prospect Cody Law (6-2) will look to right the ship against promotional newcomer Edwin Chavez (6-4). The former NCAA Division II National Champion and two-time All-American hopes to remind the division of his limitless potential with an emphatic victory over Colorado’s Chavez at BELLATOR 297.

#7-Leandro Higo vs. Nikita Mikhailov – Bantamweight Bout

Brazilian ex-title challenger Leandro Higo (21-6) will return to defend his place among the bantamweight Top Ten for the first time since his participation in the Bantamweight World Grand Prix against Russia’s Nikita Mikhailov (9-2). Higo enters off a razor-thin decision against superstar Danny Sabatello keen to return to the win column after victories in three of his last four. Opposite Higo, Mikhailov’s decision victory over former Bantamweight World Champion Darrion Caldwell has given the upstart plenty of confidence, and he believes his skills will match up well with Higo’s in this preliminary affair.

Wladmir Gouvea vs. Kevin Childs — Heavyweight Bout

Heavyweight prospect Wladmir Gouvea (1-0) will return to Chicago for the second time in as many professional fights when he challenges Kevin Childs (1-1) in this preliminary fight. The 30-year-old AKA product swarmed Kory Moegenburgfor a second-round TKO in his pro debut, and he hopes to do the same against Childs on June 16. Childs, 28, brings with him a wealth of amateur MMA and boxing experience for what looks every bit the part of a classic heavyweight brawl. 




Friday, June 16 — 9 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. CT / 6 p.m. PT

Light Heavyweight World Title Bout: C-Vadim Nemkov (16-2) vs. #3-Yoel Romero (15-6)

Bantamweight World Title Bout: C-Sergio Pettis (22-5) vs. C-Patricio “Pitbull” (35-5)

Light Heavyweight Bout: #1-Corey Anderson (16-6) vs. #2-Phil Davis (24-6)

Heavyweight Bout: #4-Daniel James (15-6-1) vs. #10-Gokhan Saricam (8-2)


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Friday, June 16 — 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT

Welterweight Bout: Kyle Crutchmer (9-2) vs. Bobby Nash (12-4)

Middleweight Bout: #5-Austin Vanderford (11-2) vs. Imamshafi Aliev (9-0)

Lightweight Bout: #9-Gadzhi Rabadanov (19-4-1) vs. Pieter Buist (17-6)

Bantamweight Bout: #7-Leandro Higo (21-6) vs. Nikita Mikhailov (10-2)

Welterweight Bout: Jaleel Willis (16-4) vs. Ramazan Kuramagomedov (10-0)

Light Heavyweight Bout: #5-Alex Polizzi (10-2) vs. #8-Karl Moore (11-2)

Heavyweight Bout: Wladmir Gouvea (1-0) vs. Kevin Childs (1-1)

Lightweight Bout: #10-Archie Colgan (7-0) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (20-8)

Lightweight Bout: Mike Hamel (10-5) vs. Shamil Nikaev (10-0)

Middleweight Bout: Norbert Novenyi Jr. (6-0) vs. Kamil Oniszczuk (9-2)

Featherweight Bout: #8-Timur Khizriev (12-0) vs. Richie Smullen (10-2-1)

Middleweight Bout: Jordan Newman (5-0) vs. Matthew Perry (5-3)

Featherweight Bout: Cody Law (6-2) vs. Edwin Chavez (6-4)

Lightweight Bout: Max Metzgar (Pro Debut) vs. David McKinney (1-3)

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