On Friday night, Bellator 186 will go down at the Bryce Jordan Center on the campus of Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania. The home of the team that has won six of the last seven NCAA wrestling championships, the fight card will feature former Nittany Lion standouts such as Phil Davis and Ed Ruth.
The main event features Bellator light heavyweight champion and former All-American wrestler Ryan Bader (23-5) defending his title against Linton Vassell (18-5). Bader won the title with a victory over Phil Davis in his Bellator debut earlier this year, and he has won eight of his last nine overall.
The UK native Vassell earned a title shot with three straight wins, including a submission over former champion Liam McGeary at Bellator 179 in May.
A second title will also be up for grabs, as Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (6-0) faces Emily Ducote (6-2) in a rematch for the vacant women’s flyweight title. Macfarlane has posted a 5-0 record for Bellator, including a decision victory over Ducote in their first meeting at Bellator 167 last December.
Ducote earned a title shot by picking up back-to-back wins after the loss to Macfarlane. She’s 4-1 while fighting for Bellator.
In a third main card bout, former Bellator champ and Harrisburg, PA native Phil Davis (17-4) will welcome Brazilian newcomer Leo Leite (10-0) to the Bellator cage. Davis won his first four promotional bouts after signing with Bellator in 2015, including a decision over McGeary at Bellator 163 last November to win the title.
Davis will have a big hometown advantage over Leite, who comes in with seven stoppage wins on his resume. He was a former middleweight and light heavyweight champion under the Legacy FC banner, so he has some high level competition on his unblemished record.
UFC veteran and former All-American wrestler Chris Dempsey (11-5) will take on Ed Ruth (3-0) in a middleweight bout at the event. Dempsey started his career 10-1 and won a bout in the UFC during a four-fight stint, but he has suffered three straight knockout losses heading into this bout.
Ruth was a high profile signing for Bellator MMA last year, and rightly so. He won three NCAA titles during his time wrestling at Penn State, and has gone on to win his first three bouts after starting his MMA career. Since making his debut in November, Ruth has finished all three of his opponents under the Bellator banner via first round TKO.
In a fight that’s flying under the radar, longtime Bellator veteran Saad Awad (20-9) will take on upstart Zach Freeman (9-2) at lightweight. Awad has competed 13 times for Bellator, compiling an 8-5 record. He’s known as a finisher, with 15 of his 20 career wins via stoppage.
Freeman made a name for himself by submitting top prospect Aaron Pico in just 24 seconds in his debut at Bellator 180 earlier this year. Prior to that win, he had competed mostly on the regional scene; he has six submission wins in his career.
The preliminary card features nine bouts, including multiple local fighters in action. State College native Mike Putnam (1-1) will return to action for the first time in more than three years, as he will face the debuting Scott Clymer (0-0) in a 150-pound catchweight bout. Putnam won his pro debut before coming up short in his second fight. He currently trains out of Long Island MMA alongside big-name fighters like the UFC’s Ryan LaFlare, Dennis Bermudez, and Chris Wade, and former Bellator champion Marcos Galvao.
Clymer is a former state champion wrestler in Pennsylvania who will turn pro after posting a 3-0 amateur record.
Pittsburgh native Mike Wilkins (7-4) will make his Bellator debut against fellow Pennsylvania native Brett Martinez (7-4) in a 165-pound catchweight bout. Stout Training’s Wilkins looks to snap out of a two-fight losing streak, while Martinez looks for his second win under the Bellator banner while also halting a three-fight skid.
A pair of rising featherweight stars will get a chance to stand out, as Maryland’s Mike Otwell (4-1) will face New Jersey’s Michael Trizano (5-0).
The Mat Factory’s Dominic Mazzotta (12-2) was one of MMA’s top prospects when he signed with Bellator earlier this year, but he had a disastrous debut as he was knocked out by an AJ McKee head kick in his debut at Bellator 178. Never deterred, he returns here looking to start a new winning streak against Lozano.
Also a Pennsylvania native, Matt Lozano (8-5) went 1-1 in two bouts for Bellator in 2012, and he’s also competed for Legacy FC, World Series of Fighting, and CFFC in his career. He looks to snap out of a two-fight losing streak with a win over Mazzotta.
Logan Storley (6-0) is one of the most decorated wrestlers to ever enter MMA, as he was a four-time All-American during his time at the University of Minnesota. He has been just as impressive in his transition to the new sport, winning all six of his bouts via knockout or TKO, including five in the first round.
Matt Secor (9-4) is a battle-tested veteran, with a 2-2 record under the Bellator banner, and appearances for WSOF, CFFC, and The Ultimate Fighter also under his belt. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has eight wins via submission.
Tywan Claxton (0-0) has been impressive in his MMA career, winning all seven of his amateur bouts since making his debut just over two years ago. Claxton, originally from Ohio, now lives and trains in Florida with the famed Blackzilians team. He signed with Bellator in August and immediately called out highly hyped prospect Aaron Pico for a fight. The former Division II All-American wrestler also competed at Ohio University, and then made a transition to mixed martial arts.
Claxton will take on one-time Bellator veteran Jonathan Bonilla-Bowman (1-0), who competes for the first time since picking up a win in his lone pro bout at Bellator 125 more than three years ago.
Pittsburgh native Francis Healy (7-4) will take on New Jersey’s Frank Buenafuente (7-4) in a featherweight bout. Healy is coming off of a big win over Dave Roberts at Xtreme Caged Combat 29 in August, and “Mad Dog” looks to continue a hot streak as he’s won three of his last four.
Buenafuente is a World Series of Fighting veteran, but he’s spent most of his career competing in the Ring of Combat organization. He’s coming off of back-to-back losses against top prospect Julio Arce under the ROC banner.
Putnam’s former Team Titan teammate Ethan Goss (3-3) will face New Jersey’s Andrew Salas (3-1) in a featherweight bout. Goss is another Central PA native and he has won three of four after starting his career 0-2.
Salas comes in off of a pair of wins earlier this year. Most recently, he submitted Dominick Biondo in the second round at Ring of Combat 59.
Josh Fremd (1-0) comes in from Western Pennsylvania where he has competed as an amateur. The Uniontown Fight Club product made a successful pro debut in July, topping Warren Roberds via TKO in the first round at IT Fight Series 74 in Ohio.
The Virginia native Ryan Parker (0-0) makes his pro debut after an 11-3 amateur run.
The Bellator MMA 186 preliminary card will stream live on Friday night right here on BluegrassMMA.com beginning at 6:30pm ET.
Weigh-ins for Bellator 186 took place earlier today at the Bryce Jordan Center, and all fighters made weight. Check out the full weigh-in results below.
Bellator 186 Weigh-in Results:
Ryan Bader (204.5) vs. Linton Vassell (204.6)
Ilima-Lei Macfarlane (124.5) vs. Emily Ducote (123.9)
Phil Davis (205.8) vs. Leonardo Leite (206)
Ed Ruth (185.9) vs. Chris Dempsey (184.8)
Saad Awad (155.6) vs. Zach Freeman (155.3)
Scott Clymer (149.3) vs. Mike Putnam (149.1)
Brett Martinez (165.1) vs. Mike Wilkins (163.6)
Mike Otwell (145.5) vs. Michael Trizano (145.4)
Matthew Lozano (135.2) vs. Dominic Mazzotta (136)
Logan Storley (170.8) vs. Matt Secor (169.8)
Jonny Bonilla-Bowman (145.8) vs. Tywan Claxton (145.8)
Frank Buenafuente (145.5) vs. Francis Healy (144.9)
Ethan Goss (145.1) vs. Andrew Salas (144.8)
Joshua Fremd (185.6) vs. Ryan Parker (183.9)
*fight card subject to change