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Chris Curtis off Bellator 251 due to positive COVID-19 test, Vinicius de Jesus steps in to fight Austin Vanderford

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Vinicius de Jesus (pictured) fights Austin Vanderford in a middleweight bout this Thursday at Bellator 251 in Uncasville, Conn.
Bellator MMA

Bellator has found a replacement to fight Austin Vanderford.

MMA Fighting confirmed with officials that Vanderford will fight Vinicius de Jesus in a middleweight bout this Thursday at Bellator 251 in Uncasville, Conn., following the withdrawal of Vanderford’s originally scheduled opponent Chris Curtis.

According to sources with knowledge of Curtis’ situation that spoke to MMA Fighting, his removal from the bout was due to a positive COVID-19 test. MyMMANews was first to report Curtis’ withdrawal.

Lightweight Piankhi Zimmerman (5-4-1) also has a new opponent for his preliminary bout after losing originally scheduled foe Nainoa Dung. He now meets Ali Zebian (4-2), who will be making his second Bellator appearance.

Dung announced via Instagram that he tested positive for COVID-19 last week.

MMA Junkie was first to report that de Jesus and Zebian were stepping in as replacements.

The unbeaten Vanderford (9-0) makes his first appearance of 2020 after debuting with Bellator last year and winning his first three fights for the promotion. After stopping Cody Jones and Joseph Creer, Vanderford won a unanimous decision over Grachik Bozinyan in his most recent appearance at Bellator 234 in November.

De Jesus (9-3) makes his return to the Bellator cage following a 2-1 run on the regional scene. “The Brazilian Bad Boy” won three of his first four fights for Bellator before picking up a pair of wins with the Classic Entertainment & Sports MMA promotion last year. In his most recent fight this past August, de Jesus lost a unanimous decision to Jaleel Willis in a bout for a vacant Legacy Fighting Alliance welterweight title.

Bellator 251 will be headlined by a light heavyweight bout between Melvin Manhoef and the debuting Corey Anderson. The main card airs live at 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network this Thursday, with a live stream of the preliminary card available on MMA Fighting.