Mansour Barnaoui made a statement in his Bellator debut.
Saturday night at the Allianz Cloud Arena in Milan, Italy, Barnaoui faced Bellator mainstay Adam Piccolotti in the main event of Bellator 287, and things could not have gone better for the French fighter.
From the opening bell, Barnaoui dominated the grappling exchanges with Piccolotti, reversing Piccolotti’s takedown attempts to take the back before ultimately finding a fight ending rear-naked choke at 2:51 of the second round. Barnaoui’s performance was made all the more impressive by the fact that it was the first fight for “Tarzan” in over three years.
After the bout, Barnaoui declared his intention to take the Bellator lightweight belt, and at only 30 years old, the former Road FC and BAMMA lightweight champion showed himself to be a legitimate threat to every 155er in Bellator. He has not lost since dropping a decision to Mateusz Gamrot at KSW 35, and with Bellator planning a lightweight Grand Prix in 2023, he could be a favorite to win the whole thing.
"Je suis venu ici au Bellator pour prendre la ceinture"— RMC Sport Combat (@RMCSportCombat) October 29, 2022
et la traduction : "he come to Bellator for take the CEINTURE"
Bravo à la Team Barnaoui pour la victoire et merci pour la régalade en Anglais. Des cracks. #Bellator287 pic.twitter.com/DL2o4u0KQt
In the co-main event, Fabian Edwards did what he needed to, securing a lackluster win over Charlie Ward to stake his claim for a middleweight title shot. Though he hurt Ward on the feet in the first round, he then spent the bulk of the fighting using his grappling to control Ward, taking a wide unanimous decision. The most interesting part of the bout was the jabbering that went on between the two as they had a lengthy conversation while Edwards controlled Ward. The chatter even spilledover after the final horn sounded, where the two hugged as friends.
After the bout, Edwards didn’t do himself any favors either, refusing to call for a middleweight title shot. Instead, he apologized the fans for his poor performance and said he didn’t care if he got a title shot because he knows he didn’t give a good accounting of himself against Ward.
Still, coming off back-to-back dominant wins, and currently the No. 2-ranked middleweight in Bellator’s rankings, Edwards may well find himself squaring off against middleweight champ Johnny Eblen sometime next year.
Similar to the co-main event, the other two main card fights for Bellator 287 were short on excitement. In the featured lightweight bout of the evening, Tim Wilde was able to outlast Saul Rogers in a back-and-froth affair that saw Wilde defend most of Rogers’ takedown attempts and pile up damage on the feet.
Then in the main card opener, Justin Gonzales outclassed Andrew Fisher, winning all three rounds with his superior striking and grappling, and never really looking in danger against the well-traveled veteran.