Bellator 259: How to Watch Cris Cyborg and the British Fighters on the BBC

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Location: Mohegan Sun Arena, Connecticut, United States Dated: Friday May 21
Blanket: Watch live coverage on BBC iPlayer from 10:30 p.m. BST

There are four UK MMA stars on the map as Bellator 259 airs live on BBC iPlayer on Friday from 10:30 p.m. BST.

England’s Fabian Edwards and Alfie Davis, Northern Ireland’s Leah McCourt and Brett Johns of Wales are all in action in a packed event, which also sees Cris Cyborg put his featherweight title on the line against Leslie Smith in the main event.

You don’t have to be a night owl to catch the majority of British fighters in action as Davis, Johns and McCourt are involved in the first three fights of the night, with Edwards appearing later in the evening.

Don’t worry if you can’t stay awake for the entire event, as the entire schedule will be available in catch-up and you’ll also be able to watch the best fights as full on-demand reruns.

What is Bellator MMA?

Bellator is a United States-based mixed martial arts promotion considered by many to be the UFC’s closest rival.

The organization has its own world titles and has a roster of fighters, including some of the best mixed martial artists around.

MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the world and is a blend of several martial arts, such as karate, muay thai, kickboxing, taekwondo, boxing, jiu-jitsu and wrestling .

What’s the matter?

Cyborg has been undefeated since joining Bellator

The biggest fight on the map sees Cyborg defending her featherweight title in a rematch against top contender Leslie “The Peacemaker” Smith.

Smith will seek revenge after being beaten via a first round TKO in her last showdown with Cyborg in 2016.

Edwards is the only British fighter on the main card as he takes on Austin Vanderford in a middleweight contest.

The 28-year-old is looking to bounce back from his first loss to Bellator eight months ago when Costello van Steenis got the better of him thanks to a split decision.

A wrestling and submission standout, Vanderford remains undefeated in MMA with a 10-0 record.

Meanwhile, the preliminary card is exciting for UK fans as Davis takes on Alexander Shabliy, Johns takes on Danny Sabatello, and McCourt takes on Janay Harding.

Analysis – “ Edwards needs the competition to be conducted remotely ”

Bellator MMA specialist Gareth A Davies examines where every fight involving a British fighter could be won or lost at Mohegan Sun Arena.

Fabian Edwards (Eng) v Austin Vanderford (United States)

Middleweight Fabian Edwards’ athletic ability and languid style, in which he prefers to throw heavy kicks and punches, will be tested to the max against the traditional wrestling skills of Austin Vanderford’s brawlers.

The American will likely look for teardowns to stifle and dominate on the pitch. If downed, Edwards must quickly regain his feet in this fight and force the fight to fight from a distance – from there he can dominate.

Leah McCourt (NI) vs. Janay Harding (Aus)

No one on the entire Bellator roster works harder at their game than Leah McCourt. The North Irish fighter has already successfully titled a Bellator event in Dublin. Featherweight McCourt has the ability to smother his opponents and crush them with his background in judo and jiu-jitsu, but Janay Harding brings danger in her hands and feet and is a formidable foe in the standing game.

The key for McCourt in this fight is to create a defensive wall with his jab, use his footwork, reduce distance, level up, and take the fight to the ground. What McCourt must not do against Harding is get caught up in endless fights.

Alfie Davis (Eng) vs. Alexander Shabliy (Rus)

Alfie Davis is a European rising star and has a brilliant stand-up. His dancing footwork gives him space to explode with his leg kicks and strike with both hands.

That’s exactly what he has to do in this contest with a dangerous Russian Alexander Shabliy, who will desperately want to prove his worth as a candidate in his Bellator debut.

Shabliy is a pressure fighter and the key, as “The Ax Man” Davis told me, is to control the space between them by being both elusive and equally explosive within range. Of course, justifying his number nine position in the Bellator lightweight division.

Brett Johns (Wal) v Daniel Sabatello (United States)

Welsh bantamweight Brett Johns makes his Bellator debut as he faces American Daniel Sabatello. Jones, who left the UFC in October 2020, is as tough as it gets. He is now a veteran and has all the skills to apply it all in a very difficult Bellator start.

BBC Coverage

Friday May 21

Bellator 259

10:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. (main card from 2:00 a.m.) – BBC iPlayer

Bellator 260 on Friday 11 June will also be available live on BBC iPlayer and more events will be announced in due course.

All times are in BST and are subject to change.

Catch up

You can watch BBC Sport’s release as well as listen to our radio sports programming on BBC iPlayer.

The BBC Sport website is available on desktop, mobile, tablet and app, offering easy access to live feed, text commentary, news, reports and schedules. The BBC Sport app is available for free on Apple and Android devices.

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