Bellator 276 is for the children. Following well-traveled MMA veteran Gegard Mousasi’s successful middleweight title defense at Bellator 275, the promotion shifts the spotlight onto a number of young contenders ready for a taste of gold. Tied for second in Bellator’s featherweight rankings, Mads Burnell vs. Adam Borics will settle the debate of who is the better fighter.
Burnell (16-3) reinvented himself following a tough 1-2 run in UFC, which included a loss to ranked contender Arnold Allen. Burnell, 28, turned the corner by winning seven straight fights with five finishes. He captured the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship featherweight crown and defeated Emmanuel Sanchez in his third Bellator bout. Burnell’s bounce back is rooted in maturity and the principle of performance over results.
“The fight before Arnold Allen, I won that fight, but ever since I started doing martial arts at six years old, that was the single worst performance I’ve ever put on in any fight,” Burnell told CBS Sports. “Even though I won, it felt like a loss. I go in and fight Arnold Allen. I’m spanking him around. I lost that fight, but it felt more like a win to me than the fight I actually won because I went in there and performed. The night before, I didn’t perform. That taught me when I’m fighting, I can’t be focusing on the result. The only thing I can focus on is the performance. When you perform well, everything will be all good. If not, you can live with yourself.”
Borics (17-1) has been perfect inside of the Bellator cage outside of a significant loss to Darrion Caldwell in the opening round of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix. A victory on Saturday should secure the winner a title show, but that could be delayed pending the results of the second A.J. McKee vs. Patricio “Pitbull” Freire fight. Do not expect to see Borics after Saturday unless a title is on the line.
“Yes for sure. Who should I fight next? I’ve beaten everyone in this division except for A.J. and ‘Pitbull’, so I’m not going to fight anyone else,” Borics told CBS Sports. “I think it’s going to be similar to the first fight, but I really don’t care. I would face both of them.”
When asked to identify their opponent’s biggest advantages in the fight, the headliners were dismissive of their counterpart’s chances.
“Hmm. I would say the advantage I have is probably my fight IQ and I’m more well-rounded than him. What he has an advantage in is, I don’t know,” Burnell said. “If I had to give him something that is maybe an advantage is his length.”
“I don’t think he has a big advantage against me,” Borics said. “I feel I’ve improved a lot and I will show everybody that I am one of the best 145’ers in the world. I’m just ready to go.”
Johnny Elben is a perfect 10-0 as he enters his fifth year as a professional MMA fighter. Eblen, 30, enters the John Salter fight on Saturday as a -300 favorite. A victory over the recent title challenger should be enough to earn Elben his chance to challenge 185-pound champion Mousasi, maybe to Mousasi’s surprise.
“Who is Johnny Elben?” Mousasi told CBS Sports. “I’ve never heard of him. I had the same problem when I was coming up. I didn’t have any names [on my record] so they didn’t give me the fights I wanted. That’s the problem because, of course, the promotion wants to make signs that read me vs. Yoel Romero. That’s interesting; although, what’s that guy’s name, Johnny Elben? Maybe he’s a tougher opponent. But the promotion is going to do big-name vs. big name because fans want to see that. I have nothing against anybody. Maybe they have to sell some crack or hit somebody in the streets. Maybe that will make a name for them.”
“It’s all good because he’s going to know who the hell I am when I show up,” Eblen told CBS Sports. “Maybe he watches this next fight because he fought John and gets a glimpse of who I am. It doesn’t surprise me that he doesn’t know who I am. He’s probably off in his own world. He’s been fighting for years. He’s a great competitor. I have a lot of respect for the dude, but I think he’s an old lion looking to get taken down. There hasn’t been a young lion good enough to take him out yet and I think I’m that young lion.”
Bellator 276 viewing information
Date: March 12 | Start time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: Family Arena — St. Louis, Missouri
TV/Stream: Showtime or the Showtime App
Mads Burnell vs. Adam Borics: This is really good matchmaking. The consensus No. 2 ranked Bellator featherweights clash to separate themselves from the pack. Both Burnell and Borics are serious submission threats. Burnell likely edges Borics out as the superior submission specialist, particularly with his signature Japanese necktie, but the well-rounded Boric has more ways to win. Burnell’s experience at a higher level gives me some comfort in siding with the Mads-man. Burnell via SUB2