Bellator

Bellator Champion Mousasi on Tap to Defend Crown Against Lovato Jr.

Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports

Bellator middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi defends his title for the second time against Rafael Lovato Jr.  on June 22 in the main event of Bellator 223 from the storied Wembley Arena in London, England, where once boxing’s own middleweight championship was claimed by the legendary Marvin Hagler.

The 185-pound title tilt will bolster a huge 19-fight bill. The show includes former UFC upstarts—and castaways—Paul Daley and Erick Silva, who meet in a welterweight contest in the co-main event. The action can be found on DAZN, beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Bellator continues to move at a rapid pace, staging their 12th card of the year. The promotion has also found a nice home online with DAZN. Last summer, promotional President Scott Coker announced a nine-figure distribution deal with the streaming service. Their first broadcast together was Mousasi’s successful championship defense against Rory MacDonald at Bellator 206 in San Diego, California.

Mousasi, 33, took less than 10 minutes to dispatch MacDonald, who remains the welterweight champion after moving up from 170 pounds. With over a half-century mark in professional fights, Mousasi has competed all over the world. The Dutch virtuoso has been a force at both 185 and 205 pounds, winning the Dream middleweight and light heavyweight title as far back as 2008, when he was a star in Japan.

Moreover, he holds wins over former UFC champions Chris Weidman, Vitor Belfort, and other Hall of Famers like Dan Henderson. 

The 35-year-old Lovato has a fraction of the experience the defending champ does. But he’s undefeated and surging after snatching up John Salter with a rear-naked choke in the third round of their title eliminator last September. More recently, the American showed off his grappling chops at Polaris 9, a competitive grappling outfight. There he mauled Jiu-Jitsu ace Jake Shields.

Mousasi was originally scheduled to face Lovato in January until a back injury forced him off the card.

The co-feature will see the return of dynamite puncher Paul Daley since his decision loss to Michael Page.

When allowed to stay off his back, Daley is typically can’t-miss action. But in February, Page’s length caused all sorts of problems for the Nottingham native and Daley resorted to shooting for a number of desperate takedown attempts.

Silva, 34, of Brazil, made his Bellator debut four months ago when he lost a wide decision to Yaroslav Amosov. Silva is 1-1 since receiving his walking papers from the UFC, picking up a win in a headliner for Legacy Fighting Alliance.

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