Bellator 288: Our Best Bets for Nemkov vs. Anderson 2, Pitbull vs. Nurmagomedov, Fortune vs. James

Bellator 288: Our Best Bets for Nemkov vs. Anderson 2, Pitbull vs. Nurmagomedov, Fortune vs. James article feature image

Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images. Pictured: light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov and opponent Corey Anderson

  • Bellator 288 takes place Friday with prelims on YouTube (6 p.m. ET) and a main card on Showtime (9 p.m. ET).
  • The 13-bout card includes a pair of title fights on top of the card.
  • Below, Manpreet Jhass shares his best bets for the card, including one for champ Vadim Nemkov vs Corey Anderson.

Not often does Bellator upstage the UFC when the fight promotions have events on the same weekend, but that is the case this time around. Headlined by two title fights, Bellator 288 will have a lot of the MMA world's attention.

Taking place on Friday in Chicago at WinTrust Arena, Bellator 288 kicks off with prelims on YouTube at 6 p.m. ET (3 p.m. PT), with the main card kicking off at 9 p.m. ET on Showtime.

The event will showcase 13 bouts, including the headliner that puts a stamp on the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix with the championship on the line between Vadim Nemkov (15-2) and Corey Anderson (16-5). Additionally, lightweight champion Patricky Pitbull (24-10) puts his belt on the line against rising superstar Usman Nurmagomedov (15-0).

The full Bellator 288: Nemkov vs. Anderson 2 card includes:

MAIN CARD (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET)

  • Champ Vadim Nemkov vs. Corey Anderson – for light-heavyweight title
  • Champ Patricky Pitbull vs. Usman Nurmagomedov – for lightweight title
  • Daniel Weichel vs. Timur Khizriev
  • Tyrell Fortune vs. Daniel James
  • Roman Faraldo vs. Levan Chokheli


  • Imamshafi Aliev vs. Sean Fallon
  • Killys Mota vs. Jairo Pacheco
  • Archie Colgan vs. Jesse Hannam
  • Sullivan Cauley vs. Jay Radick
  • Jordan Newman vs. Jayden Taulker
  • Laird Anderson vs. Rob Fenicle
  • Isaiah Hokit vs. Matias Nader
  • Wladmir Gouvea vs. Kory Moegenburg

There are a ton of betting opportunities here and a couple of land mines. But I've got my eye specifically on three of the marquee Bellator 288 matchups.

Read on to avoid the bad spots and try to squeeze a couple of bucks out of this card.

Vadim Nemkov vs Corey Anderson

These two fighters first clashed back at Bellator 277 in April in the finals of the Bellator light heavyweight world grand prix.

After a relatively competitive first round, Corey Anderson's pressure and work rate seemed to catch up to Vadim Nemkov as he was taking over. Unfortunately, at the end of Round 3, Anderson postured up to throw a big strike, and as he was bringing it down, he clashed heads with Nemkov, which opened up a huge cut that caused the end of the fight.

Given the unintentional nature of the headbutt, the fight was ruled a no-contest, and here they are seven months later hoping to put an end to this chapter.

Nemkov has put together a 7-0 record and captured the championship since making his Bellator debut back in 2017. At his best, he mixes the martial arts very well with good output on the feet and a solid grappling game. He has defeated the best Bellator has to offer, which is why he finds himself atop the division. He's finished the vast majority of his fights, which points to his mentality when he's in the cage.

Anderson, like any other former UFC fighter transitioning over to Bellator, had very high hopes and expectations coming into the promotion. After he defeated Melvin Manhoef in his debut, Bellator announced the grand prix, and he then had a clear path to the title.

Anderson has a relentless pace and pressure under which many opponents crack. In the UFC, he wasn't known to be much of a finisher and stopped only three opponents in 10 promotional wins. Now in Bellator, Anderson has finished all three of his victories, and he looked like he was going on to eventually finish Nemkov should that fight have continued.

Going into their initial meeting, Nemkov was the -170 favorite. Given what transpired, the betting public has now agreed that line was wrong, and now we have Anderson coming in at -215 for the rematch. I have to agree with this line and think it is a solid spot to eat some chalk.

Anderson's relentless pressure and pace were breaking down Nemkov, and I think should the fight have crept into Round 4, he would have been able to get the stoppage. Not many can replicate his gas tank and cardio at this weight class.

His demise has usually been his durability, but that seems to be holding up well over the last couple of fights. I think a Hail Mary knockout is the only path to victory for Nemkov early. Should it reach Rounds 2 and 3, Anderson should begin to cruise and eventually get Nemkov out of there before the final round.

I'd bet Anderson up to -300 in this spot. A tad chalky for most, and if so, taking him to win inside the distance would yield better odds (+110). However, I would rather take the smaller payout on the off chance Nemkov does survive and Anderson ends up winning a dominant decision.

The Pick: Corey Anderson (-215 at DraftKings)

Patricky Pitbull vs. Usman Nurmagomedov

After being in Bellator for 10 years and being denied the championship when he got himself into those positions, Patricky Pitbull finally secured the gold when he defeated Peter Queally in November 2021. This belt was originally vacated by Patricky's brother (Patricio) so that Patricky could have the opportunity to capture it.

Usman Nurmagomedov will look to continue the legacy of his last name and add to his shiny 15-0 record.

It is not often that we see a champion come in as a +500 underdog, but that is the case this weekend for Pitbull. He is a veteran of the game with a strong striking style, but as of late, his level of competition has not been the highest. Defeating a journeyman such as Queally pales in comparison to what he'll be facing in his first title defense.

It took 24-year-old Nurmagomedov just four wins under the Bellator banner to earn a title shot – and rightfully so. He dispatched three of those opponents within the first round while showcasing all of his tools. Unlike the traditional Dagestani fighter, Nurmagomedov originally started training in muay Thai and then turned to wrestling. You will see striking out of him that you're not used to seeing from this type of fighter.

Given that Nurmagomedov is 12 years younger and has a tremendous skill set, I find it hard to believe that Pitbull will get his hand raised outside of a flash knockout early in this fight.

I can't advise betting a -650 straight up, so we will turn our attention to the total. I do think Nurmagomedov finishes Pitbull but not within the first 1.5 rounds. I would lean with an alternative under such as the 3.5 rounds, but the widely available total seems to be 1.5.

With that being the case, I think the best bet would be to take the over 1.5. Pitbull has been finished once under 1.5 rounds in the past 10 years, and that came at the hands of Michael Chandler.

I'd bet the over 1.5 rounds up to -200.

The Pick: Over 1.5 rounds (-150 at DraftKings)

Tyrell Fortune vs. Daniel James

Tyrell Fortune is looking to get a winning streak going here after he got his hand raised back in April by picking up a quick knockout victory over Rakim Cleveland.

Daniel James, meanwhile, will be making his debut for Bellator as a 20-fight veteran who has competed all over the world.

Over the last six years, Bellator has honed in on collegiate wrestling standouts and signing them to deals before they even step foot into professional MMA competition. Fortune was one of the pioneers of this experiment. He has amassed a 12-2 record since making his debut in 2016, coming up short only against veterans of the game. At his best, he is able to get opponents to the mat and smash them en route to a technical knockout victory.

James has competed against the best that the heavyweight division has to offer outside of the major promotions. He is a towering heavyweight at 6-foot-6, but he moves around the cage like a light heavyweight. He has solid cardio and a good all-around game.

Skill-wise, Fortune has the advantage in this matchup, but I think the durability of James will allow him to force this fight into deep waters. James is a live underdog, especially if he can keep this fight upright. But even off his back, I think James will cause issues that won't allow Fortune to get off fight-ending blows from top position.

That's why my eyes are set on the over 1.5 rounds for this fight. Fortune should win, but I think he will have to work for it, and this fight could spill into Round 3.

The fact that we are getting underdog odds for the over makes this bet even more enticing. I'd bet under 1.5 up to -120.

The Pick: Over 1.5 rounds (+130 at Caesars)

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