For the second straight fight, Linton Vassell got the job done early. At Bellator 254, Vassell put on an impressive display against UFC alum Ronny Markes. Combined with a prior TKO of Sergei Kharitonov, this latest stoppage (also a TKO) as cemented Vassell as a player in Bellator’s heavyweight division.
In fact, after a stumble against Valentin Moldavsky in his heavyweight debut for Bellator, the former two-time light heavyweight title challenger has now made a case for a third crack at gold — albeit in a new weight class.
Although, as Vassell (20-8, 1NC) noted after the fight, he’d like another shot at Moldavsky.
Noting that he came in too heavy in the pair’s first meeting, Vassell told media outlets including Cageside Press that “I want that rematch. And I feel like I’ll finish it. I feel like I’ll finish him in the second round like my last two opponents.”
Should he be successful in that proposed rematch, “The Swarm” doesn’t see any further obstacles to a shot at Bellator heavyweight champ Ryan Bader. The pair, of course, first met a few years back for the light heavyweight belt. Bader came out on top that night.
“I fight Moldavsky or whoever they put me in front front of me. I beat that person, then there should be no reason — that’d be three [wins] in a row — why I shouldn’t fight Ryan Bader,” Vassell suggested.
Getting back to the fight with Markes at Bellator 254, one of the most impressive aspects of his performance was that Vassell beat the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt at his own game.
Vassell called the feeling of trumping Ronny Markes on the ground “amazing,” especially since it had been a topic of conversation heading into the fight. More than once, Vassell was asked how he would fare against Markes’ grappling. “I haven’t even got a belt in grappling, I just picked it up pretty much the first day I sort of came into MMA,” he said. “I was just a big strong guy and pretty athletic. So I was able to reverse. Obviously, I learned some moves. And I felt like I’ve just kept leveling up on my ground game. So to beat him at his own game was definitely a big feather in my cap.”
Watch the full Bellator 254 post-fight press conference with Linton Vassell above.