Bellator 282: Danny Sabatello Grinds Out Leandro Higo, Advances in Bantamweight Grand Prix

Danny Sabatello (top) and Leandro Higo, Bellator 282
Danny Sabatello (top) and Leandro Higo, Bellator 282 Credit: Bellator MMA

Danny Sabatello’s trash talk had dominated the pre-fight build up to Bellator 282, where he found himself in a bantamweight grand prix quarterfinal against Leandro Higo.

This is the part where we might say “but come Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena, the talk was over.” Except that, with Sabatello, it really never stops. He was working to fire up the crowd on the way to the cage. He chirped at Higo during the fight. He lashed out at the crowd after the fight.

He also advanced to the grand prix semifinals.

It was Higo who held center early when things got underway, with Sabatello constantly moving and bouncing on his feet on the outside. They circled, swapping places, with a bit of a feeling out process underway. “The Italian Gangster” fired a few leg kicks, and backed Higo up to the fence, only to be unable to trap him there. Still, moments later, Sabatello landed a takedown. He wound up taking the back next, getting one hook in and kicking Higo’s shin with his other heel.

With Higo clamping down on his wrists, Sabatello gave up the position, fired a knee to the body, and tried to break the Brazilian’s grip. Instead, Higo continued to stall, adding some elbows to the thigh before the ref reset them at center with all of 15 seconds left in the round.

Round two found Sabatello circling on the outside before pressing forward. Higo switched stances while Sabatello walked him down. Sabatello then fired a jumping knee, and moved right into a takedown attempt off it. He wouldn’t land the initial attempt but stayed on it, then moved to the back as Higo worked up. As in the first, Sabatello dragged Higo down and got one hook in from the back. But Higo would reverse, lock on with a body triangle, and work over the body! Higo would have plenty of control time, working elbows to the shoulder.

What Higo could not do was find a finish. Instead, they moved to the third frame, with Sabatello working some kicks. Higo got his hands going, answering with a combination. The calf kicks from Sabatello continued, Higo fired one in response; Sabatello then landed a key takedown in the center of the cage. Higo defended with a guillotine that simply wasn’t there, and problematically wound up with Sabatello in his guard. Sabatello went body-head, while Higo closed his guard, giving up plenty of top time.

As the round progressed, Sabatello did a solid job continuing to work body and head, with a decent amount of pop to his ground n’ pound. The crowd weren’t fans of the approach, but Sabatello had a dominant round just making life miserable for Higo.

Round four saw the pair go to the ground early once again. A bit of a scramble ended with Sabatello on top; he moved from side control into guard. Higo shrimped towards the fence; Sabatello wisely re-positioned him. Higo then tried to get his leg in place for a triangle, showing impressive flexibility, but he couldn’t keep it there. Higo would eventually work his way to the fence and to his knees, but that allowed Sabatello to control from the back again. He added some knees to the side and thighs; Higo was on his way to losing the round — and quite possibly the fight. He’d land a spinning back fist right at the buzzer, and almost a second one, but there wasn’t enough on it to hurt Sabatello.

In the fifth and final round, Higo attacked with a guillotine on an early takedown. Once Sabatello pulled free, the writing was on the wall. Higo would make it up, but Sabatello put him right back down. There was no question as to the winner by the end, and he addressed to boo birds after the fight, exclaiming “not one of you are gonna do sh*t!”

Even the crowd, it seems, is not spared from Danny Sabatello’s trash talk.

Raufeon Stots entered the cage following the fight, exclaiming “all you can do is wrestle!” They had a heated face off; the pair will throw down in the bantamweight grand prix semifinals later this year.

Official Result: Danny Sabatello def. Leandro Higo by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46)