Bellator 296: Mansour Barnaoui Starts Hot, But Brent Primus Wins Decision, Advances in Grand Prix

Brent Primus following win over Mansour Barnaoui, Bellator 296
Brent Primus, Bellator 296 Credit: Lucas Noonan/Bellator MMA

The Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix Quarterfinals rolled on at Bellator 296 in Paris, France on Friday night, with ex-champ Brent Primus up against local fave Mansour Barnaoui.

Prior to his arrival in Bellator, France’s Barnaoui had won the ROAD FC lightweight tournament. Primus, meanwhile, had been passed over for the Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix, until a failed drug test by Sidney Outlaw brought him in as a replacement.

In stark contrast to the previous fight on the Bellator 296 card, Douglas Lima vs. Costello van Steenis, Barnaoui vs. Primus started off hot. Barnaoui came right out and put Primus on the fence, the pair battling for position. Punches were exchanged, and positions were reversed a couple of times. When they came off the fence, they went right back too it, and soon Primus had the fight down. He just couldn’t keep it there, and nearly gave up the back on the way up.

The second round was equally active, with Primus finishing on bottom, working on a kimura attempt. But to start the round, he’d managed to land a bodylock takedown, sitting on top and eventually working to side control for an arm-triangle choke attempt. A solid round for the ex-champ, who had submission attempts while doing damage with ground n’ pound.

A battle along the fence opened the third, with Primus landing his right hand several times moments after. Barnaoui turned things around and launched a jump knee, and while it didn’t land flush, it did lead to an onslaught from Mansour Barnaoui to the delight of the Parisian crowd. Primus appeared to have slowed a step, while Barnaoui landed knees and elbows in the clinch.

Soon enough, an exhausted Primus wound up on his back, eating heavy elbows from Barnaoui, who sat in half-guard with the option to pass dangerously close. Primus tied things up, however, and with a minute to go reversed and got on top. That likely kept him in the fight, as things had come dangerous close to being stopped.

Round four found Primus having more success with his right hand. He appeared to have found a second wind. But Barnaoui continued to be dangerous, firing another jump knee which Primus answered with a right. Primus then landed a takedown, stacking Barnaoui up and moving to side control. Primus would spent the most of the round on top, definitely winning the fourth with an arm-triangle choke attempt in the final minute, followed by taking the back.

Primus again got the fight down in the fifth, getting in half-guard to land elbows. Barnaoui, who had started strong, was now at risk of losing the biggest fight of his career. Primus transitioned to the back after some hand fighting, getting a body triangle locked in. The American finished the round hunting a rear-naked choke that was across the jaw more than under the chin, and while he couldn’t secure it, he claimed the round. Having won the fourth as well, it was the early rounds that would be the deciding factor.

When the scores were announced, it was Brent Primus winning a unanimous decision, three rounds to two, thanks in large part by the grappling prowess he displayed in the final two frames. He now moves on to a title shot against Usman Nurmagomedov in the grand prix semifinals.

Official Result: Brent Primus def. Mansour Barnaoui by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)