Neiman Gracie isn’t guaranteed a welterweight title opportunity with a main event win at Bellator 274. However, an impressive performance, on Feb. 19, and a little help from a fellow Brazilian could fast track him into the top contender spot.
Gracie (11-2) is not at all overlooking opponent Logan Storley (12-1). He understands that before he can even fathom the idea of a second chance at Bellator gold he must beat the fifth-ranked native of South Dakota. But, if he does achieve that goal inside the Mohegan Sun Arena, he feels he moves close to the front of the welterweight contender queue.
The only thing standing in the way of being next in line with a W is former opponent Jason Jackson. “The Ass-Kicking Machine” has won five straight, including a victory over Gracie in April 2021. If he were to beat three-time division champion Douglas Lima in May, he is likely a shoo-in for the winner of champion Yaroslav Amosov versus Michael Page. But if he losses, a case could be made for Gracie to leap into the opportunity he has long coveted. That is why he admits he will be rooting hard for “The Phenom” on May 13.
Neiman Gracie sees title fight possibilities in 2022
“If I beat Logan in a good way, then I’ll wait for [Lima vs Jackson]. If he loses to Douglas, I think I’ll get the title shot. So, I’m cheering for you Douglas,” Gracie told MixedMartialArts.com with a smile. “And then I’ll fight Amosov. Because I think Amosov is gonna beat [Michael Page on May 13]. I’ll beat Amosov, and when I get the belt I’ll fight Jackson, and give Jackson a chance for the belt so I can get my rematch.”
All jokes aside, the fourth-ranked welterweight has a serious test in front of him in the four-time NCAA Division-I All-American wrestler. However, facing and beating decorated college grapplers is something Gracie has become quite adept at. In 2018, he submitted multi-time national champion Ed Ruth, and in 2020 he forced a tap out of one of the best welterweight grapplers of the last 20 years in Jon Fitch.
Gracie sees similarities and weaknesses in what Logan Storley will bring at Bellator 274
Although Gracie concedes “Storm” is a bit different from Ruth and Fitch, he feels he isn’t different enough to offer a wrestling attack he hasn’t seen before in the cage, or in training.
“[Storley’s] a little bit different in the way he attacks more with the wrestling,” said Gracie. “Those other guys that I fought — let’s say Ed Ruth, he strikes much more than he tries to wrestle. Jon Fitch tried to take you down and tried to wrestle you but I was just too fluid that night with jiu-jitsu and I think that made a difference. He looks more like a Jon Fitch than Ed Ruth. Ruth tried to show more of a complete game. He’d try to strike with you and take you down from different positions.
“I think [Storley] is very straightforward in what he does. He’s just gonna keep shooting and shooting and trying to take me down,” he explained. “But I’m prepared for this. I’ve been training and fighting with guys like this my whole life. I think when they changed the fight to five rounds they just made it worse for him.”
Starting this year, Bellator finally made the switch to making all non-title main events five-round affairs. And the 33-year-old believes that will play a major role in his clash with Storley. He says the University of Minnesota alum has shown in previous fights a cardio weakness. Including his lone defeat to current division king Amosov in 2020. Gracie plans on attacking his opponent’s cardio issues since he believes he “can fight forever.”
“I think what [Storley] lacks is the cardio. And I can fight forever. I think that makes a difference,” he said. “My fight won’t be so much like the fight with Amosov because I will accept the scrambles more. I won’t just defend and try to stop him. I will engage with him more.
“I think that’s gonna be the difference because in his last two fights he got very tired. I think he uses too much strength,” Gracie added. “That’s gonna play a factor for sure. I don’t think he’s able to finish me anywhere. If I don’t get a KO early in the fight like I did last time, I’m gonna push the fight a little bit further and finish with a submission by the end of the fight like I did with Ed Ruth.”
Bellator 274 takes place on Feb. 19, with the main card airing exclusively on Showtime starting at 9 pm ET.