James Gallagher is the Bellator Championship Series Belfast fighter to watch

James Gallagher makes his belaltor return on Friday at Bellator Belfast.
Celebrities Attend Bellator MMA In London
Celebrities Attend Bellator MMA In London / Dave Benett/GettyImages

The two title fights atop the Bellator Champions Series Belfast will take the event headlines but James Gallagher may be the most intriguing fighter on the card. As the opening fight on the main card, Gallagher will take on veteran Leandro Higo while competing in his native Northern Ireland for the first time since Bellator 173 in 2017. Through nine years as a professional, Gallagher has compiled a 12-2 record including a 9-2 run with Bellator.

Gallagher has twice seen his momentum halted as one of Bellator's homegrown prospects, losing to Ricky Bandejas and Patchy Mix. While the loss to Bandejas has not aged well, Mix has since become the Bellator bantamweight champion, causing few to count that loss against him.

Aside from his two losses, Gallagher has largely been dominant in his career thus far with 75 percent of his wins by submission. Of his nine career submissions, eight have come in the first round. Gallagher enters the March 22 bout last defeating James Gonzalez by split decision at Bellator 298.

Gallagher's matchup with Higo at Bellator Champions Series: Belfast is one to watch primarily to see the potential ceiling of the Irishman. If Gallagher can pick up a win in this fight in his home country, especially by finish, there is no reason why he cannot become a future threat to the featherweight title being contested later in the night.

The win over Gonzalez is more impressive than it appears on paper. Gonzalez's record shows that he is just 10-7 but each of his losses have come against high-level opposition while owning a win over UFC featherweight Pat Sabatini. Gallagher did not win impressively but found a way to bounce back over another grappler.

However, now entering the top of the division, Gonzalez remains Gallagher's best win, which has limited fan perception of his potential. The opponents Gallagher has beaten had a combined 72-38 record at the time of their meeting which would make Higo the best win on his record by a significant margin.

James Gallagher will fight Leandro Higo at Bellator Belfast

Even at 35, Higo is not an easy matchup for any fighter in the division, but the style of both fighters match up well enough to give Gallagher an opportunity to shine. Higo has a reputation as a grappler himself but has been out-grappled by four of his nine opponents in his Bellator tenure. Gallagher is not the best wrestler but has the style and strength to exploit similar openings that Higo struggled with against Darrion Caldwell and Danny Sabatello.

Through this point in his career, the primary knock on the 27-year-old's career has been his strength of schedule and a lack of a true signature win, both of which can be put to bed with a statement victory over Higo in Belfast.


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