Photo Credit: mmajunkie.com
Hey MMA fans in case you haven't heard Bellator MMA is FINALLY doing something with their heavyweight title. Yes the 2nd biggest organization in MMA today is putting together an 8 Man World Heavyweight Grand Prix.
This is a throwback to the old days of MMA. This is big for Bellator. This tournament has many intriguing storylines. Some fans look at this news and think that this tournament features a bunch of washed up former UFC fighters. Well, it does, and there is nothing wrong with that. Have they ever heard the saying "well, you got to start somewhere," this is where Bellator is just getting started.
Believe it or not, there is still a huge fan base that has a ton of interest in watching the eight men competing in this tournament. Rampage Jackson, Chael Sonnen, Fedor Emelianenko, Frank Mir, Roy Nelson, Matt Mitrione, Ryan Bader, and Mo Lawal. Most of these names casual fans should recognize. Specifically Rampage Jackson and Chael Sonnen. In the case of Fedor and Mir we are about to witness two former heavyweight champions clash. Fedor being the former champion of PRIDE FC and of course Frank Mir the two-time UFC champ. The Nelson vs Mitrione bout features two fighters that competed in one of the most memorable seasons in "The Ultimate Fighter" history. That was season 10, which featured the likes of Kimbo Slice and Brendan Schaub and a brilliant coaches rivalry featuring Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans. Nelson and Mitrione have fought once before dating back to 2012, Nelson won the bout via technical knockout. Last but not least we have a heck of a fight featuring the current Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion (205 lbs) Ryan Bader. "Darth" was set to take on Lawal once before in a title defending bout but the fight fell apart due to a late leg injury for Lawal. The fact that this fight will be conducted adds more intrigue. Think about this: Lawal could come out victorious versus a current champion and not gain a belt. This is essentially the number one light, heavyweight fight but the bout is being conducted at heavyweight. That's very different. This does shatter the mold. So how do I see each fight in the first round of the tournament panning out? I'll tell you.
January 20th The Forum Inglewood, California
Rampage Jackson vs Chael Sonnen: This fight is so fun. We are about to witness some very entertaining promotion and marketing for this fight which is always the case when you have "The American Gangster" signed to fight. Outside of Conor McGregor, I truly believe Jackson and Sonnen take the cake in terms of trash talk. Jackson brings a comedic humor the likes of which we haven't seen before or since in MMA. Sonnen can turn his shoe into a person and make it hilarious. I can't wait to see the verbal battle between these two it will be one to remember. Now in terms of the fight itself, Jackson comes in off of a loss in a heavyweight bout vs King Mo Lawal. In that fight, Jackson weighed around 260 pounds. Let me remind you Jackson was the 205 lb champ at one point in the UFC. So being that Jackson is in the later part of his career, he really does not have any interest in cutting weight. Who can blame him? Weight cutting is the worst process any athlete can endure in any sport and it gets even harder to do so with age.
With the lack of a true weight cut and fighting at upwards of 260, Jackson appeared to be very slow and unwilling to really let his hands go. He often circled with his back against the cage to prohibit Lawal from shooting in on a double leg takedown. Anytime Lawal tried to take Jackson down he had to work Jackson to his back from the cage. I expect Jackson to use this strategy again versus one of the best wrestlers in MMA history in Chael Sonnen. Few fighters have a better-timed wrestling shot in MMA than Sonnen. This has been evident in every one of his signature wins and losses which was the case in both of his bouts with Anderson Silva. Although he lost to Silva twice, Sonnen dominated Silva for five of the seven rounds that they fought. The question is, which fighter has more left in the tank?. Being that Sonnen is coming off of a dominant victory versus Wanderlei Silva I would side with Chael, but being that Rampage has the ability to the end the fight in one moment's time, these facts make this fight a tough one to pick.
Prediction: Sonnen wins via unanimous decision using his wrestling and forcing Rampage to fight from his back
February 16th Mohegan Sun Uncasville, Connecticut
Matt Mitrione vs Roy Nelson: As I mentioned above this is the "rematch" of the tournament. We have already seen this fight play out once before with Nelson dropping Mitrione. Will the second fight end with the same result? Only time will tell. Let's analyze what we have learned since. Mitrione is very mobile for a man of his size he moves very freely with his hands far apart. He fight's very long and uses his range very well. Sometimes he fails to tuck his chin and his stance is too wide at times, exposing himself to catching a straight punch or an overhand right, which Nelson throws very well. Out of all the fighters competing in the tournament, I would honestly say Mitrione should be the most frustrated with this news. He has to win three fights in order to become a champion when realistically he probably should already be the champion or at the very least the number one contender given that he just knocked out Fedor. Is this fight with Nelson a bad luck of the draw? 100-percent, but something tells me Mitrione will be prepared. Still, see him suffering the same fate as he did in the first fight versus Nelson. This time around it won't necessarily be via a knockout but it's could be a loss nonetheless
Prediction: Nelson wins via submission in the 3rd round
April (Date TBA) Allstate Arena Rosemont, Illinois
Fedor vs Mir: This is a bout that is what I consider to be the "legends" fight of the tournament. These two could have crossed paths had the UFC been able to acquire Fedor but Dana White put the kibosh on that when Fedor apparently asked for "too much money." Classic Dana. We the MMA fans were robbed of not having the privilege of witnessing the best years of Fedor's career in the number one MMA organization in the world. Robbed. But like they always say there is light at the end of the tunnel. Here we are. Like it or not. Fedor vs Mir. Better late than never.
Mir hasn't fought in a few years, Fedor has remained active while being inactive at the same time if that makes sense. Fedor is coming off of a knockout loss to Matt Mitrione at Bellator NYC. The sequence in which Fedor was knocked out was something straight out of rock em sock em robots. As both Mitrione and Fedor threw they both connected and dropped each other but apparently Mitrione's punch landed cleaner as Fedor was soon flattened via a hammerfist. To be honest I really don't know how much more either fighter has but I am intrigued to find out. Being that Fedor has had some tough knockout losses, one could ask two questions: Can he take a punch? And, is he motivated?. The answer to those will be answered in April but I am going to go out on a limb and give Fedor the nod in this one. I believe this is Fedor's "last hurrah" and I expect him to come into this tournament in great shape and ready to perform.
Prediction: Fedor via knockout in the first round
May ( Date TBA) SAP Center San Jose, California
Ryan Bader vs King Mo Lawal: The biggest fight in this tournament features two of the most primed and ready fighters that this tournament has to offer. Bader comes in as the reigning Light Heavyweight Champion of Bellator MMA. Bader could very well become the first fighter to win two titles in two different weight classes in Bellator's short company history. To put it simply, Ryan Bader is the best on paper fighter in the tournament. I do believe Lawal is up for the challenge and will be ready as long as he can stay healthy, which is always a question mark for him. This fight is sure to entertain the fans. We will see every facet of MMA on full display throughout this one. I can't see either fighter scoring a knockout, we could see some knockdowns but not a knockout. I see this one going the distance with Lawal getting his hand raised. These two met once before in the NCAA wrestling circuit and Lawal was very dominant. I am sure Bader has learned a thing or two but King Mo is one of the best wrestlers that MMA has ever seen. I side with Mo.
Prediction: Mo Lawal wins via split decision
There you have it folks get your popcorn ready! Bellator's Heavyweight Grand Prix will be sure to do one thing entertain.
That's why we are all here right to be entertained. Haters are going to hate as they say. Love it or hate it the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament is BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL.