(Photo Credit: REUTERS/David Mandel)
Bellator put together a heavyweight tournament featuring eight of the biggest names in the sport. The field has been cut in half to four fighters. Now that we have gotten a look at these four fighters, some of whom had not fought in quite some time, we have an idea of how they match up in the semi-finals.
The left side of the bracket features a show down between Pride FC legend, Fedor Emelianenko and America's favorite gangster, Chael Sonnen. The other matchup will be between two former UFC standouts in Matt Mitrione and Ryan Bader. Bader is the current Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion and he and Sonnen both moved up in weight for this tournament.
Sonnen vs. Fedor
Chael Sonnen, a former middleweight and light heavyweight came into this tournament expecting to be the smallest man each time he stepped into the cage. He will not give up too many pounds to Fedor who has been a small heavyweight throughout his career. Sonnen made it to the semi-finals by defeating Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in a unanimus decision while Fedor knocked out Frank Mir in under a minute. After Fedor's victory, Sonnen came into the cage to confront him. He has recently stated that he does not buy Fedor's "good guy" act because all cage fighters are "dirty and rotten." Sparks are sure to fly from now until the day these two men touch gloves.
Fedor Emelianenko has opened as the betting favorite in this matchup which is no surprise after his electric knockout of Frank Mir. He also has a combat sambo background that could help him neutralize the elite wrestling of Sonnen. Fedor is considered the better striker in this matchup but Chael Sonnen's striking has been underrated in the past. Anyone who can stand and strike with Anderson Silva should not be considered only a wrestler. Both men have the ability to roll with the punches wherever the fight may go, creating an excellent matchup. While he is the favorite, some may be hesitant to count on Emelianenko to win based on his lack of success in cages in the past.
Mitrione vs. Bader
The winner of this fight is likely to be the favorite in the finals of this tournament. Matt Mitrione has a solid resume as a heavyweight. He defeated Kimbo Slice, Derrick Lewis, and Fedor Emelianenko, all by knockout. Most recently, he defeated Roy Nelson, a man he previously lost to, in a decision to clear the first round of the tournament. Ryan Bader, the youngest man in the tournament by five years, is the Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion and has won 10 of his last 11 fights. He holds victories over Ilir Latifi, Ovince Saint Preux, and Rashad Evans. Bader made a huge statement at Bellator 199 when he knocked out King Mo in just 15 seconds to advance to the semi-final.
Despite the power that Bader displayed in his quick first-round knockout, Mitrione would love to keep this fight on the feet. Of his 13 wins, 11 are knockouts and none are submissions. Bader was an All-American wrestler at Arizona St. and will likely ground and pound Mitrione out of this fight if it gets taken to the ground. If the fight stays standing, both of these men have unbelievable amounts of power in their punches and can end the fight at any time. Many people have called Ryan Bader the favorite in this tournament and if he gets it done, he will be a two-division champion in Bellator.
Who do you think will win the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix? Leave a comment below.