Bellator is harkening back to the old days of mixed martial arts with a tournament throughout 2018 to crown the company’s next heavyweight champion. The eight-man tournament is stacked with huge names and legendary figures such as Fedor Emelianenko, Rampage Jackson and Roy Nelson.
Bellator released the official bracket and oddsmakers were quick to post lines for all of the first-round matchups and the overall Sportsbook.
Overall Tournament Sportsbook BEtting Odds
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs Chael Sonnen
The first fight of the tournament pitted Quinton “Rampage” Jackson against Chael Sonnen at Bellator 192 on January 20, 2018.
Sonnen won a fairly easy unanimous decision victory thanks to his wrestling ability. He won the first round thanks to his ability to get back on his feet after being taken down – and had some surprisingly varied strikes – while the second round saw him control Rampage on the ground.
Sonnen will now go on to face the Sportsbook of Frank Mir vs Fedor Emelianenko, a bout that takes place at Bellator 198 on April 28, 2018.
Matt Mitrione vs Roy Nelson
The second bout of the bracket will pit streaking Matt Mitrione against Roy Nelson at Bellator 194 on February 16, 2018.
Since coming to Bellator, Mitrione is 3-0 with each of those victories coming via knockout. “Meathead” is largely a boxer who possesses some good knockout power in his hands (11 of his 12 wins have come by KO). He is pretty athletic for the division and moves well, however, his lack of head movement makes him hittable.
Nelson essentially just wants to land his massive right hand and his standup game pretty much revolves around that. Though he has a black belt in BJJ, he simply doesn’t use it. Nelson is predictable but that doesn’t mean he is not dangerous.
Fedor Emelianenko vs Frank Mir
The third fight in the tournament sees two legendary figures face off, as Fedor Emelianenko squares off against Frank Mir. The bout is set to take place at Bellator 198 on April 28.
Emelianenko is not the fighter he once was. No longer is he the best heavyweight in the world but rather a shell of himself who looks to wing his strikes. This would be more inspiring if he had more power in his hands but that has deteriorated over time. Fedor has spent the large part of the past six years beating up on scrubs in Russia but got knocked out vs Mitrione in his Bellator debut.
Mir has worked on his striking as he has aged but it still plays second fiddle to his grappling. This is probably for the best considering his chin is basically made of glass. Mir may be the greatest submission artist in the history of the heavyweight division. It’s not just his stellar technique, though; it is also Mir’s incredible aggression in the submission game that has made him one of the best ever.
Ryan Bader vs Muhammed Lawal
The final first-round matchup in the tournament will pit Ryan Bader – the Bellator light heavyweight champion – against Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. The bout is tentatively scheduled to take place at Bellator 199 on May 12.
This will be the first time in Bader’s 29-fight professional career that he competes at heavyweight. However, he is the youngest competitor in the field and is riding a four-fight winning streak. Bader is a meat-and-potatoes striker but is surprisingly solid in that regard for a wrestler. Once a fight goes to the mat, he is smothering and controlling but isn’t a big finisher.
King Mo is at his best when he can grab his opponent and bully them to the ground. He doesn’t always do the most once he gets a fight there but, much like Bader, specializes in controlling his opponent. His striking style is fast and sudden but it also tends to burn too much cardio, as King Mo throws without much real strategy.