Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix 2018 preview

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This is billed as a heavy weight tournament but come on, that’s a stretch with only four of the eight fighters actually being heavy weight. Still though I think it’s good that the format is being used. If you can’t be better be different. Even some of the fighters being way over the hill, it’s something new for a North American promotion and of course the use of ‘grand prix’ brings back nostalgia. Pride never die, and all that.

So we’ll have a look at the competitors and what their chances of winning might be.

Chael Sonnen

It’s been some career Sonnen has had. He went from being a decent journeyman fighter to being one of the biggest draws in the sport. He took Anderson Silva to within 30 seconds of losing his title back when Silva was at his best. He found his mojo on the mic but also in a needle, or lots of needles. Dude tested positive for an impressive list of banned substances. Hey if you’re gonna do it you might as well over do it right? Looked like it was all over with a long suspension and subsequent retirement. I guess thought for whatever reason he decided that he wasn’t done yet and I think Bellator was probably the best fit.

Since he’s been in Bellator he’s doing what he does best, hyping up fights and giving good sound bites. Of course he doesn’t have the audience reach as before but he’s doing his best. His last two fights have been big fights for Bellator against Tito Ortiz and Wanderlei Silva. Big names and big fights, five years ago maybe. In reality they were what you expect from 40 year olds way past their prime.

This is billed as a heavyweight tournament and Chael is a middleweight, a decent sized middleweight but still a middleweight and that put him at a disadvantage. Let’s face it though Sonnen ain’t in it to win it, he’s in it to be funny, bring eyes to it, hype up the fights and because he’s one of Bellators biggest stars and he’s a big earner. Can he actually win it? Probably not but he is on the easier side of the bracket. If he beats Rampage he will fight the winner of Fedor vs Mir who are both basically done and whoever wins that is in the final. Still a huge long shot.

Chance of winning – Very Slim

Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson

This next fight against Sonnen will be Quinton’s 50th, so far he’s had 37 wins and 12 losses. In the heyday of Pride he was a huge star and fought the very best they had to offer. Wanderlei, Shogun, Ninja, Randalman, Sakuraba, Vovchanchyn, Rampage fought them all. His slam knockout of Arona is one of the biggest holy shit moments in the sports history. When Pride folded he eventually found his way to the UFC and earned a title shot against Chuck Liddell. Rampage knocking out Chuck is one of my favorite UFC moments of all time. One of those ‘bouncing around the living room’ moments, good memories. He then unified the UFC and Pride titles by beating Dan Henderson. Rampage was legit as fuck with a big future.

Somewhere along the line though I think Quinton lost his way mentally, didnt seem to enjoy what he was doing anymore. Fighting elite fighters is no fun when your heart is not in it. When he joined Bellator he seemed rejuvenated, he was the star of the show the competition wasn’t at the same level as he was used to fighting.

Just as a little extra for this match, Sonnen say he plan to take Rampage down in every round and lay on him. Rampage replied that he would pay Chael $10’000 for every takedown he gets. Makes it more interesting I guess.

Can Rampage win the tournament? Probably not. He can definitely beat Chael. If he come in motivated and in shape at around 225lbs. If he beats Chael then beats the Mir vs Fedor winner then he’s in the final. It’s not impossible.

Chance of winning – Unlikely

Frank Mir

Remember when Frank Mir first showed up? Making it look easy against Roberto Traven and catching that funky armlock on Petey Williams? Then he got his face smashed in by Ian Freeman, put that down to a learning experience. He won the UFC title after snapping Tim Sylvia’s arm and lost it after a motorcycle accident. I really don’t think he recovered 100%, was never really the same although he still had great success. In his prime Frank seemed different. A huge Jiu Jitsu fighter who was agile and strong.

Now though, his body might still be willing but his chin is gone. Seems he will crumble with one big shot, which ain’t good for a heavyweight. Even though he is one of the few real heavyweights in this tournament I don’t see him going far. Plus he’s against Fedor first and I’m I huge Fedor fan so I’m biased as fuck, but still he ain’t winning this

Chance of winning – Good, until he gets hit

Fedor Emelianenko

Got to come clean, I’m a huge Fedor fan. I loved watching him in Pride and for me he’s one of the best ever, certainly the best heavyweight. When it was a Fedor fight in Pride it just felt different, like a special event. I remember I first saw him against Heath Herring, before the match the commentators were so full of praise for Herring but as the match progressed it was ‘oh my god what is this’. Fedor dismantled him brutally with some of the most impressive ground and pound I had ever seen. He took on Nogueira who was the most dangerous submission fighter in MMA and beat him from inside his guard. He fought Cro Cop, the most dangerous striker in the sport, and beat him on the feet. Randy Couture beat Tim Sylvia in 25 minutes and everyone was impressed. Fedor beat Tim Sylvia in 35 seconds. I’m probably being over dramatic but he was our Mike Tyson.

Those days are in the past now, it’s fair to said that his career is on a slide. In Fedor’s prime he would have been a huge favorite to win this thing, not anymore though. I still like to hope he has enough in him to beat Frank Mir and like I said before, this is the weak side of the bracket. Every time he fights I hope we see I glimpse of the old Fedor but we never do but every time I will still get my hopes up.

Chance of Winning – Outside chance of making the final

Matt Mitrione

It seem like the move to Bellator has really worked out for Matt Mitrione. He went from being a sort of gate keeper at best in the UFC to really being a success both in raising his profile and his performances in the cage, he even got a win over Fedor. Of course the drop in standard of competition helps in the win/loss ratio.

Coming into this tournament he seems to be one of the favourites to win. He is one of the genuine heavyweights in the thing at 6’4 and just over 250lbs and he is also seemingly one of the few who might actually be in their prime. I mean honestly if Fedor, Mir, Rampage and Nelson were in their heyday we would even be joking about Mitrione winning but the world keeps turning and here we are now. The two things against him are that he’s fighting Roy Nelson first, they fought before and Nelson knocked him out. This will probably be a different fight but still he’s fighting probably the hardest fight first. The second thing against him is that he’s on the wrong side of the bracket. Beat Nelson and he has to fight the Bader/King Mo winner.

Chance of Winning – Pretty good if he gets past Roy Nelson

Roy Nelson

Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson must be one of the most unlikely looking professional athletes in the world. Despite appearances though, the guy is really good and has some serious tools. He’s a great grappler with an excellent top game, real knockout power and an absolutely granite chin. He won an Ultimate Fighter tournament and is the former IFL champion. That said his record isn’t the best, especially in the last three or four years but he’s undefeated in Bellator so new starts and all that.

First up he has Mitrione, a man he knocked before but that was a lot of years ago. Mitrione has improved a lot since then and I’m not sure if Nelson really has. People know to be wary of the power and can game plan around that usually. Again though Roy does have the power to put anyone in this competition to sleep if he can land and although Mitrione can move well he’s not really fast but we will see.

Chance of Winning – Has a chance against anyone with his power

Ryan Bader

For me, Bader is favourite to win this tournament. Even as a light heavy he’s a big guy and he’s quick with heavy hands and of course a great wrestler. With the standard in this Grand Prix I think that could be enough. He doesn’t lose much and it’s usually only against the best. He has been knocked out before and on the feet he can look stiff in combinations but muscular dudes usually do. For me he can beat anyone in the competition it just depends how it goes on the night.

Chance of Winning – My favourite

King Mo Lawel

Mo is one of those guys who is brash and cocky and loud but can absolutely back it up. A very accomplished wrestler who was considered the best in the country in his weight class. Former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion beating Mousasi for it. He won the RIZIN GP the year before last. Didn’t do so well in the last one being stopped by Mirko CroCop, still juiced up CroCop is scarier that TRT Vitor.

King Mo is a dangerous man who fast, strong and explosive. He obviously a great wrestler and he’s a good striker, especially with his fists and he has fought heavyweights quite a lot recently so the size shouldn’t really be that much of an issue.

Chance of Winning – Third favourite after Bader and Mitrione

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