After a few weeks of speculation Bellator has finally set the field for their heavyweight tournament that kicks off in January. Eight men will be featured in the tournament that Bellator finally announced the first round matchups for this evening.
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) November 23, 2017
It looks like Scott Coker tried to matchup the fighters closest in weight for the first round and then set up the semi-finals where anything goes. Light heavyweights Rampage Jackson and Chael Sonnen will meet on one side of the bracket in January. The two will fight in Los Angeles. Sonnen will likely be the smallest guy in the tournament as he doesn’t cut much weight to make 205.
Ryan Bader will face King Mo in the opening round. Bader vs Mo is really intriguing since Bader is the champ at light heavyweight. Should he lose in the opening round it would likely set up an immediate rematch for the belt against Mos. Bader vs Mo will take place in May 2018. Their tournament fight will be held in San Jose at the SAP Center.
Fedor Emelianenko vs Frank Mir is probably the best matchup in the tournament. It will take place in April in Chicago. Mir dominated the UFC for years while Fedor was the face of PRIDE and Strikeforce. The winner of that bout will face the winner of Sonnen vs Rampage. Sonnen volunteered to fight Fedor earlier this year when his bout with Matt Mitrione got canceled the day of the show. Unfortunately Fedor’s people declined the bout and Sonnen was only left with a good story about how he almost fought “The Last Emperor”.
Matt Mitrione vs Roy Nelson isn’t a barnburner that fans will be excited to see. In fact, “Big Country” knocked out Mitrione in 2012 in the first round. Mitrione has improved since then and Nelson’s chin hasn’t held up as good lately so it could be a different fight. The two TUF 10 alums will clash again in February at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut.
Bellator gets criticized for a lot of things but they should get credit for the heavyweight tournament. For one, they will crown a heavyweight champ and two, Bellator can create some really interesting matchups to get hardocre fans excited about their product. How many UFC fans thought they’d see Chael Sonnen vs Frank Mir in a cage? I didn’t. Sonnen fought at 185 for years while Mir competed at heavyweight. Should both win their first round fights we will see the two former UFC standouts collide sometime ins 2018.
Offshore sportsbooks have Mitrione and Bader as the two favorites. The lighter fighters, Sonnen, Mo and Rampage are all big underdogs.