In a finale over a year in the making, tonight Ryan Bader and Fedor Emelianenko squared off to determine the winner of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix, and be crowned the Bellator Heavyweight Champion. Bader went into the fight looking to become the first double champion in Bellator history having already won the light heavyweight belt back in 2017.
In a bracket that included former UFC champions Rampage Jackson and Frank Mir, and was rounded off with multiple top contenders such as King Mo, Chael Sonnen, Roy Nelson, and Matt Mitrione, Bellator’s tournament included the most talent seen in MMA since Strikeforce’s final Grand Prix back in 2012.
Bellator president Scott Coker revealed that the winner of the fight would earn a specially made title belt. Coker also took a shot at the UFC for their new belt design on Twitter. In making his way to the final, Fedor first faced Frank Mir. In a fight that saw both men frantically engage with each other from the opening bell, Fedor secured an impressive takedown before knocking out Mir with an uppercut. Meanwhile, Bader went one better, winning his opening bout by knocking out fellow wrestler King Mo in just 15 seconds.
In the semi-final, Fedor fought legendary trash talker and former middleweight Chael Sonnen. Sonnen had some success with his takedowns but there was a clear strength disparity between the pair which Fedor would utilise to earn a first-round knockout win and book his place in the final.
Bader would face Matt Mitrione in his second bout of the tournament. Although Mitrione was clearly much larger, Bader’s wrestling skills allowed him to dictate where the fight took place en-route to a unanimous decision victory. When both fighters weighed in yesterday there was a surprising lack of size difference. Despite competing for most of his career as a light heavyweight, Bader was less than 10lbs lighter than the career heavyweight Fedor.