Bader and Mitrione Set to Square Off in Bloody Bellator Heavyweight Semi-Finals

Ryan Bader is the current Bellator Light Heavyweight champion. Photo by Kris Krug (Flickr) [CC License]
  • We predict the winners of Bellator’s Heavyweight Tournament semi-finals
  • Can Chael Sonnen avoid Fedor Emelianenko’s KO power?
  • How will Bader deal with Mitrione’s size difference?

The Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix semi-finals are all set and so far everything has gone off without a hitch. Many predicted that maybe some of these older heavyweights might drop like flies to injury or buzz off completely when the going got tough. However, each man has shown up and now we have four.

Ryan Bader will meet Matt Mitrione in a fight that will most likely give us the eventual tournament winner. When we first predicted the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix, Bader and Mitrione were our two big favorites to win the tournament and we still stand by that.

On the other side of the bracket is a semi-final between two grizzled MMA veterans in Chael Sonnen vs. Fedor Emelianenko. This is a dream fight for many hardcore fans who have followed the sport since it’s early days. It’s also a classic match-up of striker vs. grappler in what bookies will probably see as a pick’em fight.

Emelianenko vs. Sonnen is rumored to take place on the East Coast with some speculating it could be in New York at Madison Square Garden.

Now that we have our match-ups set, when can fans expect to see the action? Emelianenko vs. Sonnen is rumored to take place on the East Coast with some speculating it could be in New York at Madison Square Garden as part of a stacked Bellator card in the fall. Meanwhile, Bader vs. Mitrione is being targetted for sometime in September.

But we don’t need dates to predict fights, so let’s take a look at the match-ups and give our early picks. Currently, no odds have been released on these match-ups so we have included our own and will update accordingly.

Chael Sonnen vs. Fedor Emelianenko

FIGHTER SBD’S ESTIMATED MONEYLINE
FEDOR EMELIANENKO -200
CHAEL SONNEN +150

At the tender ages of 41, these two warriors of MMA past will be thrust back into the spotlight once again. You have “The American Gangster” in Chael Sonnen (30-15-1) who will use the opportunity to trash talk his opponent to build up the hype. While Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko (37-5) will quietly go about his business and do his talking in the Bellator cage.

Will age finally catch up to MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko?
Photo by Sergej Rosov (Wikimedia Commons) [CC License]
As I write this, the odds haven’t been officially released yet, but you can expect Emelianenko to be the early favorite at around -200 with Sonnen sitting close to +150. The Russian legend is coming off a knockout win over Frank Mir to start the tournament and has won six of his past seven fights, with his lone loss coming at the hands of Matt Mitrione.

As for Sonnen, he started off his tournament run with a unanimous decision victory over former UFC light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at last January’s Bellator 192 event.

Stylistically this fight seems to favor Fedor who is not only a dangerous striker but in the past has shown to be able to take care of business on the ground too.

Stylistically this fight seems to favor Fedor who is not only a dangerous striker but in the past has shown to be able to take care of business on the ground too. However, the key word is “in the past” as the Russian Sambo Champion hasn’t submitted an opponent since choking out Tim Sylvia back in 2008. But Fedor has shown that he can be difficult to take down as he likes to keep the fight standing to unleash his powerful punches.

It’s those well-timed power punches Sonnen will need to stay away from, so the game plan is simple, take Fedor down to the mat and wear the Russian down with powerful top control. It’s easier said than done, as many have tried and failed. But Sonnen should take a page out of Dan Henderson’s playbook, who defeated Fedor back in 2011 via TKO, and try for the takedown and catch Fedor with a well-timed punch in a scramble.

The biggest X-factor in this fight is Fedor’s chin. The man has spent a career getting hit in the face by some of the world’s most fierce heavyweights. Those wars of the past have made the former Pride Champ far more susceptible to a well-timed punch that turns the lights out. The question is does Sonnen have the striking acumen to land one of those devastating shots?

There are many variables at play in this pick’em fight but right now you have to lean slightly to the favorite with his takedown defense and his powerful hands to win the day.

Predicted Winner: Fedor Emelianenko

Ryan Bader (-180) vs. Matt Mitrione (+230)

FIGHTER SBD’S ESTIMATED MONEYLINE
RYAN BADER -180
MATT MITRIONE +230

After Ryan Bader (25-5) quickly dispatched Muhammed Lawal in 15 seconds to move into the Grand Prix semis, he told the MMA world that “It gets real now, it’s heavyweight.”

He’s right, which in itself is a sort of a weird thing to hear considering it’s a heavyweight tournament, but Lawal is moving back down to middleweight and Bader is Bellator’s current Light Heavyweight Champion. To be fair, outside of Matt Mitrione (13-5), there aren’t any true heavyweights competing in the semis of this tournament. So for Bader, a date with Mitrione will be a huge step up in size.

Even though Bader will be the smaller man in this matchup, he brings a high-level wrestling game to the party that could cause fits for the man they call “Meathead.”

Both Mitrione and Bader were early favorites to win this tournament and it appears things are going according to plan. Even though Bader will be the smaller man in this match-up, he brings a high-level wrestling game to the party that could cause fits for the man they call “Meathead.”

Mitrione, who is on a four-fight win streak, hits hard with three out of this last four victories ending via knockout. “Darth” Bader, who is riding a five-fight winning streak, is also no slouch in the striking department with four of his last five wins coming via KO.

Ultimately it will come down to Bader’s grappling game that should be the deciding factor. The three-time Pac-10 Wrestling Champion at Arizona State has far more in the toolbox to be able to avoid Mitrione’s brawling style that he should be able to take the fight where he wants it no matter the size difference.

Mitrione will be looking for the quick finish which he is more than capable of producing with his big mitts, but Bader is a complete fighter that has the skillset and stamina to wear his opponent down and cruise to victory.

Predicted Winner: Ryan Bader