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Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix: Early Odds & Favorites

Trevor Dueck

by Trevor Dueck in Mixed Martial Arts News

Nov 26, 2017 · 3:18 PM PST

July 19 2008; Anaheim California USA; Fedor Emelianenko defeated Tim Sylvia by rear naked choke, 36 seconds of round 1 during the AFFLICTION BANNED mixed martial art match, held in the Honda Center Anaheim, Calif.
Photo Credit: Darryl Dennis/Icon Sportswire

Bellator wants to crown a heavyweight champ, and they’re doing so by cobbling together a tournament that resembles a Kumite for geriatrics. Bellator’s 2018 heavyweight “World Grand Prix” will see eight men — including Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (39 years old), Chael Sonnen (40), Fedor Emelianenko (41), and Frank Mir (39) — battle it out over the course of the year.

Mid 30s and early 40s isn’t old for some sports, but this isn’t bowling. In MMA years, it’s ancient. Yet this is just Bellator being Bellator. It can’t get tier-one MMA fighters, so it tries to put on a spectacle. And it works. Bellator is currently the #2 MMA promotion in the world, and fans will tune in to see aging greats fight well past their prime instead of having a real conversation about how old is too old to compete in MMA.

The format harkens back to the roots of Bellator, a promotion which was founded on weight-class tournaments. Since President Scott Coker took over, it has gone in the more traditional direction of one-off fights, but Coker is no stranger to this sort of thing. Back in 2012, when he was the man in charge at the now-defunct Strikeforce, he created a similar heavyweight tournament which ended up being a coming out party for current UFC light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier.

Putting together another high-profile tournament is a good way to kickstart Bellator’s heavyweight division, which has laid dormant for years. The division has been as inactive as their previous heavyweight champ, Vitaly Minakov, who coincidentally had his title stripped for being inactive. But the roster for the eight-man bracket leaves a lot to be desired. The fact of the matter is the pool of talented heavyweights is slim pickings. Bellator is even including some light-heavyweights with name recognition over actually-ranked heavyweights on the Bellator roster, like Cheick Kongo, Bobby Lashley and even newly-signed Jake Hager. Something tells me that those guys will be on standby in case of injuries and other shenanigans something President Scott Coker recently echoed to ESPN.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from fighters all over the world who want to be a part of the Grand Prix. Everybody from Rory MacDonald to Linton Vassell.

But I think when it comes down to it, the potential alternates that we’d seriously look at will be Bobby Lashley, Cheick Kongo, Javy Ayala, Justin Wren, Sergei Kharitonov and Shane Carwin. Carwin reached out to us, so we’re talking to him now to see if we can make something happen,” said Coker.

The tournament will get off to a raucous start when light-heavyweight “Rampage” Jackson faces former middleweight Chael Sonnen at Bellator 192 on January 20. While both still talk smack as well as they ever did, both are also well past their prime. Can they actually put on a quality fight? It depends on how motivated these two grizzled veterans to win or even train.

That quarter-final bout will be followed by Roy Nelson vs. Matt Mitrione on February 16th, Frank Mir vs. Fedor Emelianenko in April, and Ryan Bader vs. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal in May.

  • Quinton Jackson (37-12) vs. Chael Sonnen (19-15-1): Jan. 20th
  • Fedor Emelianenko (36-5) vs. Frank Mir (18-11): Feb. 16th
  • Matt Mitrione (12-5) vs. Roy Nelson (23-14): April 2016
  • Ryan Bader (24-5) vs. Muhammed Lawal (21-6): May 2016
Image: Bellator MMA

Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix Favorites

Bellator’s light-heavyweight champion Ryan Bader (34) is the favorite to win. He’s not only the youngest fighter competing, but he also brings a wrestling pedigree that could run roughshod over most of these “heavyweights.” Bader is followed by Mitrione (39). While Mitrione is nearing 40, he’s a true heavyweight who’s riding a three-fight win streak. Yet Bader and Mitrione would meet in the semi-finals. With Rampage, Sonnen, Fedor, and Mir all on the opposite side of the bracket, it’s guaranteed that one of the older and bigger names will end up in the finale (not an accident) unless one or more have to pull out.

Mir is the best bet from that quartet. While he’s a ghost of his former self, he still has the skills to win standing up or wrap you into a pretzel on the ground.

The rest of the pack doesn’t have much of a chance. Emelianenko, Sonnen, and even Jackson are done. They should be retired, and it will be painful to watch them chase another paycheck. It’s more likely than an alternate — like Carwin or Lashley — steps in and wins, as you’ll see in the odds for the “FIELD” below.

We’ll break down each fight in detail in the coming weeks and months. For now, here are the early odds to win the whole shebang.

24 SEPTEMBER 2011: Quinton "Rampage" Jackson during the bout against Jon "Bones" Jones during UFC 135 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
“Rampage” Jackson – Photo Credit: Dustin Bradford/Icon Sportswire
  • Bader: 2/1
  • Mitrione: 4/1
  • Mir: 17/3
  • Nelson: 17/3
  • Lawal: 25/1
  • Sonnen: 100/1
  • Jackson: 100/1
  • Emelianenko: 125/1
  • FIELD: 9/1

Heavyweight Grand Prix Side Props

O/U on alternates used: 1.5

Odds on first alternate used

  • Shane Carwin: 3/1
  • Bobby Lashley: 4/1
  • Justin Wren: 4/1
  • Cheick Kongo: 17/3
  • Sergei Kharitonov: 9/1
  • Javy Ayala: 19/1
  • FIELD: 19/1

 

Odds Chael Sonnen fails a drug test: 9/1

Odds Fedor Emelianenko gets knocked out in his first fight: 17/3

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