In just under two weeks, Bellator will follow the UFC and hold a massive event in the hallowed arena of Madison Square Garden. Much like UFC 205 before it, it is a stacked card with three title fights and a library of notable names. Just like Bellator is prone to do, the headliner is not a title fight at all but a long-hyped grudge match between two old warhorses. With Bellator going all out, will it finally be the one to break them through to the UFC’s level?
Some would argue that any of the three title fights on the card would serve as a proper headliner but memory would remind us that Chael Sonnen still puts people in seats. He’s 1-4 in his last five bouts but, until he retires, he will remain as the sport’s VIP of trash talk. His opponent, the legend Wanderlei Silva, hasn’t fought in over four years but will still bring fans of PRIDE to the night’s event.
Co-headlining is the rescheduled fight between Matt Mitrione and Fedor Emelianenko. Despite losing a step over the years and his aura of invincibility slowly receding, Fedor is still a reminder of the wild days of the PRIDE Heavyweight Division and his reign over all of it. Mitrione is a very game and athletic heavyweight who has the capacity to give Fedor problems with his speed and power. Why this fight isn’t for the vacant Bellator Heavyweight Title is still beyond me.
Getting past the two main events, there are still three title fights on the evening’s card. Welterweight Champion Douglas Lima is poised to take on his biggest threat since Ben Askren left for greener pastures in Asia. Lorenz Larkin is one of the best strikers in the Welterweight Division and I fully believe this fight will be guaranteed fireworks.
Michael Chandler has been one of the best lightweights in the world since he signed with Bellator and has been on an absolute tear. He’ll meet undefeated challenger Brent Primus on the main card. Primus doesn’t have the lengthy resume of Chandler’s last few challengers, but he is a proven finisher and will look to make the most of his time in the biggest spotlight of his career.
Headlining the prelims is a rematch between light heavyweight champion Phil Davis and new Bellator signee Ryan Bader. The two last met in Stockholm in 2015 under the UFC’s banner with Bader coming out the victor with a split decision. Davis has won four straight since moving to Bellator, winning the title in his last fight against Liam McGeary. Look for a very close fight between two standout wrestlers.
The rest of the card is rounded out with notable names including Ryan Couture, Liam Gallagher, Neiman Gracie, and Chinzo Machida. Opening the night will also be the pro MMA debut of boxer Heather Hardy.
Bellator has thrown everything they have at this card. They’ve done an amazing job of signing talented prospects from the regional scene as well as big name fighters leaving the UFC’s ranks. I expect it to be a spectacular night of fights that show the potential that Bellator has to offer as an alternative to the UFC-dominated market. This is not a card to miss, I guarantee it.