With Bellator 199 in the books, it is time to look ahead at what is next for every fighter on the card.
Ryan Bader def. Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal (Heavyweight Grand Prix Quarter-Final)
Ryan Bader is perhaps the only fighter in this heavyweight tournament that is currently in his prime as a fighter. He is the only man under the age of 35, and the only man that has registered a truly relevant win in recent memory. He is a current world champion, and while several others in the tournament have been a world champion as well, the most recent one was Frank Mir back in 2008.
My point is that he should be the favorite to win this tournament. The only thing possibly going against him could be his size. He took King Mo out like a cheap date. All the talk of the wrestling match in the past between the two was a moot point. Wrestling never became a factor, as Bader dispatched Mo with punches in just 15 seconds.
Bader’s next opponent is already decided, and it’s an interesting fight. Matt Mitrione is a big guy, who hits very hard and could cause problems for Bader who has been knocked out in the past. If Bader can get past Mitrione, he has a very good shot at winning the whole thing.
Fight to make next: Ryan Bader vs. Matt Mitrione (Heavyweight Grand Prix Semi-Final Match)
King Mo has been one of the top stars in every promotion that he has ever competed in, but that doesn’t change the fact that he doesn’t seem to be the same fighter that he once was. I find myself thinking this after every one of his fights, yet when he competes I hold out hope that we will see flashes of the Mo that dominated in the early part of his career. He announced after his KO loss to Ryan Bader that he will be dropping down from heavyweight down to middleweigh, with hopes of finding a fresh start.
At 37 years old time is ticking for Mo to put together one final title run, and perhaps he is aiming for a rematch with Gegard Mousasi, if Mousasi can win the belt. Mo holds a notable career victory over Mousasi from when the two competed in Strikeforce. Of course, lots of things need to fall into place for this to happen but it is an interesting thought.
In the meantime, I think a fight with Ed Ruth makes some sense. It’s a winnable fight for Mo, but it can also be promoted as a fight between two highly decorated wrestlers.
Fight to make next: Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal vs. Ed Ruth
Jon Fitch def. Paul Daley
Jon Fitch is 104 years old, but it just doesn’t seem to stop him. He is actually 40 years old, but you really wouldn’t know it if you watched him fight. He is 31-7-1 in his career and is in my opinion without a doubt the greatest welterweight fighter to have never held a major world championship. He holds notable wins over Shonie Carter, Thiago Alves 2x, Diego Sanchez, Akihiro Gono, Dennis Hallman, Yushin Okami, Jake Shields, Paul Daley and several others.
Fitch is now in line to possibly add the Bellator Welterweight Championship to his resume. I think that he will need a win over one of Bellator’s top welterweight contenders before getting the shot though. While Daley is a great fighter, I think he is a step below the highest level that Bellator has to offer. Andrey Koreshkov is a former Bellator welterweight champion, and two-time tournament winner. Koreshkov could serve as the stepping stone to the world title shot that Fitch likely desires.
It’s no easy feat, but a win over a guy like Koreshkov will be necessary if Fitch wants a chance to crack the Rory McDonald riddle.
Fight to make next: Jon Fitch vs. Andrey Koreshkov
Paul Daley has always been an exciting fighter, and while his antics in the Fitch fight were certainly amusing, it is still in some ways a bit depressing to see Daley at 35 still doing stuff like this. He was out matched from the start by Fitch and couldn’t doing anything to stop his takedowns and grappling attack. He booed Fitch at certain points, hollered expletives at Scott Coker at others, but never once threatened the 40-year-old Fitch.
Daley has said he’s done with Bellator, but if he does stick around I think that the time has finally come for us to see Josh Koscheck vs. Paul Daley II. Neither guy is very relevant in the welterweight division right now, and as far as Koscheck is concerned, this is probably the only noteworthy fight he can get at this point. If Daley is interested perhaps we will finally see part two. I’m not sure how many people actually care to see it, but Bellator has hinted at it at times.
Fight to make next: Paul Daley vs. Josh Koscheck II
Aaron Pico def. Lee Morrison
Aaron Pico had a rough start to his MMA career, but since then he has starched three opponents whom all had far more experience than the 21-year-old prospect. He needed less than two minutes to take Lee Morrison out with a body shot and left everybody wanting to see more of what he’s capable of.
It’s hard to say what’s next because Bellator is good at booking prospects and its probable that Pico’s next opponent is not on the Bellator roster and will come from an independent promotion. I think we will see Pico in three or four more “tune up” fights, before we see him start to take on tougher and higher ranked competition.
Lee Morrison is now on the official Bellator roster so for that reason I will not book a fight for him. It’s unclear if he will compete for the organization again.
Cheick Kongo def. Javy Ayala
Cheick Kongo will be 43 years old soon, but he doesn’t seem to know that. He looked as good as ever in his 12th Bellator appearance, and picked up his 10th win during that stretch, with his first round KO over Javy Ayala. It was his first stoppage win since 2014, and with it he showed that he is probably the top contender for the winner of the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament. He has won 6 straight fights, and probably will want to keep that streak rolling rather than taking time off to wait for the winner. Sergei Kharitonov is a legend of the heavyweight division and has been competing as long as Kongo. Both have kickboxing experience and are capable of exciting fights and it is about time the two compete.
Fight to make next: Cheick Kongo vs. Sergei Kharitonov
Javy Ayala made his presence known with his 16 second KO win over Sergei Kharitonov. The win earned him several notable fights, but he is now 0-2 in those bouts with losses to Roy Nelson and now to Cheick Kongo. It is possible he gets tossed down the card and if that’s the case he could fight anybody, but I think he would make for a great debut opponent for the newly signed Timothy Johnson. Johnson is fresh off his UFC stint and will probably want to fight soon. Ayala is the guy.
Fight to make next: Javy Ayala vs. Tim Johnson
Adam Piccolotti def. Carrington Banks
Piccolotti picked up a win over the previously undefeated Carrington Banks and halted a two-fight losing streak in the process. He was undefeated before the losing streak, so this win allows him to focus on stringing together wins rather than ending his losing streak.
Fight to make next: Adam Piccolotti vs. Ryan Quinn
Carrington Banks was undefeated and had looked good leading up to this loss. He suffered a setback but as we have seen with Aaron Pico, sometimes that only leads to a newer and better version of that same fighter.
Fight to make next: Carrington Banks vs. JJ Ambrose