HENRY: Bellator 207/208 fights to make next

By Cole Henry, MMATorch Contributor

Ryan Bader
Ryan Bader (photo credit Troy Taormina © USA Today Sports)

Bellator 207

Ryan Bader def. Matt Mitrione to advance to finals of Bellator Heavyweight Tournament

Ryan Bader will advance to the finals of the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament and is now just one win away from being the first two division champion in Bellator history. He used his wrestling to render Mitrione virtually defenseless in route to a clear unanimous decision victory. Of course, my job is pretty easy here because his next opponent is already decided. Bader will advance to the finals and face perhaps the greatest of all time, Fedor Emelianenko. On the surface it’s an interesting fight between Bader and Fedor, a guy who is capable of absolute mayhem but obviously isn’t the same fighter that he was in the past.

Fight to make next: Ryan Bader vs. Fedor Emelianenko for Bellator Heavyweight Championship

Matt Mitrione has suffered his first bump in the road of his Bellator career but remains a top contender in a thin division. He was out matched against Bader and his wrestling game or lack there of was exposed by the former college wrestler in Ryan Bader. I think its clear at this point that Mitrione just is what he is and that is a talented striker with several holes that can be exposed if he faces the wrong opponent. He is a fairly interesting character though and he is one of the most recognizable faces on the roster, so he will likely be booked in another high-profile fight in short order. The reason that Bellator doesn’t have a Heavyweight Champion is because the former champion, Vitaly Minakov left the company over a contract dispute but he has since resigned. Mitrione would serve as a great opponent for Minakov in his return.

Fight to make next: Matt Mitrione vs. Vitaly Minakov

Sergei Kharitonov def. Roy Nelson

Sergei Kharitonov made his MMA debut back in the year 2000 and since then he has competed over 35 times, earning 28 victories, with 26 of those victories coming by some form of a finish (16 KO, 10 Sub). He had drifted from relevance following a stint in Strikeforce but returned to the big leagues with his Bellator debut against Javy Ayala…it did not go according to plan to say the least. Since then he is 5-0 with 1 NC and is coming off perhaps the biggest win that he has picked up in quite some time after his impressive KO stoppage over Roy Nelson. Kharitonov pressured Nelson through out the first round and cracked him with several big strikes (Some of them illegal) in route to a first round stoppage via knees and punches. He looked fantastic and at 38 years of age he could be in prime shape to make a run at the heavyweight championship once the tournament dust settles. In the mean time Cheick Kongo is lurking, and he has made it clear that he wants a title shot. Perhaps a number one contender fight between Kharitonov and Kongo would make sense?

Fight to make next: Sergei Kharitonov vs. Cheick Kongo

Roy Nelson has reached a cross roads in his career and at 42 years of age its possible that we are seeing the final days of Roy Nelsons fighting career. For the record he seems like he would make for a great member of the Wyatt Family if he wants to go to the WWE and they want to bring that group back and…ah never mind. Nelson is 5-9 since a three-fight winning streak ended in 2013 and he is now 1-2 in his Bellator career. He remains an attraction but his days as a relevant contender are long over but that doesn’t mean he wont stick around. Justin Wren is 3-0 since his return from hiatus and perhaps its time for a bit of a step up in competition. Nelson may be getting up there, but he is still a solid veteran and would serve as a solid test for Wren if he is serious about making a run.

Fight to make next: Roy Nelson vs. Justin Wren

Lorenz Larkin def. Ion Pascu

Lorenz Larkin has had an up and down tenure in Bellator, but he has now won two straight after a victory over Ion Pascu. Larkin left the UFC as a top ten ranked welterweight but faltered in his first few Bellator fights and because of that his competition was scaled back a bit. He is an alternate in the Bellator Welterweight tournament, but I can’t predict an injury, so I will just move on from that with booking Larkin. He was originally scheduled to face the debuting Erick Silva before an injury forced Silva from the fight. It was a good fight to begin with and its one that should be rebooked once Silva is cleared to return.

Fight to make next: Lorenz Larkin vs. Erick Silva

Ion Pascu did what he could against Loren Larkin, but it wasn’t enough, and he now sits at 0-2 in his Bellator career. Gerald Harris is a guy sitting in a similar position. Perhaps this can serve as a bit of a loser leaves town match?

Fight to make next: Ion Pascu vs. Gerald Harris

Corey Browning def. Kevin Ferguson Jr.

Corey Browning is young in his career but has picked up a win over a guy that had some eyes on him if not only because of his last name. It’s hard to say what will be next for a young fighter who has only had 4 career fights, but he picked up a win here that should earn him another shot in Bellator.

Fight to make next: Corey Browning vs. Jake Smith

Kevin Ferguson Jr. suffered the second loss of his young career, but he is a guy that will likely always be able to get some sort of an opportunity afforded to him because of who he is. He seems to be a guy that trains hard so hopefully this is just a bump in the road for Ferguson Jr.

Fight to make next: Kevin Ferguson Jr. vs. Richie Smullen

Bellator 208

Fedor Emelianenko def. Chael Sonnen to advance to Finals of Bellator Heavyweight Tournament

Fedor Emelianenko faced Chael Sonnen in what was described as a fight that could determine the future of U.S./Russia relations…by Chael Sonnen. Fedor came in as a big favorite over the former long-time middleweight and the fight went about how you would expect. He managed to avoid most of Sonnen’s takedown attempts and eventually stopped him with some brutal ground and pound in the first round. Fedor will now move forward to the finals where he will face the current Bellator light-heavyweight Champion, Ryan Bader for the Heavyweight Championship sometime in the future.

Fight to make next: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Ryan Bader for Bellator Heavyweight Championship

Ole’ Chael gave it all he had but, in the end, it wasn’t enough. Sonnen came into the fight as a big underdog but didn’t let that stop him from putting forth a valiant effort. He relentlessly attempted the takedown until the very end and the fight was a lot more fun than I was expecting. The future for Sonnen though is anything but clear and it seems possible that he could compete anywhere from heavyweight down to middleweight if the right fight presents itself. If he chooses to stay at heavyweight a fight against Frank Mir sometime in the future could be interesting, or perhaps a fight with Melvin Manhoef if wants to return to his former home at middleweight.

Fight to make next: Chael Sonnen vs. Frank Mir

Ben Henderson def. Saad Awad

Ben Henderson was 2-3 in his Bellator career coming into his fight with Saad Awad and managed to even things out with his well-rounded performance. Afterwards he gave a somewhat cringe worthy post-fight interview, but his message was good, and it was a great overall performance for him considering that fact that he is moving into free agency. Henderson seems like the type of fighter that would consider all options and it would be interesting to see him join Eddie Alvarez in One Fighting, or perhaps he would like a chance to make a million dollars in the PFL. A fighter like Henderson would likely be welcomed with open arms where he wanted to go but for the sake of this article I will book him against another Bellator fighter. Henderson is truly a legend of the lightweight division, and so is fellow Bellator lightweight Josh Thomson. The two had a very close fight in the UFC some years ago and a rematch seems like it could be in order. Thompson hasn’t competed in some time, but this seems like a fight that could interest him.

Fight to make next: Ben Henderson vs. Josh Thomson

Saad Awad had his four-fight win streak snapped by Ben Henderson, but he still remains a top fighter in the Bellator lightweight division. Roger Huerta is a guy who recently resigned with Bellator and despite his two-fight losing streak he has a habit of involving himself in exciting fights. These two make for a good pairing.

Fight to make next: Saad Awad vs. Roger Huerta

Cheick Kongo def. Timothy Johnson

A lot has changed in the heavyweight division over the last several years, but one thing has been a constant and that is Cheick Kongo. He has won seven straight fights and the last two have been by KO stoppage. He wasn’t included in the tournament despite his success in the division but after his starching of Tim Johnson its safe to say that he has earned another crack at the heavyweight title. Sergei Kharitonov is coming off a brilliant TKO win over Roy Nelson and could be a sleeper in the division. If Kongo doesn’t get the first crack at the winner of the heavyweight tournament then he should face Kharitonov in a title eliminator bout.

Fight to make next: Cheick Kongo vs. Sergei Kharitonov

Timothy Johnson stumbled in his Bellator debut but its hard to find fault in losing to Cheick Kongo. He is a UFC veteran and has a few decent wins so hopefully he can right the ship in his next fight. James Mulhern isn’t as big of a name as Kongo, but he offers Johnson a chance to get things figured out.

Fight to make next: Timothy Johnson vs. James Mulhern

Anatoly Tokov def. Alexander Schlemenko

Anatoly Tokov picked up the biggest win of his career when he decisioned Alexander Schlemenko on Saturday. But it just so happens that he is competing in a division that is suddenly pretty competitive. If Tokov wants to make a run towards the belt he would have to deal with the likes of fighters such as Rafael Carvalho, Lyoto Machida, and Gegard Mousasi. He is still a fight or two away from those match ups though and in the meantime, Chris Honeycutt would be a good test.

Fight to make next: Anatoly Tokov vs. Chris Honeycutt

Alexander Schlemenko is riding a three-fight losing streak which is the longest of his sixty plus fight career. He seemed to just want to throw big shots against Tokov and never seemed to find any sort of rhythm. He is a former champion in Bellator but at this stage he seems to be a few steps off from where he was when he was the champion. The increased competition could also be a factor. Hisaki Kato will probably always best be known for his pair of stunning KO victories over Joe Schilling but he has had a few more quality wins over the years as well. Schlemenko vs. Kato seems like it could lead to plenty of fireworks.

Fight to make next: Alexander Schlemenko vs. Hisaki Kato

Henry Corrales def. Andy Main

Henry Corrales continues to win and did so for the 4th straight time when he stopped Andy Main with punches in the later stages of a fight that he controlled from start to finish. With the win Corrales continues to put distance between himself and the three-fight losing streak that plagued him just a few years ago. As I was watching him fight all I could think about was Aaron Pico. Both guys love to stand, and bang and both guys have been on a roll as of late. A gap in experience exist in terms of total pro fights but that hasn’t been much of a problem for Pico in the past.

Fight to make next: Henry Corrales vs. Aaron Pico

Main is a guy that has good BJJ. He just wasn’t able to get the fight to the ground and he paid for it. He has had some success in Pancrase before and has wins over some decent fighters. Hopefully he gets another chance. Sam Sicilia could pose some of the same problems for Main that Corrales did, but he makes for a good opponent.

Fight to make next: Andy Main vs. Sam Sicilia

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