How good is Ryan Bader? He has won five straight fights since moving to Bellator, he’s won the Light-heavyweight Championship, the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix Championship, and the Bellator Heavyweight Championship. He is a sitting two-division champion, and according to Scott Coker, he will be given the chance to defend both belts. In Bellator, he is unmatched in a way, and despite having only competed in five fights since signing with the company it isn’t unrealistic to say that he just may be the most successful fighter in Bellator company history. Regardless of his past in the UFC it is clear that Bader is currently competing at a level that he has never competed at before. He went through the entire heavyweight tournament and only absorbed a handful of strikes if any at all, and that’s quite impressive when you consider that he fought King Mo Lawal, Matt Mitrione, and Fedor Emelianenko. Those three fighters combine for thirty-eight total knockouts and they were barely able to land so much as a single punch combined against Bader. So, I guess the answer is that Bader is really good, but now its time to see if he can maintain his success. He has two championships, so it isn’t exactly clear which division he will compete in next. If he returns to light-heavyweight for his next fight, then Victor Nemkov would make sense as an opponent. If he competes at heavyweight next, then he should be matched up with the winner of Cheick Kongo and Vitaly Minakov. Kongo has been on a run, and Minakov is undefeated and the former Bellator Heavyweight Champion. Bader has two belts, and plenty of options. 2019 has already been a big year for Ryan Bader and things don’t look like they will be slowing down anytime soon.
Fight to make next: (Heavyweight) Cheick Kongo/Vitaly Minakov winner, (Light-heavyweight) Victor Nemkov
Fedor fought and he lost…what else do you want? The fact is that Fedor Emelianenko, at 42 years old, is still a relevant fighter even if he isn’t what he once was. He easily defeated Frank Mir and Chael Sonnen on his way to the title fight, and while you can’t really say many good things about his performance against Ryan Bader, it’s still impressive that he was even in a position to be fighting for a major heavyweight championship in 2019. But it was clear that he was outmatched by Bader, and you have to go back to 2009 to find a win that Fedor had against an opponent that would have been considered relevant at the time of the fight. He’s 7-5 since that fight, and for the record, the one I am referencing is his 2009 Strikeforce bout with Brett Rogers, but of those wins, you will notice that all of them were against inexperienced competition or contemporaries of Fedor. So basically, he is still capable of beating up guys who found their prime ten or more years ago, but he is struggling against the younger and more relevant competition. Now the obvious answer here is retirement. The sun sets on even the brightest of days, and the same can be said for Fedor’s career. He has been the greatest for so long, but that time has ended. I will warn you now that the next few sentences will consist of me using my imagination even a bit more than usual. The entire context of this article is fantasy booking, but what I am about to type will be asking and hoping for a lot… But here it goes. The UFC recently made the first appearance in Russia in company history, so can Bellator follow? If Fedor takes only one more fight, the ultimate sendoff would be a main event in Russia, for Bellator, in a rematch of what was perhaps Fedor’s finest performance. For years Mirko Cro Cop has hinted that he desires a rematch will Emelianenko, and CroCop fits the mold of a guy that Fedor can still comfortably compete against. Of course, a few hurdles would need to be cleared, one of them being that CroCop is currently booked, but a rematch between Mirko CroCop and Fedor Emelianenko in Russia would be a fantastic sendoff for a man who set the bar higher at heavyweight than any man before or after.
Fight to make next: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Mirko Cro Cop
Henry Corrales def. Aaron Pico
Well, Henry Corrales finally earned himself a big win. After starting his Bellator career with losses to several of the top fighters in the division, Corrales went on a nice win streak but up until the Pico fight a notable win had eluded him. Its safe to say that isn’t the case anymore. Pico tagged Corrales early and hurt him, but Pico allowed him to recover and that turned out to be a mistake. Back on his feet, Corrales landed a stunning right hand than knocked Pico stiff. Pico isn’t a current or former champion, but Bellator treats him like one and for Corrales, this win is arguably just as valuable as a win over a more accomplished fighter. While he could be in line for the next title shot, I think it’s more likely that he’s matched up with one of the division’s stalwarts, and from there he could possibly see a title shot. Pat Curran was at one point ranked as high as the number two featherweight in the world, and while those days are over, he has shown time and again that he still remains very relevant in the division, especially for Bellator. He is a former champion and would probably love another crack at the belt that was once unquestionably his. Corrales vs. Curran would be a fine title eliminator and a fine bout in general.
Fight to make next: Henry Corrales vs. Pat Curran
Aaron Pico is quite a confusing fighter. He is one of the hottest prospects in MMA history, he has been portrayed as the prototype of what the MMA fighter of the future will be, but his results have been mixed. While he has shown his impressive power and hand speed, he has also shown a willingness to wade into risky waters even when it isn’t necessary. One could argue that if Pico could have slowed down a bit, picked his shots a bit better, or perhaps utilized his wrestling, he could have capitalized off the early knockdown he scored against Corrales, but instead, he allowed Corrales to recover and then proceeded to engage in a firefight, which while very entertaining, was also puzzling to see. Why does a guy who is supposedly so skilled in wrestling, and so technically skilled in boxing that he can spar effectively with pro’s, have such a tendency to throw all of that into the wind and just go blow for blow? That is a very exciting style but hardly one that equates to success. Hopefully, Pico will mix it up a bit more in the future, and it’s likely he will need to because it’s doubtful that his opponents will get much easier going forward. Since he is coming off a loss, he will probably take a step back in competition but that doesn’t mean he will be fed an easy opponent. Saul Rodgers hasn’t competed since early 2017 but he has put together a solid 12-2 record and he’s likely someone that Pico could face next.
Fight to make next: Aaron Pico vs. Saul Rodgers
Jake Hager def. JW Kiser
This fight was a mismatch from the start, but it doesn’t change the fact that Jake Hager looked very good in his MMA debut. Kiser caught Hager early as he moved in for a takedown, but the former WWE superstar took the shot right on the chin and completed his takedown anyway. From there it was a one-sided showing, as Hager tuned Kiser up with a few hard elbows and eventually locked up the fight-ending arm-triangle early in the first round. Hager looked very good for a debuting fighter and I am definitely looking forward to seeing what he does next. As for his next fight, I think he should get a slight step up in competition. Hesdy Gerges recently made his Bellator debut and things did not go well, but Gerges is a World Champion kickboxer, and it would be interesting to see him matched up with the former pro wrestler. Please don’t ask me for any more reason than that, because that’s all I’ve got. It would be interesting to see a former World Champion kickboxer matched up with a former World Champion Pro Wrestler Hager will need several fights before he faces any real competition, but it doesn’t hurt to keep some of his opponents interesting along the way.
Fight to make next: Jake Hager vs. Hesdy Gerges
As much as I love the name John Wayne Kiser, I regret to say that I doubt we are going to see him return to Bellator. He was brought in as an opponent for Hager, and he served his purpose. For that reason, I am not going to make a fight for him.
Juan Archuleta def. Ricky Bandejas
Juan Archuleta has not lost in a long time. He is 4-0 in Bellator and 22-1 overall with wins at both bantamweight and featherweight. By dropping down to bantamweight for his fight with Bandejas, and winning, Archuleta has put himself into a very good spot. He is a top contender in what is otherwise a very thin division and it is very possible that he could be next in line for a title shot. The shot though could depend on a few things, the main one perhaps being that division champion, Darrion Caldwell, recently suffered a defeat in Japan to Kyoji Horiguchi and there has been some talk about a rematch between the two in Bellator. But if Caldwell and Horiguchi don’t immediately get a rematch it is likely that Archuleta will be the guy going for gold.
Fight to make next: Juan Archuleta vs. Darrion Caldwell for Bellator Bantamweight Championship
Ricky Bandejas came onto the scene with a stunning KO over division loud mouth, James Gallagher. Bellator didn’t waste much time in getting him back into the cage and they gave him quite an opponent for his return. Now while Bandejas did suffer a loss, he also showed himself capable of hanging with one of the best fighters in the division and with time he will likely only get better. Bandejas has a long reach for the division, and through two fights he’s shown that he uses the reach and his overall length to strike effectively from a distance, especially with kicks. He will be an interesting prospect to watch develop, and he should get another opportunity soon. When he does, I would like to see Dominic Mazzotta standing across the cage from him.
Fight to make next: Ricky Bandejas vs. Dominic Mazzotta
Abdel Altamimi def. Brandon McMahan
Abdel Altamimi has a story that has been well told up to this point. But he has now added another chapter to it with his successful Bellator debut. Altamimi defeated fellow Bellator first timer, Brandon McMahan and made quick work of him, submitting him via armbar in the first round. Altamimi is likely going to be given several fights like this before facing any serious competition but that doesn’t mean he should get a slight step up in his next fight. Jeremiah Labiano is definitely a step up in competition, and it will be interesting to see if Altamimi can find positive results. Altamimi was 4-1 in his last five fights leading up to his Bellator debut and interestingly enough the last time he fought was against Juan Archuleta in KOTC.
Fight to make next: Abdel Altamimi vs. Jeremiah Labiano
NEXT: MMA TALK FOR PRO WRESTLING FANS TALKING ROYAL RUMBLE, BELLATOR 214 AND LOOKING AHEAD TO UFC FORTALEZA
Brandon McMahan has a losing record and did not look very good against Altamimi. For this reason, I doubt that we will see him booked again in Bellator, at least anytime soon.