Bellator featherweight grand prix: Ranking the first round fights

Christian Moore Bellator correspondent

Bellator grand prix

With Bellator just announcing their massive grand prix for the Bellator featherweight championship, now is a good time to look at all of the fights, and arrange them from best to worst.

The fights will be ranked by the excitement of the fight, and the level of combatants in the fight. So with that said, let’s kick it off.

#8: Sam Sicilia vs Pedro Carvalho

To start the list, we have to MMA vets in Sicilia and Carvalho. Sicilia, rides a one-fight winning streak, while  being 2-4 over his last 6 fights. His last fight being a win over Derek Campos. The former UFC vet has had a career of ups and downs, and although he is at the bottom of the list for actually winning the tournament, crazier things have happened.

His opponent, Pedro Carvalho comes in much hotter, and much more exciting as far as tournament odds. The 23 year-old fighter rides a 5 fight winning streak, his last win also being over Derek Campos.

Carvalho comes into this fight  as the favorite, but can Sicilia pull off an upset?

#7: A.J. McKee vs Georgi Karakhanyan

The next fight reads as a more extreme version of the first fight. In pro wrestling terms, it is  a “squash match.”

McKee may no longer be considered a prospect, but Bellator still has high hopes for the undefeated youngster, so he won’t be thrown against a Pitbull or Caldwell quite yet. T

he 24 year-old stands 14-0, with  all his wins coming  inside the Bellator cage. With his last win being over Pat Curran, KcKee put himself as a  potential threat in the tournament.

The same can’t really be said for his opponent.

Georgi Karakhanyan comes into the tournament with a very inconsistent  4-5 (1 NC) in the Bellator cage. In his last fight, he fell short to Emmanuel Sanchez, and although he has a few wins under the Bellator banner, he hasn’t proven that he has the skill to beat elite competition.

However, this is MMA, so who knows.

#6: Pat Curran vs Adam Borics

This fight is your vet vs. rookie type bout, and it is a fight that really is a pick em.

While Pat Curran has reigned supreme as champion a couple of times in Bellator, an injury not to long ago seems to have halted his career a little bit.

Curran reigned supreme for many years, and even after he lost his belt, he won it back his next fight. He struggled after once again losing the belt, only to go on a bit of a roll. That roll was stopped when he sufferd a major injury, that took him out for a year and a half.

In his return, he looked gun shy, and rusty. However, now being back and getting that taste of fighting might bring back the top dog in Curran.

The opponent he draws is one that doesn’t have near the same name, but remains a severe threat nonetheless.

Adam Borics was basically an unknown before his last fight in which he KO’d Aaron Pico, but his record shows the threat he is. At only 26, he stands 13-0, finishing 9 of those fights.

This is a fight that reads as a Curran beating, but Borics has elite striking, and is an immense threat on the feet, which is most likely where Curran keeps the fight.

That being said, this fight may look deceiving, as it could be a very close fight, instead of the beating some may expect.

#5: Emmanuel Sanchez vs Tywan Claxton

In my mind, this fight has possibly one of the top favorites for the tournament. No matter the result, the winner draws a top spot as potentially the biggest threat in the tournament.

Emmanuel Sanchez  lost his title in his last fight, but he has never truly been stopped by anyone that is not a top guy in Bellator.

His only losses in Bellator come to Curran, Weichel, and Pitbull, while his wins speak loud as well.

10-3 in the Bellator cage,  and no one has ever been able to finish him, and at 28, yet to reach his peak, he could be more dangerous now than ever.

That being said, his opponent, Tywan Claxton draws the toughest fight of his young career.

Claxton stands 5-0, and with great ground work, and KO power. The question one would ask about Claxton would be about readiness for this spot.

Nonetheless, this can be a great fight, and the winner could be in really good shape.

#4: Daniel Weichel vs Saul Rogers

In this fight, we see Weichel in a spot he has never seemed to be in before. He will see his stock in Bellator either rise, or drop drastically.

Coming into Bellator, Weichel looked unstoppable, and proved it by putting together a seven- fight winning streak, and earning his title shot against Pitbull. Weichel showed greatness in Round 1, but after being sloppy to start the second, was brutally KO’d. After the fight, Weichel put together another solid streak, and earned another title fight, which he would lose again to Pitbull.

As of now, Weichel rides a two-fight losing streak; the longest of his career.

Looking to send Weichel down the featherweight food chain, is the talented Brit, Saul Rogers.

Rogers, who is 7-1 in his last 8, recently won his debut, and already has a potential shot at the gold. Rogers doesn’t pose the biggest threat in the tournament as of now, but a win puts him up at the top.

#3: Daniel Straus vs Derek Campos

Possibly the only fight in the tournament that sees both fighters desperately needing a win is Daniel Straus vs.Derek Campos.

Campos, who at one point was near the top of the lightweight division, has had a very hard time over the past few years, with a 5-5 record in his last 10. After his lightweight struggles continued, Campos dropped to featherweight, where he is 0-2.

Campos absolutely needs a win, because with a loss, his career will be in serious question.

His opponent, while not to the same extent, also needs this win.

Former featherweight king, Daniel Straus is one of two people in the tournament to defeat the current champ, and despite being 1-3 against Pitbull, he showed a glimpse of greatness.

After losing his belt back to Pitbull, Straus would go 1-1 in his next 2,and although his career isn’t in jeopardy, a loss almost certainly ends Straus’ chances at ever reaching the top again.

This fight draws because not only do you have an exciting fight with lots of name value, but excluding the title fight, has the most on the line for both fighters.

#2: Darrion Caldwell vs Henry Corrales

#2 and #3 were very close, but this fight just gets the edge.

In one corner stands the former bantamweight king, Darrion Caldwell, who not too long ago stood tall atop the mountain of Bellator. After winning the belt, Caldwell would defend it, and then beat featherweight contender Noad Lahat.

A Champ vs Champ fight seemed imminent between Caldwell and Pitbull, but Caldwell would go on to lose to Kyoji Horiguchi in the Japanese MMA company RIZIN, before coming back to the US to defend his crown against the same man, to which he lost again.

Now on a two-fight losing streak, Caldwell hopes Featherweight will be his new home, and hopefully he can get that fight for the belt.

His opponent is no easy task.

Henry Corrales stands across from the former champ, and he looks to again reach the top.

Corrales seemed like a monster early when he started 12-0 in his career, getting close to the belt, before going on a 3 fight skid against Straus, Sanchez, and Pitbull.

Corrales was down, but not out for long, rebounding and winning his next five-fights, including his last one against Aaron Pico.

Both fighters have ways to win this, but for Caldwell to get it done, he must remain active unlike his last fight, and must gain more stamina.

For Corrales to win, he needs to watch his neck, and keep the fight standing, or remain active on the ground.

Either way, this fight draws big interest, and is the #2 fight to watch.

#1: Patricio Pitbull (c) vs Juan Archuleta

So of course this fight is #1. It draws the top spot not only because the strap is on the line, but because of the pure talent in this fight.

The challenger, Juan Archuleta, has an 18-fight winning streak, while going  4-0 in Bellator, but he has never really got the respect he is owed. However, after knocking out former champ Eduardo Dantas, that respect seems to have been finally earned.

Archuleta has not truly been tested often, and when he does get tested, he still thrives and wins.

Yet, despite looking incredible, and riding such an impressive streak, Archuleta is still the underdog for this fight.

Why is he the underdog? Because he faces the greatest fighter in Bellator history in Patricio Pitbull. The now “Champ-Champ’ has a four-fight winning streak, with his only legit loss in his last 14 fights being to Daniel Straus.

Pitbull faced a setback after losing his belt when he lost a fight he was dominating against Ben Henderson due to a self inflicted leg injury.

He rebounded in a big way!

Pitbull took back his belt, defended it against Weichel and Sanchez, and then challenged for the lightweight crown in the biggest fight in Bellator history against Michael Chandler, a fight he would win in just one minute.

There has never really been a blueprint to how to beat Pitbull. He has been beaten, yet he only is beaten when a fighter has the perfect fight, such as Daniel Straus did, or he is injured, ala the Ben Henderson fight.

Pitbull seems unbeatable, but he faces possibly the toughest challenge of his career against a man who is one fight off of being undefeated.

Who wins this fight? While many may say Pitbull, Archuleta draws a bigger threat than anyone in recent memory.

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