Bellator Grand Prix Final Preview – Fedor Emelianenko vs. Ryan Bader
Published on November 06, 2018
Fedor Emelianenko is arguably the greatest heavyweight fighter in MMA history and has a legit claim for the best to ever enter the octagon. It seemed he had prolonged his career a bit too much, according to many.
The Emperor is about to prove them wrong, as he demolished Chael Sonnen to earn a place in the Bellator Grand Prix final. Suddenly, Fedor has the opportunity to add another belt at the twilight of his career.
It won’t be easy, though, as the Russian legend will have to face Ryan Bader in the final.
The bout will take place on January 26th, so there is a lot of time left. And yet, I think now is the time to deliver an early preview that will give you an idea what to expect when the bout is near.
I intend to take a look at various aspects of the fight and share my prediction of what could happen in the Bellator Grand Prix final.
I’m not sure where to start with Fedor, as he has a long list of records, titles, and achievements.
Despite the fact that he never fought in the UFC, the Last Emperor is probably the most decorated heavyweight fighter in history. During his prime, he seemed like an unstoppable beast who could demolish anyone put in front of him.
Some people question the opponents he faced, especially during his Pride Championship days.
I certainly can agree that some of them were not exactly of the same caliber, but the Last Emperor also faced and defeated formidable foes such as Antonio Nogueira (twice), Mark Coleman (twice), Mirko Cro Cop, Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, and more.
Fedor was unbeaten between 2001 and 2009, participating in a total of 28 fights and winning 27 of them (one was ruled no contest). It’s probably the most impressive streak in MMA history, and the Russian’s overall record includes 38 wins and only 5 losses.
On top of that, he has 12 knockouts and 17 submissions, which speaks volumes about his ability to finish the opponent in various ways. I won’t bore you with more numbers, as it is quite obvious that the man has the stats to back his reputation.
Now that I’ve mentioned skills, it’s probably time to take a look at the main strengths of Fedor Emelianenko in the octagon. I would say that this is one of the most complex fighters in the history of the heavyweight division.
Most of the big men are usually superb strikers or exciting grapplers, but the Last Emperor has it all. His sambo background makes him an expert in taking people down, and he’s certainly dangerous on the ground.
Fedor also has the defense to survive the attacks of wrestlers like Chael Sonnen, as we recently saw, which would be crucial against Ryan Bader.
On top of his solid grappling and ground game, Emelianenko is also strong on his feet. He has the kicks and punches to rock or knock out anyone out there.
One of the big questions is related to his age, though. Time doesn’t forgive anyone, and Fedor is now 42 and has taken a lot of damage throughout his long career. As a result, his speed, chin, and stamina are not the same.
While Bader is not in his prime either, he will certainly have an advantage later on. I feel that Emelianenko has to win the fight in one of the first two rounds, or he will be gassed and become easy prey for his opponent.
However, there are two other factors that have been instrumental to Fedor’s success. First of all, the man has a calmness that very few fighters are capable of. He doesn’t get mad or irritated; he stays cool and capable of making the best decisions.
I don’t think I’ve seen anyone do that to such an extent. There’s probably one exception in Georges St-Pierre, and it’s no coincidence that the Canadian is also a great champion and a GOAT candidate.
Finally, I love Fedor’s fighting IQ. He is one of the best out there when it comes to adjusting to the situation and improvising.
Fedor Emelianenko will be eager to win another championship at the age of 42, which will forever cement his place as an astonishing athlete and a true MMA legend.
But the motivation of his opponent, Ryan Bader, will be equally strong. Let’s see why.
It all started back in 2008 for Ryan Bader, when he was selected by one of Fedor’s legendary rivals, Antonio Nogueira, in the Ultimate Fighter season 8.
Under the guidance of the Brazilian, the American won the contest and entered the UFC.
He was undefeated for the next couple of years before losing back-to-back fights against Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz.
Bader had a couple of other UFC fights, with a mixed record. His most famous wins came against his mentor Antonio Nogueira (twice), Quinton Jackson, Rashad Evans, Ovince Saint Preux, and Phil Davis.
He beat the last man on this list for the second time when he moved to Bellator in 2017. This victory brought Ryan Bader the light heavyweight title of the organization.
The American defended the belt against Linton Vassell before actually deciding to take a shot at the Bellator Grand Prix. Bader then proceeded to KO Muhammed Lawal and dominate Matt Mitrione to earn a place in the final against Fedor.
This gives him the chance to become heavyweight and light heavyweight champion at the same time, which will be the crowning achievement in Bader’s career.
Many expect Ryan Bader to try and take the fight against Fedor on the ground. There is no surprise there, as the man has a wrestling background and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. The man is an absolute beast on the ground, so such a game plan makes a lot of sense.
Even an experienced fighter like Fedor will probably struggle to defend properly against Bader on the ground.
Another advantage is that this could potentially empty the Russian’s gas tank, so I certainly expect the lightweight champ to try and take his opponent down.
Bader’s specialty is to wear the other fighter down and pound him viciously. This is the main reason he has 11 knockouts in his career.
His stand-up game is not as strong, but Bader certainly can hold on his own and do damage on his feet as well. He is basically a well-rounded fighter who is tough to beat.
I think there are two factors that work in Ryan Bader’s favor. He is younger than Fedor and certainly in better shape than the Russian. At 35, the American is not at his prime, but he’s much closer to his best days than the Last Emperor.
Another big advantage is that Bader will have the confidence that comes with his light heavyweight title.
What doesn’t work in his favor, though, is that he will be fighting in heavyweight this time around.
Fedor has a reach advantage and is probably the more powerful man of the two. He also has the experience of facing bigger men during his career, which makes the task against Bader a bit easier.
I would say this fight is hard to predict, but I will give it my best shot.
For a start, I feel that Ryan Bader will try to keep the bout on the ground and hope that Fedor will get tired at some point. If that happens, the American will either finish him with some good old ground and pound or win by a decision.
However, the experienced Russian is no joke, and he has beaten better wrestlers than Bader during his career.
I feel that the Last Emperor will put in an energetic performance in the first two rounds of the fight and try to end it there. If he catches Bader early on and rocks him, we could see a repeat of the fight against Chael Sonnen.
Despite my utter respect for Fedor Emelianenko, I feel that the first scenario is more likely, mostly because of his age.
Once the online sports betting sites offer the initial odds, I expect Bader to be the favorite. This could potentially open the door to back Fedor to win with a finish, as the price might be too good to miss, and this the second most likely outcome I can see.
I’ll be back nearer the time of the fight to see where the best betting value lies.
So, the odds for this one are out, courtesy of BetOnline:
As expected, Bader is the huge favorite here and to an extent, this is reasonable. And yet, Fedor is one of the greatest MMA fighters in the history of the sport. As Rudy Tomjanovich once said, you should never underestimate the heart of a champion.
This is why I feel the value lies in the odds for Fedor here. This will be his big chance to go out as a winner once again and make his claim for the GOAT status even stronger:
If I have to be honest, I would like to see Fedor win this one and then retire on the top. The man is an absolute MMA legend that deserves a proper farewell, especially if you consider that his reputation took a couple of hits recently.
Do you think the Russian has at least one big victory left in him? Or do you expect Bader to take him down and keep him down?
Let me know in the comments below.