He may be all set to face the heavyweight GOAT of mixed martial arts, but Ryan “Darth” Bader is a huge favourite to defeat Fedor Emelianenko and win the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament.
Bader, a light-heavyweight by trade, has been a revelation as a heavyweight so far, and can cap off an incredible first year with Bellator by claiming his second world title with the promotion.
It’s a remarkable journey for the understated light-heavyweight, who left the UFC after the promotion opted not to match Bellator’s contract offer. Bader made the switch and the Arizona State wrestling ace hasn’t looked back.
Bader has won four in a row since joining Bellator, edging past Phil Davis to claim the light-heavyweight title on his promotional debut and defending the belt against Brit Linton Vassell.
He then entered the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament and sparked out “King Mo” Lawal in just 15 seconds to advance to last weekend’s semi-finals, where he dominated another former UFC veteran, Matt Mitrione, to book his place in the final against Fedor.
Emelianenko still holds legendary status in the mixed martial arts world, even though he isn’t the same fighter that dominated the sadly defunct PRIDE Fighting Championships in Japan in the early 2000s.
But “The Last Emperor” is experiencing a career renaissance in Bellator’s Heavyweight Grand Prix. He TKO’d former UFC heavyweight champ Frank Mir in just 48 seconds in his quarter-final bout, then followed up with another TKO stoppage, against Chael Sonnen, in the semis last weekend.
The final of the @BellatorMMA Heavyweight World Grand Prix is set for January 26 at @theforum in Inglewood, California, as Fedor Emelianenko takes on light-heavyweight champ @ryanbader. pic.twitter.com/8xmWpZKmmw
— Simon Head (@simonhead) October 16, 2018
Now he’s set to take on Bader in the final at The Forum in Inglewood, California on January 26, but the Paddy Power oddsmakers aren’t giving the 42-year-old much of a chance against the American, who is in the best form of his career.
The early odds for the bout have been released, and Emelianenko is a 3/1 underdog heading into the bout, with Bader a clear 1/5 favourite.
Victory would not only see Bader win the tournament and claim a legendary scalp, it will also see him become Bellator’s first-ever “champ champ’, adding the Bellator Heavyweight Title to the light-heavyweight belt already in his possession.
Bader has been stopped before, however, and he’ll have to be wary of Fedor’s heavyweight punch power if he’s to defeat the legendary Russian.
Can Bader defeat a legend and make Bellator history, or will “The Last Emperor” add another chapter to his storied MMA career?
Bader should win, but you can never count out the GOAT.