Chael Sonnen plays mediator, gets slapped in scuffle between Jake Shields, A.J. Agazarm

Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, Videos

Chael Sonnen has many roles in the combat sports world. On Sunday night, he was promoter and emcee … and event security.

At Sonnen’s Submission Underground 6 event in Portland, he was in the cage interviewing Jake Shields after Shields’ victory over Gilbert Burns in the grappling event. Sonnen asked Shields who he’d like to meet next under the Submission Underground banner.

That’s when things went a little sideways. After Shields mentioned names like Jon Jones and the Nogueira brothers, he called out A.J. Agazarm, another jiu-jitsu black belt he has known beef with.

Agazarm entered the cage, and though Sonnen got between them Shields still managed to get a few swings off. When Sonnen tried to get Agazarm away from the potential fracas while other personnel dealt with Shields, Shields threw a right slap that appeared to hit Sonnen.

Once Agazarm was out of the cage, Shields took the mic from Sonnen and delivered some … well, trash talk, is what we’d presumably call it – though it left a little to be desired, perhaps.

Shields called Agazarm a “(expletive) clown” and said he’d be easy work for him. So it looks like that’s a grappling bout that makes a lot of sense down the road.

For now, though, check out the video above to see the whole ordeal.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Odds for Bellator's grand prix are out, but oddsmakers might need to get more creative

All the potential craziness that could come from the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018, and somehow the biggest favorite in the opening round is the guy who got knocked out the last time he faced this particular foe.

That’s the story told by the betting odds, anyway. According to The Oddessa Line, Matt Mitrione is a -260 favorite to beat Roy Nelson (a +180 underdog) in the first round of the tournament on Feb. 16 at Bellator 194.

You might recall that these two fought once already in the UFC back in 2012, and Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) handed Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) the first knockout loss of his career.

But oh, how times have changed. In fact, that might as well be the tagline for the entire tournament, especially since we now find ourselves in a heavyweight tournament populated by a several guys who have never even competed at heavyweight, and still somehow it’s former PRIDE great Fedor Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) who ends up being one of the heavier underdogs – against Frank Mir (18-11 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) – to make it out of the first round.

Some of that, of course, is the matchmaking. Bellator seems to have decided to mostly keep heavyweights with heavyweights and light heavyweights with light heavyweights in the opening round.

Odds have Mir as a sizable favorite over Emelianenko, while longtime “moneyweight” Muhammad Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA) starts as a sizable underdog against current Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA).

The most competitive fight, at least according to the odds, is the exact fight that Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) said he didn’t want – the one against takedown enthusiast and former UFC middleweight (!!!) contender Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) at Bellator 192. In that one, both men are at -120, presumably to balance the likelihood of an overweight and out-of-shape Jackson being taken down repeatedly with the chances of Sonnen eating one solid punch and going down.

But in order to really have the right kind of fun with this tournament, we’re thinking that oddsmakers will need to get creative with prop bets.

For instance, can we get some odds on who’ll be the first to withdraw from the tournament due to injury/illness/arrest/sudden retirement? How about a line on Tito Ortiz as an alternate to come in and win it all? And if you can’t bet on whether one of these fighters will lose, then get re-added to the tournament later and lose again, what is even the point?

Just saying.

For more on Bellator 192, Bellator 194 and and rest of the promotion’s upcoming schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Filed under: Bellator, Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News
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Check out the Bellator grand prix trailer, where Fedor Emelianenko has a chuckle

Filed under: Bellator, Blue Corner, Featured Videos, News

Dann StuppAs the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018 approaches, we now have a trailer for the eight-man heavyweight tournament.

As previously reported, the multi-event and yearlong grand prix kicks off in January, and four veteran heavyweights and four light heavyweights are part of the field.

Things kick off at Bellator 192, which takes place Jan. 20 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. An opening-round matchup of Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) vs. Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) is part of the Spike-televised main card. The winner meets the victor of Fedor Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) vs. Frank Mir (18-11 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), which is slated for April in Chicago.

At Bellator 194 on Feb. 16 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., Matt Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) takes on Roy Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA). The winner meets either Ryan Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) or Muhammad Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA), who are slotted to fight in San Jose in May.

Here’s the bracket:

Officials dates and locations haven’t been set for the semifinal round or the tourney final.

Check out the trailer, which includes a chuckle from the usually straight-faced Emelianenko, above.

And for more on Bellator 192, Bellator 194 and and rest of the promotion’s upcoming schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Bellator heavyweight grand prix opening-round matchups set; 'Rampage'-Sonnen first up Jan. 20

The bracket is set for the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018.

The four opening-round matchups for the eight-man tournament to crown a new heavyweight champion were announced tonight on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”

They are as follows:

The Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) vs. Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) winner will face the winner of Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) vs. Mir (18-11 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) in one semifinal.

In the other semifinal, the winner of Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) vs. Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) will face the Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) vs. Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA) winner.

“Rampage”-Sonnen will kick things off at Bellator 192, which takes place Jan. 20 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The main card airs on Spike following prelims on MMAjunkie.

Mitrione-Nelson is slated for a Bellator event scheduled Feb. 16 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Fedor-Mir and Bader-King Mo are scheduled for April and May events, respectively.

Bellator has yet to determine any alternates for the tournament, though president Scott Coker told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto the promotion is considering several names, including Shane Carwin, Cheick Kongo and Bobby Lashley.

Bellator’s heavyweight championship has been vacant since May 2016, when the promotion stripped then-champ Vitaly Minakov of the belt for failing to defend the title.

The tentative plan is to hold the title fight in December.

For more on Bellator 192 and Bellator’s upcoming schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News
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Why Matt Mitrione was initially bummed by Bellator heavyweight grand prix

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, Radio Highlight

He’s the odds-on favorite to win the thing, but Matt Mitrione initially wasn’t very excited about Bellator’s upcoming heavyweight tournament.

As recently announced, the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018 will kick off in early 2018, with eight fighters – four heavyweights and four light heavyweights – fighting for the organization’s vacant heavyweight title.

Mitrione is a 2-1 (+200) favorite to win the grand prix and has the best odds to merge victorious at the end. So, why was he initially bummed when officials approached him about the tourney, which will be held throughout the year over multiple events?

“I’m not good at giving political answers, so I’ll give you an honest answer: I wasn’t really excited, to be honest,” Mitrione told MMAjunkie Rado. ” … I think it would have been a true heavyweight grand prix to fill it with heavyweights. I think it would have been even better to do it in the same night. I think that would have been a lot of fun.

“But that’s not how it went. I think they chose the most athletic, most exciting guys they have, and I think that’s what the draw of the tournament is.”

Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) is coming off a signature career victory – over famed heavyweight, former PRIDE champion and fellow Bellator tourney participant Fedor Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA). Mitrione, an NFL and UFC vet, thought it might’ve given him a fast-track for a shot at the vacant Bellator heavyweight belt.

“I would have originally wanted just a title fight, and then have the winner of the tournament fight me for the title – and I would defend it hopefully once during the middle of the year,” he said.

Instead, he’ll need at least three victories to win the tourney and claim the belt. Currently, the sports books (and MMAjunkie readers) feel he’s the favorite to do so.

Does he think those odds are right?

“Yeah, I think I expected it, to be honest,” he said. “I feel like I’m the best heavyweight Bellator has to offer, and I say rather readily that on any given day, I’m the best heavyweight in the world. I had just a couple of missteps (during my UFC career), and it cost me a pretty substantial amount in my name value, but I feel like when it comes down to scrapping, I’m one of the best in the world. So I’m not surprised I’m the favorite.

“Then again, in that same breath, we have three light heavyweights and a bloated middleweight. If it was a full-fledged heavyweight grand prix or heavyweight tournament, then I think it might possibly be a little different.”

Mitrione specifically mentioned Cheick Kongo (27-10-2 MMA, 9-2 BMMA) and Sergei Kharitonov (26-6 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) as true heavyweights he would’ve liked to see in the field.

However, those three light heavyweights – reigning 205-pound champ Ryan Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA), former UFC titleholder Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) and ex-Strikeforce champ Muhammed Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA), as well the “bloated middleweight,” multi-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) – add an interesting wrinkle to the grand-prix field, he said.

“I think the smaller bodies make it a much more interesting tournament, for sure,” Mitrione said.

For more on the upcoming Bellator schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News, Radio Highlight
Source: MMA Junkie

Opening odds: TBA has better odds to win Bellator tourney than 'King Mo,' Sonnen, 'Rampage'

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News

Welcome to the wild world of multi-event MMA tournaments, where chaos often reigns supreme.

Take for instance the Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018, where eight fighters – heavyweights and light heavyweights – will fight for the organization’s vacant heavyweight title. The veteran-heavy field (the youngest participant is a not-so-young 34, after all) features many familiar names, and the odds are now out for who will claim the tournament championship.

And here’s an interesting tidbit: “The field” – or, a fighter not currently in the group of eight – has better odds to win the tournament than three of the announced participants.

Veteran MMA oddsmaker Joey Oddessa recently posted the lines for the full tournament field, which includes four heavyweights: former PRIDE champion Fedor Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA), two-time former UFC titleholder Frank Mir (18-11 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), Matt Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) and Roy Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA). Additionally, at light heavyweight, we have current Bellator 205-pound champ Ryan Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA), former UFC titleholder Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA), ex-Strikeforce champ Muhammed Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA) and multi-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA).

Here are the odds via Oddessa, listed from best to worst (via Twitter):

  1. Mitrione +200
  2. Bader +260
  3. Mir +380
  4. Nelson +500
  5. Emelianenko +500
  6. Field (any other fighter) +1000
  7. Sonnen +1200
  8. Lawal +1200
  9. Jackson +1500

At those odds, a winning $100 bet on Mitrione would result in a net profit of $200; a winning $100 bet on “Rampage” Jackson would net $1,500. And if you bet the field and none of the eight listed fighters wins the tourney, the payoff would be $1,000.

The odds are close to mirroring a poll we ran earlier this week in which we asked MMAjunkie readers to predict the eventual tourney winner:

The opening-round matchups and event dates haven’t been formally announced, but they could have an impact on the odds once they’re set. For now, though, the big men – with the exception of Bader, who has the second-best odds – are the frontrunners to win the grand prix.

Should “TBA” pull off the tournament victory, it wouldn’t be the first time Bellator President Scott Coker has seen a replacement claim a grand-prix title. When Coker was at the helm of now-defunct Strikeforce organization, current UFC light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier won the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2012.

For more on the upcoming Bellator schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News
Source: MMA Junkie

Alex Davis: Hype always has been part of fight game – but no need to be jerks about it

Looking to attract fans and hype up your image has always been part of the fight game.

Even before MMA, Muhammad Ali talked smack about everything and everyone. I remember many different entertaining fighters who would put on a display before the fight. Who remembers Genki Sudo and his theatrics? They were entertaining, they were positive and they had a meaning to them.

And who remembers when Melvin Manhoef would come in held on a leash by his trainer? How about James Te Huna,  when he and his corners came out to a UFC fight dressed as the Men in Black, dancing and everything?

In the UFC, Rebook put an end to those things.

And then there have always been the talkers. I remember I was at a Cage Warriors event in England back in the day. Ex-UFC champ Michael Bisping fought and caught his opponent in an armbar. He already talked crap way back then. And it was simply him; he wasn’t forcing anything, he just said what came into his head. It was natural. Or Phil Baroni? The “New York Bad Ass” had always been arrogant. Or Chael Sonnen, who was always articulate and intelligent – even when he talk badly about Brazil. And, of course, UFC lightweight champ Conor McGregor: universal smack master.

But not everyone can do this in a smart and intelligent way.

We are starting to see guys try to pick up from McGregor’s example. They pick up the mic after the fight and act like complete jerks. All you hear is rubbish coming out of them. They are simply trying to build hype, get their names out there, get a connection with the public. But I see this is starting to go in a very negative direction.

These guys are watched by millions of people, including millions of kids and teenagers. As in every other sport, they have big followings. The kids tend to emulate them – to talk, walk and dress like they do. Now I wonder: Is this how we want this sport to go mainstream? As a bunch of punks cursing each other?

Is this really the way to make the sport of MMA go to the next level?

MMA is still considered a bloodsport by many – “human cockfighting.” Those who understand it know that it is, really, a combat sport engaged in by very high level masters in the art of fighting. Of course, as a combat sport, there will always be animosity between opponents. They are going to fight you, you know. But it seems to me that we are overdoing our attempts to gain recognition in a very negative way. I think that each individual has his own charisma. Each person and fighter is different.

“Brazilian Cowboy” Alex Oliveira can’t speak enough English to say bad things about anyone even if he wanted to. But he comes out dancing and happy, so people love him. And how about Junior Albini? He isn’t even trying. He came out unintentionally with his shorts rolled up like diapers, but he made the headlines.

I loved what UFC strawweight champion Rose Namajunas said after she took the title from Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217: enough negativity. UFC middleweight champion Georges St-Pierre is one of the biggest stars in the sport, but I have never seen him being disrespectful toward anything.

They are proof that you do not need to be a jerk to promote yourself.

Sure, as I said before: This is fighting. We get it. You do not have to be in love with your opponents, actual or future. But if your sole modus operandi is to badmouth people, most likely you will end up having an adverse effect on your image. I am looking down the road and I can foresee a time when we will get tired of this. When it will go full circle and we will again appreciate athletes for what they can do inside the ring.

A little entertainment will always be welcome. We are all humans, after all. But how about putting some imagination into it, as it’s been done ages before our time?

Alex Davis is a lifelong practitioner of martial arts and a former Brazilian judo champion. A founding member of American Top Team, Davis currently oversees the careers of a number of prominent Brazilian fighters, including Edson Barboza, Luiz Cane, Rousimar Palhares, Antonio Silva and Thiago Tavares, among others. Davis is a frequent contributor to MMAjunkie and shares his current views on the sport built through his perspectives that date back to the Brazilian roots of modern MMA.

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Who wins Bellator heavyweight grand prix? A primer on the good, the old and the weird

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Agent of chaos and promoter extraordinaire Scott Coker is at it again.

The man who ended his reign as Strikeforce CEO with the wild and crazy notion of a heavyweight grand prix is now repeating history as Bellator President, and the result is bound to be memorable – one way or another.

Eight fighters. Only about half of them heavyweights. None of them younger than mid-thirties. And soon they’ll collide in a grand prix tournament to crown the first Bellator heavyweight champion in well over a year.

What could go wrong? Except for many, many things.

While we wait for tournament brackets to be set and the first injury withdrawals to be announced, we might as well take a look at the field (vote in our poll at the bottom).

Who are these guys, anyway? And who did they used to be? And in what way is their particular journey through this tournament bound to get weird?

Frank Mir (18-11 MMA, 0-0 BMMA)

Frank Mir

Who he is: A former UFC heavyweight champion who at one time was a new prototype for MMA big men, essentially because he had size and strength but also submission skills, and in an era when those didn’t typically go together. That was more than a decade ago. He ended his UFC run with six losses in eight fights, then pleaded for and was granted his release after a positive test for steroids that he semi-seriously suggested could be due to tainted kangaroo meat he ate before fighting in Australia. I wish I were making this up.

Why he might win: If he can keep from getting knocked out (a big if for any aging heavyweight), he has legit skills both standing and on the mat. Plus, he’s one of the bigger men in the tournament, though that isn’t saying much with a bunch of light heavyweights running around.

Why he might not: His chin.

Most likely (weird) result: Gets dropped early in opening round, pulls off a Hail Mary submission from his back, withdraws from semifinals with a staph infection.

Roy Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA)

Roy Nelson.

Who he is: The biggest of countries, the former IFL heavyweight champion, the owner of a beard that gradually went from good ole boy to LOTR dwarf to sovereign citizen separatist right before our very eyes. Somehow, if only by a matter of months, Nelson is the oldest fighter in this tournament at 41. He’s also one of the most resilient, which is really saying something when you consider how long he’s been blocking punches with his head as a short, slow heavyweight.

Nelson has one unremarkable Bellator victory since bouncing out of the UFC earlier this year, but in all his years of fighting some of the heaviest hitters in this sport, he’s only been knocked out twice. Then again, he’s also one of the better grapplers who absolutely refuses to use those skills most of the time, so you might say his reliance on his own ability to eat strikes has been both a hindrance and a help.

Why he might win: You won’t get rid of him easily, and his overhand right is a real threat to some of the chinny older guys in this field. Plus, you really think any of the light heavyweight wrestlers want to spend all night shooting doubles on “Big Country?”

Why he might not: You know the last time Nelson put two or more wins together in a row? It was 2013, and it proved to be one of only two winning streaks in his UFC career. Tough to win a tournament that way.

Most likely (weird) result: Knockout win in opening round, wheezing decision loss in the semis.

Muhammed Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA)

Muhammed Lawal.

Who he is: A former All-American wrestler and Strikeforce light heavyweight champion who once dubbed himself a “moneyweight,” and who has stuck to that approach his entire career – especially after being released from the Zuffa-owned version of Strikeforce following a positive steroid test in 2012.

At 5-foot-11 and usually barely over 200 pounds, he’ll be one of the smallest men in the tournament, but that’s never bothered him before. He’s fought in openweight tournaments in Japan and won three fights in three days to conquer the 2015 Rizin World Grand Prix. He’s also been somewhat inconsistent in big fights throughout his career, and his most intense rivalry – opposite fellow tournament participant “Rampage” Jackson – resulted in some of his least exciting fights.

Why he might win: “King Mo” can wrestle, and he can punch. Fighting heavyweights, even when it means giving up 40 pounds or more, is nothing new to him.

Why he might not: He’s not much of a finisher, especially when he’s up against bigger fighters, and not every judge appreciates his style as much as he does.

Most likely (weird) result: Split-decision loss in the opening round, followed by an unsuccessful appeal and calls for a congressional investigation.

Chael Sonnen (30-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA)

Chael Sonnen

Who he is: A gangster from West Linn, Ore., Sonnen is one of only two men in this tournament to have never held a significant title, though he came close twice. In fact, coming close was one of the primary things Sonnen was known for during his time in the UFC. The others were his bombastic, pro wrestling-inspired public persona and his history of performance-enhancing drug use, the latter of which got him released from the UFC, suspended for two years, and somehow hired by ESPN as an intermittent analyst.

He’s 1-1 after roughly a year with Bellator, getting quickly submitted by an aging Tito Ortiz and then winning a decision over an aging Wanderlei Silva. He’s also, as far as we know, the only person in this tournament to be both a disgraced realtor and a disgraced politician, all thanks to a 2011 guilty plea on federal money laundering charges. In other words, he’s what we in the fight game like to refer to as “colorful.”

Why he might win: Sonnen is a legitimately suffocating wrestler when he’s on his game, and he’s never met a shortcut he wouldn’t take. Plus he’s interesting enough that Bellator might want to give him a friendly first-round matchup in order to keep him involved.

Why he might not: He’s arguably the most one-dimensional fighter in this thing. He’s no threat to anyone on the feet, has a history of getting caught in submissions, and he’s always struggled against bigger opponents.

Most likely (weird) result: Loses in the first round, comes back as an injury replacement and beats an alternate in the semis, then tests positive for an experimental Russian steroid.

Matt Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA)

Matt Mitrione.

Who he is: The only former NFL player in the tournament, and also the only person to already own both a knockout win and a knockout loss against other fighters in this field. Just in terms of his MMA feats, he’s arguably the least accomplished fighter here, though also one of the most deceptively dangerous. Mitrione is a big, though still athletic, heavyweight, plus he’s not as shopworn as some of the others, and he can flat-out hit. As proof, see his three consecutive knockout wins since signing with Bellator in 2016.

Why he might win: His recent losses have all come against bigger heavyweights, and there aren’t many of those in this bunch.

Why he might not: Even when Mitrione wins by knockout, he sometimes does it while tiptoeing right up to the line of losing by knockout.

Most likely (weird) result: TKO win in the first round, no-contest due to simultaneous double knockout in the semis.

Fedor Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA)

Fedor Emelianenko

Who he is: Come on, you know who he is. Unless you’re too young, in which case ask your dad. It’ll be a good chance for you two to bond. And besides, you guys never talk anymore ever since he left your mom and started dating Sharon.

Why he might win: The ghosts of Saitama, summoned by a dark ritual that may or may not be connected to the sudden disappearance of Jerry Millen, flood through a portal into the world of the living and carry Emelianenko to victory.

Why he might not: The incredible overabundance of evidence that he is shot. Look, Emelianenko was a great fighter once, but those days are gone. He’s too small for this field, doesn’t take a punch like he used to, and yet he still fights like it’s 2006, and he can’t be touched. He hasn’t evolved, but he has aged – and that poorly.

Most likely (weird) result: Extremely depressing first-round TKO loss.

Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA)

“Rampage” Jackson.

Who he is: A former UFC light heavyweight champion who now hears the words “heavyweight tournament” and heads straight for the buffet. Jackson’s continued ability to stay competitive, at least in Bellator, comes almost in spite of his own efforts. He was never known as a gym rat even back in his heyday(s) with PRIDE and then the UFC, but now he seems to despise MMA with all the fury he used to reserve for his own nutritionists.

As an added wrinkle, Jackson has claimed that he only learned he was a part of this tournament after signing a new Bellator contract. Will this prove to be the seed that quickly blooms into a tree of discontent? Maybe, but the one thing you can always count on is that “Rampage” will find some way to be extremely outwardly displeased with whatever his current employment status may be.

Why he might win: When he’s at least somewhat motivated, and when his opponents consent to exactly the type of fights he wants, Jackson can still win. He barely seems to enjoy it, but still.

Why he might not: Especially recently, the heavier you allow him to be on weigh-in day, the worse he looks on fight night. The fact that he seems to care so much more about video games than about MMA does not seem to help this problem.

Most likely (weird) result: Sloppy decision victory in the opening round, then he refuses to fight in the next round unless Bellator gives him a gold-plated Xbox and one of those James Bond cars where the headlights turn into machine guns.

Ryan Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA)

Ryan Bader.

Who he is: The current Bellator light heavyweight champion and also the youngest man in this tournament at sprightly age of 34. Partly for that reason, Bader might be the fighter with the brightest possible future here. A win in this tournament, and he’s suddenly a two-division champ, which doesn’t seem like a possibility Bellator has really prepared for. A loss, and he at least gets the atta-boy points for being willing to go up and take the risk.

Why he might win: He can wrestle with the wrestlers and throw out enough one-punch bombs to at least threaten the aging and increasingly vulnerable strikers. And compared to most of these grizzled old guys, he’s practically dewy with youth, though not green with inexperience.

Why he might not: A lot of light heavyweights look good until they get hit by a heavyweight, and the power is often the last thing to go for an aging big man.

Most likely (weird) result: First-round TKO loss … only to come back in the finals as an injury replacement and win the whole thing.

For more on the upcoming Bellator schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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The Speed Bag: The lunacy of Bellator's heavyweight grand prix – and why that's a great thing

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At long last, Bellator will have a new heavyweight champion. It’s just that, you’re going to have to wait more than a year from now, it appears, to know who it is.

And when the new champ’s name gets called, there’s a chance it could be a fighter many MMA fans would’ve otherwise considered to be washed up. There’s also a chance it could be a fighter who’s not a heavyweight at all, but instead a 205-pounder.

Is it a little bit crazy that Bellator has put together a yearlong eight-man grand prix featuring four heavyweights (Fedor Emelianenko, Frank Mir, Matt Mitrione and Roy Nelson) and four guys who are normally light heavyweights (current champ Ryan Bader, plus Quinton Jackson, Muhammad Lawal and Chael Sonnen)? Yeah, of course it is.

But in the latest edition of The Speed Bag, our own Ben Fowlkes says that’s just what makes it, well … kinda awesome.

For Ben’s take on the heavyweight grand prix, check out the video above.

And for more on the upcoming Bellator schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Bellator makes 2018 heavyweight grand prix official – check out the new poster

Bellator made official its 2018 heavyweight tournament today, news first reported this past Friday by USA TODAY Sports and MMAjunkie.

The field features eight big names in the division: Former PRIDE champion Fedor Emelianenko (36-5 MMA, 0-1 BMMA); two-time UFC titleholder Frank Mir (18-11 MMA, 0-0 BMMA); Matt Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA); and “Ultimate Fighter” winner Roy Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA).

But what will make things truly interesting is the inclusion of four light heavyweights, including current champion autotag]Ryan Bader[/autotag] (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA). In addition, ex-UFC champ Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA), ex-Strikeforce titleholder Muhammed Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA) and multi-time UFC title challenger Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) also are in the field.

Today, the promotion released a slick promotional poster for the field featuring the eight fighters. Check out the image above.

Tournament fights will take place throughout 2018 with one tournament fight per night at seven events. The promotion hopes to crown the new heavyweight champion in the final in December 2018. News of the tournament draw will be announced soon.

But who do you think has the best shot of winning it all from the eight fighters currently in the field? Vote in our poll below.

For more on the upcoming Bellator schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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