Photo via BellatorMMA
One of the most exciting things in sports is a good old-fashioned tournament to crown a champion. Perhaps one of the most well-known examples of this is the recently completed March Madness tournament used to crown a yearly champion in both men’s and women’s college basketball. Whether you’re hoping for an underdog upset or a dominant performance by the favorite, the unpredictability of a bracket-based competition is exciting for fans of all ages. Although less frequent in professional combat sports nowadays, a Grand Prix tournament is a great way to crown a champion without the politics that come with rankings and voters.
Bellator MMA, arguably the second or third “best” company in terms of professional mixed martial arts, is no stranger to the tournament bracket and will be kicking off their Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix Tournament this Friday, April 9th at Bellator 256. In the first Quarterfinal bout, we’ll see a rematch from 2012 as former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida (26-10) looks to avoid three consecutive losses as he takes on former Bellator Light Heavyweight champion and current Heavyweight champion Ryan “Darth” Bader (27-6, 1 NC). The first time around, it was hyped up as a classic striker vs grappler matchup due to Machida’s karate background and Bader’s collegiate wrestling experience. Since their last fight nearly a decade ago, both fighters have gone on to have respectful careers in multiple weight classes. One of the biggest differences between their first fight and this one will be Bader’s striking abilities. Upon his arrival to Bellator, Ryan Bader has seemed to rebrand himself as a powerful striker with a high grappling pedigree that he uses to keep his opponents at bay while looking for that knockout punch. Although neither man claimed victory in their last two fights, another loss here could bring on the end of a career for the forty-two-year-old Machida while a win might spark one last title run. Bader, who became the first-ever simultaneous two-division champion, should be more motivated than ever to not only get revenge for his loss in their last fight but also a chance at avenging his championship loss to Vadim Nemkov should he make it to the next round as well.
The other Quarterfinal bouts feature The Ultimate Fighter 19 winner Corey Anderson (14-5) vs. Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (18-5-1) at Bellator 257, current Light Heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov (12-2) vs. “Mr. Wonderful” Phil Davis (22-5, 1 NC) at Bellator 257, and former UFC title contenders Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (22-6) vs. Yoel “Soldier of God” Romero (13-5) at Bellator 258. Also featured on the night’s card is the return of former UFC and Strikeforce title contender Liz “Girl-Rilla” Carmouche (14-7) as she welcomes former Invicta FC Flyweight champion Vanessa Porto (22-8). Catch all the action from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT starting at 9 p.m. EST only on Showtime.