3 reasons why Jack Swagger will win his MMA debut at Bellator 214

Former WWE superstar Jack Swagger makes his MMA debut on Saturday at Bellator 214
Former WWE superstar Jack Swagger makes his MMA debut on Saturday at Bellator 214

Despite their many differences, MMA and pro-wrestling have plenty in common – and so it’s unsurprising that there have been plenty of crossover superstars from both sports over the years. Former UFC Women’s Bantamweight champion and Hall of Famer Ronda Rousey, for instance, is currently a huge star in the world of WWE.

Equally, there have been plenty of WWE superstars who have made their way into the world of MMA. These crossovers have seen largely mixed results. Brock Lesnar won the UFC Heavyweight title, while CM Punk ended up losing two fights in hugely disappointing fashion. Bobby Lashley did well enough for himself, while Dave Batista fought once for a smaller promotion before transitioning into acting.

This Saturday sees the latest crossover, as former WWE World Heavyweight champion Jack Swagger – real name Jake Hager – makes his MMA debut at Bellator 214, which will be broadcast on the Paramount Network and on DAZN. So will Hager turn out to be a Brock Lesnar, or a CM Punk? We’ll soon find out, but I’m betting he’ll win this debut fight at least. Here are 3 reasons why.

#1 He comes from a legitimate wrestling background

Hager was a fantastic amateur wrestler coming out of the University of Oklahoma
Hager was a fantastic amateur wrestler coming out of the University of Oklahoma

The major difference between CM Punk and Brock Lesnar that led directly to their results in MMA was the fact that while both had seen huge success in pro-wrestling, only one of them – Lesnar – had a background in a genuine combat sport. Some old school martial artists would scoff at the idea of amateur wrestling being considered a combat sport, but over the past 25 years, MMA has proven that idea thoroughly wrong.

Essentially, amateur wrestling is the best background that any prospective MMA fighter can have. A great wrestler can essentially dictate where a fight takes place – either using the takedowns learned from wrestling or by using ‘wrestling in reverse’, preventing an opponent from taking them down in the first place. It’d literally take all day to list the great wrestlers who have transitioned into MMA and then become great fighters.

And simply put, Jake Hager is a great wrestler. Sure, he didn’t win an NCAA Division I championship like Lesnar did, but he was an NCAA Division I contender wrestling out of the University of Oklahoma, and he placed 7th in 2006, an impressive feat by anyone’s standards. And right now, as a Heavyweight in Bellator, there aren’t many fighters that can match that wrestling background.

Given the current Unified Rules of MMA that value takedowns and ground control so heavily, it’s quite possible that even if he isn’t a fully rounded fighter with excellent strikes and submissions, Hager could simply take his opponents down and hold them there to win a decision. And on Saturday, against an opponent in JW Kiser with seemingly no wrestling background, he shouldn’t have any problems with using his wrestling to pick up a debut win.

#2 He could be a drawing card for Bellator – and so they need him to win

Hager could become a huge star for Bellator with a win
Hager could become a huge star for Bellator with a win

Sure, MMA is a hugely unpredictable sport, and we see massive upsets seemingly every month either on one of the myriad UFC cards that take place, or on one of the various Bellator events. But even taking this unpredictability into account, promoters can quite often match fighters in such a way that the competitor they want to win usually comes out on top.

Saturday’s fight between Jake Hager and JW Kiser at Bellator 214 should be one of those occasions. Despite being the UFC’s nearest rival promotion, realistically Bellator are simply miles behind the WME-headed juggernaut. And with this in mind, they need every possible drawing card they can find. It’s why they try so hard to steal free agents away from the UFC, and it’s why they promoted fighters like Kimbo Slice, Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie.

With his WWE background, Jake Hager is almost definitely a possible drawing card. He doesn’t have the star power of Brock Lesnar or even CM Punk, but he was a former WWE champion and is clearly a recognisable star. So of course, it makes sense that Bellator would love for him to win on Saturday. And in a world where upsets happen – witness Zach Freeman stunning the highly touted Aaron Pico in his MMA debut – it’s important to match someone like Hager carefully.

Thankfully, Kiser looks like the perfect type of opponent. Freeman was coming into his fight with Pico with a record of 8-2 – a pretty strong level of experience compared to his debuting opponent. Kiser on the other hand has a 1-1 record according to Bellator, but Sherdog.com has him at 0-1, and he’s also 41 years old. That sounds like favourable matchmaking for Hager to me, and it’s another reason why he should win handily.

#3 He’s got a huge size advantage

At 6'4
At 6'4" and 260lbs, Hager will be a huge MMA Heavyweight

The world of WWE is very deceptive in a lot of respects, but one area where it’s more deceptive than others is in the size of its athletes. Wrestlers like The Undertaker, The Big Show and Braun Strowman are essentially real-life giants – standing anywhere between 6’8” and 7’0” and weighing well over 300lbs. That means that wrestlers who would be considered large by any regular standards can look far smaller in comparison.

As Jack Swagger, Jake Hager didn’t appear to be a huge man when he was competing in the WWE ring – he clearly wasn’t a smaller wrestler like Rey Mysterio or Daniel Bryan, but he never came across as a giant monster. It might then come as a surprise to learn that for his MMA debut, Hager will likely have to cut weight to make the 265lbs Heavyweight limit.

Billed by WWE at 6’7” and 275lbs, Hager’s estimated true size is somewhere around 6’4” and 260lbs. That’s bigger than UFC Heavyweights like Daniel Cormier, Cain Velasquez and Stipe Miocic, putting him more towards the range of Brock Lesnar’s size when he was competing in MMA. And as a powerful wrestler, that size will definitely come in handy for his fighting career.

Against JW Kiser, it should play an even bigger part given Kiser is reportedly just 6’0” and 220lbs – and judging by photos, he’s not in tremendous shape either, meaning he could probably make 205lbs or 185lbs with more effort. Basically, when the two men step into the Bellator cage on Saturday, Hager should have a huge size advantage over his opponent – making his likely wrestling-heavy gameplan far easier to implement.

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