Bellator 214: Fedor vs. Bader - Predictions and Picks
Bellator MMA presents its latest ‘tentpole’ show on Saturday, as Bellator 124: Fedor vs. Bader goes down live from the Forum in Inglewood, California. The show goes unopposed by the UFC after the cancellation of UFC 233, meaning the eyes of the MMA world should be fully focused on the Scott Coker-headed promotion for once.
The 5-fight main card will air on both the Paramount network and on the DAZN streaming service, and the top three fights at least are fantastic; we’ll see a new Bellator Heavyweight champion crowned for the first time since 2016, a former WWE superstar makes his MMA debut, and one of the top prospects in the sport is back in action against his toughest test to date.
Here are the predicted outcomes for Bellator 124: Fedor vs. Bader.
#1 Fedor Emelianenko vs. Ryan Bader
In a fight to decide both the winner of Bellator’s Heavyweight Grand Prix and the new Bellator Heavyweight champion, the consensus greatest Heavyweight in the history of MMA – Fedor Emelianenko – takes on former UFC star and current Bellator Light-Heavyweight champion Ryan Bader.
Regardless of the winner, we’ll see history made; if Bader wins, he’ll become Bellator’s first double champion, an achievement which would probably rank as the biggest in the history of the promotion, and if Fedor wins, it’ll crown a stunning comeback for the Russian that many people would never have seen coming when he lost to Matt Mitrione in his promotional debut.
In all honesty, it’s hard to take a lot from the recent fights of both men. Fedor defeated Frank Mir and Chael Sonnen to make this final, but there’s a clear argument that both of those fighters are as far past their primes as Fedor himself, and the Russian took some serious damage in the Mir fight before pulling off the win.
Bader meanwhile defeated two stylistic lay-ups in the form of King Mo Lawal and Matt Mitrione; Lawal’s deteriorated chin made him an easy target for Bader’s power punching, and Mitrione’s ground game has always been his Achilles heel, which made him easy pickings for Bader’s wrestling.
Size also shouldn’t make too much of a difference in this one. Fedor has fought nearly all of his career at Heavyweight, but as a smaller, chubby Heavyweight weighing around 235lbs. Bader meanwhile was always a huge 205lber with a big frame, and so adding some muscle to move up to Heavyweight hasn’t been an issue at all. If anything, Bader may come in with a size advantage.
The problem I’m having picking this one basically stems from a lack of trust in Bader’s defences. For all intents and purposes, the former NCAA Division I wrestler is in his prime while Fedor is way past his, he hits super-hard and Fedor’s ability to absorb punishment is massively deteriorated, and even in his prime, Fedor never had the greatest takedown defense. All of that suggests this should be an easy win for Bader.
And yet, how can you count Fedor out? In his prime he was almost impossible to put away – just ask Kevin Randleman, Kazuyuki Fujita or Brett Rogers – but while he doesn’t have that kind of durability any more, he’s still a highly dangerous fighter when it comes to offense. He’s no stranger to pulling sudden submissions out of the bag from his back, and everyone knows that at Heavyweight, the last thing to go is a fighter’s punching power.
What’s more, Bader has never been the most durable fighter himself. Of his 5 career losses, 3 of them came via knockout and one of the other two – his 2011 loss to Tito Ortiz – was primarily set up after Bader was knocked down by a punch. If Fedor catches him cleanly, could he put ‘Darth’ away? For sure, and that’s what makes this such an interesting fight.
That’s not to say that Fedor only has a puncher’s chance, too. He managed to get into top position during scrambles against an excellent wrestler in Chael Sonnen, and his ground-and-pound remains second-to-none – while Bader’s skill off his back looked pretty negligible in his 2016 fight with Anthony Johnson.
At the end of the day though, I’m picking Bader here based on the fact that Fedor’s durability isn’t what it used to be, and I can’t see Bader taking too many silly risks. I suspect he’ll come out looking for the takedown right away, and will look to use his own ground-and-pound to take the Russian legend out.
Against a top wrestler with less power in his shots – think Phil Davis for instance – I’d be tempted to take Fedor, but Bader throws seriously heavy hands and assuming he doesn’t make any early mistakes, this should be his fight to lose. To see Fedor win would not shock me, though – he made a career from beating the odds at times and this would cap it all off nicely.
The Pick: Bader via first-round TKO