The world’s second-largest MMA promotion behind the juggernaut that is the UFC, Bellator MMA hasn’t really done a lot to pique the interest of the casual fan in 2019, but Scott Coker’s crew have been steadily chugging along anyway, and this weekend sees their 14th show of the year, live from Bridgeport, Connecticut, to be shown on the Paramount Network and the DAZN streaming service.
The card isn’t bad at all actually – the main event sees Matt Mitrione and Sergei Kharitonov run back their fight that initially took place in February – more on that in a moment – while former Bellator Heavyweight champ Vitaly Minakov and top prospect Tyrell Fortune mean the whole main card should be worth watching.
Here are the predicted outcomes for Bellator 225: Mitrione vs. Kharitonov 2.
#1 Matt Mitrione vs. Sergei Kharitonov
Usually I’m not a fan of instant rematches in MMA, but in this case, a rematch was probably the only option for Scott Coker. These two Heavyweights headlined Bellator 215 back in February, but the fight turned out to be one of the biggest anticlimaxes in the promotion’s history, as Matt Mitrione kicked Sergei Kharitonov in the groin after just 15 seconds, rendering the Russian incapable of continuing and resulting in the fight being declared a No Contest.
Assuming the same doesn’t happen this time – although there is a precedent for that in Bellator, just ask Thiago Silva and Eric Prindle – then how should we expect this one to go? For me, I think it’ll probably go better for Mitrione than it will for Kharitonov.
In their primes, of course, I’d have taken Kharitonov in a heartbeat. Back in his PRIDE days – particularly from 2004 to 2005 – the Russian was one of the best Heavyweights in the world, point-blank. His stirring run to the semi-finals of the 2004 PRIDE Grand Prix – where he was edged out by a prime Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira – was brilliant, and he also picked up wins over the likes of Fabricio Werdum and Pedro Rizzo.
That was 15 years ago, though. And while Kharitonov has proven he can still crack – he knocked out Roy Nelson last year and is on a 5-fight win streak (ignoring two No Contests) – his knockout loss to the unheralded Javy Ayala in his Bellator debut proved that his durability is definitely on the wane. It’s hardly a surprise given he turned 39 last week and has been fighting since 2000.
Mitrione, on the other hand, has never quite lived up to his supposed potential. A tremendous athlete, he’s surprisingly quick for a guy who stands at 6’3” and weighs around 255lbs, and while he’s not exactly svelte, he isn’t your classic sloppy Heavyweight. In fact, his kickboxing skills are pretty great – he can fling combinations and kicks out with ease thanks to his sheer explosiveness, and that skill-set has led him to 11 wins via KO or TKO.
Sure, his ground game still largely stinks – literally every time he’s been on the ground from what I can recall he’s struggled, examples being his submission losses to Ben Rothwell and Brendan Schaub as well as his one-sided loss to Ryan Bader – but as Kharitonov has never been a man to grapple, he should be okay in this fight from that standpoint.
If both of these men were in their primes I think Kharitonov’s slick boxing skills would’ve gotten the job done – for all his speed and explosiveness, Mitrione remains hittable and doesn’t have a granite chin – but in 2019 with Kharitonov having a career’s worth of punishment behind him? I just can’t see him surviving a big shot from Mitrione, who will likely pick up another surprisingly big-name victory.
The Pick: Mitrione via first-round KO