Not everyone was on board with the line-up Bellator tapped for the promotion’s heavyweight grand-prix, or how the tourney was scheduled. But, Ryan Bader’s emphatic win at Bellator 199, is the latest piece to fall the promotion’s way.
Bader took on “King Mo” Lawal on Saturday night, in what was the last bout of the tourney’s quarterfinal round. The fight generated some buzz, at least throughout the hardcore fanbase, due to the fact both Bader and Lawal are top tier light-heavyweights.
Well, the bout ended up being a very memorable one, not because it was a prolonged war, but because Bader took out Lawal in just 15 seconds. With the win, Bader will advance to the semifinals of the competition, and he will battle Matt Mitrione (quote via MMA Junkie):
“It gets real now,” Bader said afterwards. “It’s heavyweight.”
“Now I have Mitrione, who’s a true heavyweight,” Bader added. “I’m actually stepping up into the heavyweight division now.”
Yup. While Lawal has competed at heavyweight in the past, and scored some big wins in that weight class, there’s no denying that Mitrione is a legit, heavyweight. So, from that perspective, it will get “real”. But, thanks to Bader’s jaw dropping win at Bellator 199, and because of what he’s accomplished since he signed with the UFC, this is another, interesting story line that’s emerged in the grand-prix.
More than a few people have criticized Bellator’s decision to tap fighters for the tourney, who aren’t in fact heavyweights. And, yes, some observers predicted that Bader would win the grand-prix from the onset.
But, thanks to what transpired at Bellator 199, the promotion has some pretty compelling footage to hype up Bader’s bout with Mitrione, and the fact he could become both the light-heavyweight and heavyweight champ. Bader didn’t get to the semifinals via a wrestling centric performance, or via a tightly contested, split decision, which wouldn’t resonate with mainstream fans.
In addition, throughout hardcore circles, Bader’s latest win has served as evidence to some, that the UFC messed up big time by not resigning “Darth”. The victory also took place not long after Fedor Emelianenko jarred the MMA world by quickly taking out Frank Mir, and advancing to a semifinal bout with Chael Sonnen. That’s also a fight that should generate a significant amount of interest.
With the quarterfinals wrapped up, it does seem like Bellator has a lot to work with, moving into the next stage of the grand-prix. That’s not something that was certain at all, one month ago.