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Bellator NYC Observer Panel picks: Chael vs. Wanderlei; Fedor vs. Mitrione

Bellator NYC

It’s the biggest show in the history of Bellator MMA tonight as they return to PPV with Bellator NYC. There are three world title fights on the card, but the show is headlined by a grudge match years in the making with Chael Sonnen taking on Wanderlei Silva in the promotional debut for the latter fighter.

Also making their Bellator debut is former Pride legend and the one-time top heavyweight in the world Fedor Emelianenko. He will step into the cage with Matt Mitrione, looking for his third straight win since joining Bellator.

The most high profile title fight will actually headline the prelims on Spike, called Bellator 180, as light heavyweight champion Phil Davis faces the debuting Ryan Bader. 

On the PPV main card, there are two title fights. Lightweight champion Michael Chandler, who in many ways is the face of the company, defends against little known but unbeaten Brent Primus while recent UFC free agent Lorenz Larkin challenges champion Douglas Lima for his welterweight belt.

If you're new here, our panel picks are listed below and listed alongside the fighter's names are their worldwide FightMatrix rankings, as well as BestFightOdds.com betting odds. The panelist's 2017 records is in parentheses, and we also have panel consensus picks as well as a line where we show how the betting favorites did:

  • John Pollock (30-13; .698) -- Fight Network analyst, Live Audio Wrestling co-host, MMA Report co-host
  • Dave Meltzer (30-13; .684) -- Wrestling Observer publisher
  • Consensus Picks (28-13; .683)
  • Favorites (29-14; .674)
  • Mike Sawyer (28-15; .651) -- Tough Talk MMA publisher
  • David Bixenspan (28-15; .651) – Deadspin pro wrestling columnist; Between the Sheets podcast host
  • Steve Juon (27-16; .628) -- MMA Mania writer, Angry Marks publisher
  • Josh Nason (26-17; .605) -- Host of Josh Nason’s Punch Out, WrestlingObserver.com assistant editor
  • Tom Lawlor (3-2; .600) – Co-host Filthy Four Daily; pro wrestling undercard fighter; UFC enhancement talent currently suspended due to wellness violation
  • Mike Sempervive (25-18; .581) -- Wrestling Observer Live and Big Audio Nightmare co-host
  • Ryan Frederick (23-20; .535) -- WrestlingObserver.com UFC writer
  • Paul Fontaine (22-21; .512) -- MMADraws.com publisher, WrestlingObserver.com writer
  • Front Row Brian (20-23; .465) -- MMA newsbreaker, beloved internet personality, podcast host

Chael Sonnen (28-15-1) vs Wanderlei Silva (35-12-1)
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS

This fight was originally scheduled to happen in UFC in 2013, but both men had PED issues at that time and the fight never took place despite both guys building up the grudge match as TUF Brazil coaches.

Sonnen has already fought in Bellator, losing to Tito Ortiz earlier this year while “The Axe Murderer” will be fighting for the first time in Bellator. Both guys have been relatively quiet leading into this one and it’s hard to say where either guy goes from here, no matter what the result.

  • Sonnen #40; -149 betting favorite: Lawlor, FRB, Frederick, Sempervive, Fontaine, Nason, Bix
  • Silva NR; +155 betting underdog: Sawyer, Juon, Pollock, Meltzer

> Fedor Emelianenko (36-4) vs Matt Mitrione (11-5)
HEAVYWEIGHTS

This one was originally set to go down in February in San Jose, but Mitrione had to pull out that night due to kidney stones while Fedor elected to wait until Mitrione was healthy enough to compete rather than take on another opponent.

Fedor is on a five-fight win streak with no blemishes on his record since losing to Dan Henderson in Strikeforce back in 2011. However, he was retired for a few years and one of the wins on his comeback, Fabio Maldonado in EFN, was questionable at best. Mitrione has knocked out both of his Bellator opponents so far and a third KO in this one would make him the leading contender for the vacant heavyweight title.

  • Fedor #29; +110 betting underdog: FRB, Sawyer, Meltzer
  • Mitrione #21; -120 betting favorite: Lawlor, Frederick, Juon, Sempervive, Pollock, Fontaine, Bix, Nason

> Bellator Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler (16-3) vs Brent Primus (7-0)

Chandler has looked great ever since capturing the title vacated by Will Brooks. He knocked out Patricky Pitbull in the first round to win the belt and then won a decision over former UFC champion Benson Henderson in his first title defense. Primus will fight on a Bellator main card for only the second time in his career but he does have five stoppage wins in his young career, including each of his first three Bellator fights. Neither the oddsmakers or our panel is giving him much of a chance of escaping MSG with his perfect record intact.

  • Chandler #6; -714 betting favorite: Lawlor, FRB, Sawyer, Frederick, Juon, Sempervive, Pollock, Fontaine, Bix, Nason, Meltzer

> Bellator Welterweight Champion Douglas Lima (28-6) vs Lorenz Larkin (18-5)

Lima is a 2-time champion in Bellator, having won a tournament for the vacant title in 2015, later losing it to Andrey Koreshkov, and then gaining it back with a 3rd round KO last November. He’s a Bellator mainstay as this will be his 14th trip into their cage. Larkin fights for the first time in Bellator but he has worked for Scott Coker in the past. He started his career in Strikeforce, running up an impressive record there before moving over to UFC when that promotion was shut down. He won his last two fights in UFC and would’ve won five in a row if not for a split decision loss to Albert Tumenov.

Another ex-UFC vet in Rory McDonald awaits the winner.

  • Lima #15; +170 betting underdog: Juon, Sempervive
  • Larkin #10; -185 betting favorite: Lawlor, FRB, Sawyer, Frederick, Pollock, Fontaine, Bix, Nason, Meltzer

> Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Phil Davis (17-3) vs Ryan Bader (22-5)

This will be the first title defence for the veteran Davis, who won the title with a dominant performance over Liam McGeary last November. He has won all four of his fights in Bellator, including a one-night tournament in September 2015 which earned him the title shot.

Bader was long considered the top UFC 205-pound fighter to not receive a title shot. Like Larkin, he won his last two UFC fights and seven of his last eight fights there with the only loss being a first round KO at the hands of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Bader beat Davis in January 2015 in what was a very controversial decision. The winner here will likely defend against King Mo next.

  • Davis #3; -115 betting favorite: Sawyer, Juon, Sempervive, Fontaine, Nason, Meltzer
  • Bader #5; +110 betting underdog: Lawlor, FRB, Frederick, Pollock, Bix

**********

Other notable fights on the card:

> Aaron Pico (pro debut) vs Zach Freeman (8-2)
LIGHTWEIGHTS

  • Pico NR; no betting odds for this fight
  • Freeman #506

> James Gallagher (6-0) vs Chinzo Machida (5-2)
FEATHERWEIGHTS

  • Gallagher #472; -200 betting favorite
  • Machida NR; +198 betting underdog

> Neiman Gracie (5-0) vs Dave Marfone (5-2)
WELTERWEIGHTS

  • Gracie #212; -833 betting favorite
  • Marfone NR; +702 betting underdog

> Ryan Couture (10-5) vs Haim Gozali (7-3)

WELTERWEIGHTS

  • Couture #253; -525 betting favorite
  • Gozali NR; +530 betting underdog

Action begins with the Spike.com prelims at 6:00 PM EST and moves over to Spike at 8 PM EST. The main card airs on PPV at 10 PM EST, and will be covered here.