Preview by Josh Nason
Even though they spent time in the same organizations throughout their lengthy careers, Fedor Emelianenko and Rampage Jackson never crossed paths inside a ring or a cage. That changes Saturday as the two will face off in the main event of Bellator 237, a joint event with Rizin at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
The show will be aired live on DAZN and Paramount Network.
Fedor is on his retirement tour after signing a new deal with Bellator, but hasn't fought since last January when he was knocked out by Ryan Bader in the heavyweight title Grand Prix finals in just 35 seconds. Jackson has been on the shelf even longer as he hasn't fought since September 2018 in a second round TKO win over Wanderlei Silva.
Michael Chandler was originally scheduled to face Benson Henderson in the co-main, but Henderson had to pull out in early-December due to an injury. Chandler will now face Sidney Outlaw instead. Michael Venom Page (aka MVP) will also fight on the main card against Shinsho Anzai.
Our live coverage will begin at 10 p.m. Eastern.
Daron Cruickshank of the good ole USA out to Hulk Hogan's "Real American" theme, which would be like if Jack Swagger (not Jake Hager) had used "Wild Boys" in pro wrestling. He's facing Goiti Yamauchi. Ironically, Yamauchi, the Japanese fighter, is the one representing Bellator in this promotional battle, as Cruickshank, a former UFC fighter, is a RIZIN regular.
And Bellator wins as Goiti Yamauchi wasted no time in taking the back standing of Cruickshank and dragging him to the mat, before securing a rear naked choke for the first round submission. That's his SEVENTEETH first round submission.
WINNER - GOITI YAMAUCHI (25-4) by submission (rear naked choke) over Daron Cruickshank (22-13) at 3:11
Next up are the ladies, with Kana Watanabe representing RIZIN against Ilara Joanne of Bellator. Joanne comes up to a weird remake of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" that Mike Goldberg and John McCarthy make light of.
Joanne was landing good shots on the feet so Watanabe took her down. Joanne was working for a triangle from her guard for a couple of minutes and it looked close but Watanabe escaped. Watanabe landed some ground and pound and was going for an arm triangle as the round ended. Close round, probably goes to Watanabe since she closed strong.
Watanabe took Joanne down early in round 2 but Joanne reversed and spent most of the round on top. She did nothing with the position, though. Watanabe was landing very light strikes from the bottom and then reversed position with about 30 seconds left and landed a lot of hard shots and likely took that round as well. John McCarthy had round 1 for Joanne but I've got Watanabe up 20-18
Watanabe got a takedown early in round 3. Joanne was working for an armbar from her back and throwing elbows but Watanabe fought it off. Watanabe moved into half guard and was landing enough ground and pound to avoid a standup. Eventually she took her back and was landing punches to the head that weren't being defended and the ref stopped it.
WINNER - KANA WATANABE (9-0-1) by TKO (punches) over Ilara Joanne (9-5)
Nakamura fighting next against Lorenz Larkin, representing Bellator in a battle of former UFC fighters. No, it's not THAT Nakamura. K-Taro Nakamura is the "master of the rear naked choke". Larkin is pumped about getting a chance to fight in the Saitama Super Arena. Larkin missed weight by 2.5 lbs for this welterweight clash.
Round 1 was all on the feet. The difference was the speed of Larkin, both in landing shots and avoiding them from Nakamura. Larkin landed hard kicks to the body and legs that were leaving their mark and clearly took the first.
Round 2 was more of the same. Nakamura had a brief flurry where he backed Larkiin up to the cage but by the end of the round, Larkin was landing hard shots including a jumping knee with a hard elbow to the head shortly after that. Larkin clearly up 20-18 after 2.
Larkin dominating on the feet to start round 3. Nakamura went for a takedown and held onto the leg and in the process ate some hard punches and elbows from Larkin that busted him up. He got to his feet bleeding heavily from his left eye and other cuts on his head. Larkin coasted the rest of the round but probably did enough for a 10-8 with all the damage so I've got it 30-26 Larkin
WINNER - LORENZ LARKIN (22-7) by decision over K-Taro Nakamura (35-11-2) on scores of 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26
Another guy coming out to a WWE theme song with Shinsho Anzai using Limp Bizkit's "Rollin'" for his fight with MVP, aka Michael Venom Page. This was set up as a 173 lb contracted fight but MVP looks at least a weight class bigger.
Anzai got hit with a flying knee while going for a takedown but managed to stay on his feet. MVP did the same thing a 2nd time but didn't connect as well and got stuck with his back to the cage. MVP managed to break free of that and toyed with Shinsho on the feet. A straight punch from MVP knocked Shinsho down but he let him up. Shinsho with a huge cut around his left eye after that. MVP hit him with another jumping knee while taunting him. He closed the round by taking his back standing. Probaby a 10-8 round but the way this is going, the score probably won't matter.
MVP finished him with a hard right to the head early in the 2nd to pick up the KO win. This was basically a squash match and MVP looked good.
WINNER - MICHAEL VENOM PAGE (17-1) by KO (punch) over Shinsho Anzai (11-4) at 21 seconds of the 2nd round
Another enhancement match serves as the co-main with former lightweight champion taking on Sidney Outlaw. Outlaw is coming off a win over former UFC star Roger Huerta but that's it for the Bellator vs RIZIN theme for the night. This is a 160 lb catchweight fight.
Chandler was dominating on the feet, although he did eat one hard shot from Outlaw. Shortly after that, he dropped Outlaw with a straight right cross that knocked him down and another shot to the side of the head on the ground and the ref stopped it. Outlaw was up quickly but it was a good stoppage.
WINNER - MICHAEL CHANDLER (20-5) by KO (punch) over Sidney Outlaw (14-4) at 2:59
Lenne Hardt doing the intros for the main event and Rampage out to the old Pride theme. Business has just picked up. Rampage, who fought the majority of his career at light heavyweight, had to cut to make the 265 lb limit and outweighs Fedor by 25 pounds for this fight. He greatly resembles his childhood hero, Junkyard Dog, at this point.
Fedor landing a lot of shots early. Rampage covering up and most of them blocked but a few got through. Rampage nearly fell over while throwing a haymaker and Fedor landed some nice punches. Fedor started to land kicks to the leg and body. Uppercut from Fedor lands hard and Rampage falls face first to the canvas and the ref stops it. Crowd goes silent.
WINNER - FEDOR EMELIANENKO (39-6) by KO (punch) over Rampage Jackson (38-14) at 2:44
Rampage was questioning the stoppage but it was good as he was clearly out of it for several seconds before regaining his bearings and he had nothing. This wasn't quite as bad as Chuck Liddell looked against Tito but it wasn't far off.