Preview by Josh Nason
After a year and six fights, the finals of the Bellator heavyweight Grand Prix are finally here. Chael Sonnen, Frank Mir, Matt Mitrione, King Mo, Roy Nelson, and Rampage Jackson all fell by the wayside and now, Fedor Emelianenko and Ryan Bader remain.
Luke Thomas pointed out on this week's MMA Beat that while the sports world is buzzing about the length of time between Tom Brady's first Super Bowl and this year's big game, Fedor has been in the game for an incredible 19 years, most of which has been at a high level.
Bader is the company's light heavyweight champion, but the fight is lacking that champ-champ feel. Perhaps that's because the vacant heavyweight title has been pushed far into the background throughout this whole tournament in favor of the Grand Prix name. Bader has looked great in this new weight class and his signing several years ago continues to pay off dividends for all parties involved.
Did you know they haven't had a heavyweight champion in nearly three years? Very odd.
Anyway, Aaron Pico is also on the show and could earn a title shot with a big win, but the bigger news for our audience is the MMA debut of Jake Hager, the former WWE champion Jack Swagger. He has a great pedigree as a college wrestler, but at 36 years old, this is a big shift. He faces a relatively inexperienced fighter in J.W. Kiser on the main card.
Paul Fontaine kicks us off with results from the main event, the Pico fight and the Hager fight later tonight.
Earlier in the show:
Adel Altamimi (8-5) submitted Brandon Macmahan (5-7) with an armbar in the first round. Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt was in the corner of Altamimi and celebrated with him in the cage afterward.
Juan Archuleta (22-1) won an unanimous decision (29-28 x 3) over Ricky Bandejas (11-2). Archuleta was cornered by UFC champion TJ Dillashaw. This was a good fight and worth checking out if you have DAZN.
Bellator announced 2 title fights for April 27 in San Jose with Rory McDonald defending his welterweight title against Jon Fitch, which is also a first round match in the welterweight Grand Prix. Ilema-Lei MacFarlane and Veta Artega meet up for MacFarlane's flyweight belt.
Leading up to the Hager fight, analyst Frank Mir talked about taking on a former WWE champion himself earlier in his career when he faced Brock Lesnar. The commentators joked that Hager and Lesnar had legit credentials as compared to another former WWE champ, CM Punk, who also tried MMA and didn't do so well.
Jake Hager vs. J.W. Kiser - heavyweights
Hager reprised his WWE catchphrase of "We The People" to zero reaction from the crowd during his entrance. Ron Killings, aka R-Truth, sang his entrance song. Not making that up.
Hager has a 6 inch height and 12 inch reach advantage over his opponent, who is also 3 years older and giving up about 20 lbs of weight.
Hagger gets a takedown to start. Mick Foley tweeting support. Heger with a Kumura attempt as he eats punches from Kiser. Goldberg mentions Bautista, Lashley, Lesnar and CM Punk as former pro wrestlers who have done MMA. Hager landing punches to the head and sets up an arm triangle and gets the quick tap.
Official result - Jake Hager (1-0) by submission (head and arm choke) at 2:09
Hager said that hard work paid off and gave a shout-out to Parry, OK and, not surprisingly, he got no reaction from the LA crowd. They clearly have no idea who he is or just don't care because he's not getting any more reaction than any other 1-0 fighter. He promised to be in the Bellator cage alot and says he'll be fighting for the next decade.
He addressed Vince McMahon telling him not to lose by saying "Sometimes to convince Vince, you have to con Vince". Again, zero reaction and he again tried the "We The People" gimmick to no reaction.
Aaron Pico vs. Henry Corrales
Corrales is a real fighter who has only 3 losses, all to former Bellator champions, in his career. Pico has the crowd chanting for him from the start of the fight.
Pico stunned Corrales with an uppercut 45 seconds in. Corrales recovers and lands a combo that knocks Pico out cold.
Official result - Henry Corrales (17-3) by knockout (punches) at 1:07
While Corrales was giving his post-fight promo, the camera was showing Pico walking back to the cage. There is a reason why fighters are brought up slowly and why prospects are generally protected early in their careers and this is it. Corrales is a world title contender and Pico was not even close to being ready for him. Corrales asked for a rematch with Patricio Pitbull, who beat him in a fight he took on short notice first time out. His promo was expletive-ridden and I watched on DAZN so not sure how much of it would've made air on Paramount.
Andrew Whitworth of the LA Rams was interviewed in the crowd and got a lot of boos in advance of next week's Super Bowl. Must be Chargers fans at the Forum tonight. He was asked for a prediction in the main event and took Bader, which drew a mixed reaction from the crowd.
Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix/Vacant Championship Finals: Fedor Emelianenko vs. Ryan Bader
Both national anthems were played in their entirely. A ton of down-time on this show with all the early finishes and a 3 hour broadcast window to fill for 5 fights, only 3 of which anyone cares about.
Still kind of unreal that Fedor is fighting for a major world title in 2019. Bader looks like he's giving up some size,
Bader knocks out Fedor with the first punch of the fight, a left hook. Frank Mir had called that earlier in the night as being what Fedor would need to look out for.
Official result - Ryan Bader (27-5) by KO (punch) at 35 seconds
Bader got two more belts with the heavyweight title as well as a belt for winning the Grand Prix. Bader said it was an honor just to be in "the ring" with Fedor.
Bader said he would talk to his team and see what he would do but that he would like to defend both belts if at all possible. He also said he loved the idea of the tournament and put over Bellator for making it happen. He got a nice reaction from the crowd, who seemed pro-Fedor before the fight.