After leaving Strikeforce, Fedor Emelianenko will fight again on U.S. soil, but not in the UFC as many had hoped. “The Last Emperor” makes his return Saturday in the main event of Bellator 172 against former UFC fighter Matt Mitrione. This is one of the biggest and most stacked events Bellator has put together in the company’s history, and it also features the long-awaited Bellator debut of Josh Koscheck, along with an important lightweight bout between Josh Thomson and Patricky Freire.
What: Bellator 172
Where: SAP Center, San Jose, California
When: Saturday, Feb. 18. The preliminary card begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on MMA Fighting, and the five-fight main card begins at 9 p.m. ET on Spike.
How will the one of the biggest legends in the sport fare against a solid heavyweight fighter after having the worst performance of his career? I think that’s the question that has many people intrigued leading into the Bellator 172 main event bout between Fedor Emelianenko and Matt Mitrione.
Emelianenko, who many consider to be the greatest fighter of all time, had a questionable performance in his most recent bout, despite coming out the winner. The 40-year-old heavyweight fought Fabio Maldonado, a former UFC light heavyweight who is 1-5 in his past six bouts. Many expected Emelianenko to run through Maldonado, but instead, Emelianenko got beat up by the Brazilian and somehow won a controversial decision. Now, Emelianenko is facing a tougher challenge than Maldonado.
Mitrione is 2-0 since joining Bellator with stoppage wins over Carl Seumanutafa and Oli Thompson. Before the Bellator run, “Meathead” fought long enough in the UFC to prove he’s a top-15 heavyweight and arguably a top-10. He’s very quick on his feet, has good boxing with good power behind his strikes, and seems to be carrying nice momentum. Mitrione is the best fighter Emelianenko has fought since leaving Strikeforce in 2011.
I think it’s worth noting that Mitrione leaves himself open in almost every fight and often gets caught. And despite of how bad Emelianenko looked in his last bout, he’s still a tough, experienced fighter with great power, so a knockout win for the Russian wouldn’t be a crazy result. However, I don’t see that being the likely outcome here. I see Mitrione using his size, speed, and boxing to get an impressive victory over Emelianenko.
This is likely to be a title eliminator bout, but probably more for Josh Thomson than Patricky Freire.
Thomson is 2-0 since leaving the UFC and joining Bellator. He hasn’t fought in a little over a year, but considering the amount of face punching he’s been involved in, I think the time off should actually be refreshing to his career and not detrimental. Thomson is the definition of a well-rounded fighter. He’s tough, a good athlete, skilled on the ground and on the feet, and has an edge in experience against almost anyone he fights.
Freire might not be nearly as technical as Thomson, but he still remains a very dangerous fighter. The Brazilian is explosive and sometimes reckless with his striking, which has allowed him to score some brutal knockouts in the past. But that same recklessness has also created openings that have cost him badly in a few loses.
I see Thomson being too technical and experienced to be caught in a brawl with Freire. I think Thomson will mix things up with his striking and grappling and get a solid win.
Oli Thompson is a big guy who hits very hard, and in the past, sometimes fights don’t end so well for Cheick Kongo when facing a power puncher. However, I don’t see Kongo losing here.
From what I’ve seen, Thompson tends fade past the first round, and that should be a big issue when facing Kongo. Kongo is strong, well-conditioned, has decent wrestling, and fights well from the clinch. It might not be the most exciting style to watch, but Kongo has developed a game that uses his athleticism and grappling to grind his way to decisions and reduce the chances of him getting caught with a hard hit. Obviously, with heavyweights anything can happen, but I see Kongo getting a decision win with his superior grappling and conditioning.
Well, Brooke Mayo is 0-0 and will be making her professional MMA debut in the main card of a major Bellator event. And believe it or not, this will likely be the most exciting fight of the main card.
It’s easy to dismiss Mayo, since she has no professional experience and Artega does. But from what I’ve seen from her amateur fights, Mayo is actually a decent fighter. Her striking is not great, but she’s tough and relentless with her takedowns. She also has good grappling and uses her long frame well with her jiu-jitsu. Artega, on the other hand, proved to be a scrappy and durable fighter who can do some damage on her feet in her fight against Anastasia Yankova.
I think Mayo is tough enough to take some of Artega’s shots and skilled enough to get the fight to the ground and get a finish.
Josh Koscheck is finally making his Bellator debut almost two years after signing with the promotion. Koscheck was one of the best welterweights in the world at one point, but now finds himself on a five-fight losing streak at 39 years of age. It’s hard to really tell where his skills are at this point in time, and that makes this fight tough to predict.
His opponent is no youngster too; Mauricio Alonso is 36 years old. He usually fights at middleweight, so he will have a size advantage here. He’s not much of a striker and his output is very low on the feet. Alonso’s game lies in takedowns and a solid jiu-jitsu top game.
The Brazilian has put together a winning record of 12-7 against regional competition, but I’d like to believe that Koscheck, despite his losing streak, has not dropped to that level. Being the veteran, I see Koscheck using his experience and craftiness to get a win here.