February 21, 2018

Matt Mitrione May No Longer Be the Favorite To Win The Bellator Grand Prix

By Adam Martin

There's no question that heading into the eight-man Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix, former NFL player turned UFC fighter Matt Mitrione was the favorite to win the tournament. Mitrione, who brutally knocked out Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator NYC, is one of the biggest and most athletic fighters in the tournament, and also took the momentum of a three-fight knockout streak into the tournament stage. Based on the way the brackets broke down, Mitrione was the favorite in the eyes of many, including the oddsmakers who had him ahead of the field to win it all.

But after his disappointing majority decision win over Roy Nelson at Bellator 194, it's hard to say whether Mitrione is still the favorite. There's no question Mitrione's striking was on point, but his lack of grappling was exposed in this fight. Nelson was able to take Mitrione down at will in the later stages of the first and second rounds, and spent the majority of the third on top in the crucifix position. Credit to Mitrione for being tough and not getting stopped, but there's a good argument that the third round was a 10-8, and Mitrione is lucky he escaped with a close win.

After this mediocre performance by Mitrione, it's hard to consider him the favorite to beat the winner of the other quarterfinal matchup on his side of the bracket. That features Ryan Bader taking on Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal. Though both men are natural light heavyweights, they are two of the bigger 205ers on the Bellator roster and aren't completely out of place in this tournament. While Bader hasn't fought at heavyweight before, King Mo has had quite a bit of success fighting in the weight class, which should help him. The fact that both men are excellent wrestlers means that the winner should have a big advantage over Mitrione in the grappling department even despite the size difference. And neither Bader nor King Mo is completely out of place in the striking department, even though it's fair to say Mitrione has more pure knockout power.

If Mitrione was on the other side of the bracket, he would have a much better chance of advancing to the finals. In the other side of the bracket, in the first quarterfinal Chael Sonnen already beat Quinton "Rampage" Jackson. Though Sonnen is a good wrestler, he's severely undersized at heavyweight and Mitrione's girth would give him a big edge in that fight. Mitrione would be a big favorite over Sonnnen. In the other quarterfinal, Fedor fights Frank Mir. Mitrione already knocked out Fedor and would be favored in a rematch, and although Mir is a big heavyweight with incredible submissions, his chin is also very questionable, and he's slow, so Mitrione would have a big edge on the feet.

But against Bader or King Mo, it's fair to question Mitrione's status as a tournament favorite. It's likely he'll still be favored if Mo happens to upset Bader, but if Bader can dominate Mo, take him down, and finish him, it would likely make people think twice about picking Mitrione over him, especially after the way he looked against Nelson. Bader has big power, amazing wrestling, and really good cardio. He can be finished, but it's not easy to do. Mitrione has big power but poor grappling. It makes Bader vs. Mitrione a very intriguing fight. We'll see how the Bader vs. King Mo matchup shakes out, but at this point it's fair to wonder if Mitrione should still be the favorite to win the Grand Prix. And if an alternate happens to enter the tournament at some point, there's no telling could happen.

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