Bellator 208: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistOctober 11, 2018

Bellator 208: Bleacher Report Main Card Staff Predictions

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Bellator's heavyweight grand prix will have its finalists after the organization completes its two cards on Friday and Saturday. And on Saturday, Bellator 208 comes to your television screens with a solid five-fight main card.

    Leading the charge is the much-anticipated scrap between Fedor Emelianenko and Chael Sonnen. The semi-finals of the grand prix features two of the most recognizable names in the sport, albeit for totally different reasons.

    Will Sonnen be able to stun the MMA world by knocking off one of the greatest heavyweights of all-time?

    The undercard features the likes of Benson Henderson, Cheick Kongo and Anatoly Tokov. It should prove to be a fun night inside the Bellator cage.

    Your typical crew is here to break it all down. Matthew Ryder, Scott Harris, Steven Rondina and Nathan McCarter take a look at Saturday's action and make their picks for who will get their hand raised after a hard-fought battle.

    These are the Bleacher Report expert picks for Bellator 208—and we even throw in Friday's Matt Mitrione vs. Ryan Bader bout at Bellator 207 as an added bonus.

Matt Mitrione vs. Ryan Bader

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    Matthew Ryder

    Mitrione vs. Bader is a fight we'd probably never have seen in the UFC, and these two are your favorites the rest of the way. The winner likely takes the GP.

    I think Bader will have enough technique and horsepower to take Mitrione down when he wants to, and that will make the difference.

    Bader, unanimous decision

           

    Scott Harris

    Mitrione is a nice fighter, but he's basically a banger. I don't think he can stand up to Bader's wrestling. It could be a boring one.

    Bader, unanimous decision

           

    Steven Rondina

    Size counts for a lot in MMA, but Bader isn't exactly lacking in that department. The light heavyweight champ should be able to outspeed and outwrestle an aging Mitrione and take the win via ground-and-pound or a straightforward unanimous decision.

    Bader, TKO, Rd. 2

              

    Nathan McCarter

    I think all three of my colleagues are accurate on their analysis when thinking about this fight on a skill for skill basis. But, and it is a big but, one element that seems to be forgotten is that Bader has never had a granite chin and he's fighting a true heavyweight who can crack.

    Mitrione is an athletically gifted heavyweight. Bader won't just wrestle without consequence, and one of those consequences is going to hammer him on the chin for a big KO.

    Mitrione, KO, Rd. 2

Henry Corrales vs. Andy Main

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    Ryder

    I can't pretend that I'm deeply invested in Henry Corrales, Andy Main or this fight. I had to look them up to even know who they are. I'll take Corrales on the basis of more Bellator experience.

    Corrales, unanimous decision

           

    Harris

    The dynamic is easy to see. "OK" Corrales is 15-3 and trains at the well-regarded MMA Lab gym. He's 3-0 in his last three Bellator fights after starting at 0-3. They want the talented featherweight to excel.

    Main, fighting in his Bellator debut, is another stepping stone.

    Corrales, submission, Rd. 2

         

    Rondina

    After an ugly losing streak, Corrales really turned the corner last year and has evolved into a fringe top-10-caliber featherweight.

    Main's record is too good to completely dismiss him, but I'm not going to pick a journeyman part-timer to beat somebody who Bellator is actively trying to build up.

    Corrales, unanimous decision

          

    McCarter

    I'll echo Ryder on this. Who? Perhaps I'll get to know these two better since I'll be tuned in for this card, but right now I am really absent any solid analysis, and it isn't my place to lie to you as if I know who they are.

    I'll go with the more highly regarded fighter.

    Corrales, unanimous decision

Cheick Kongo vs. Timothy Johnson

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    Ryder

    Improbably, Kongo is 6-0 since he turned 40 and, perhaps more probably, is 10-2 in his Bellator run overall.

    Still, Timothy Johnson left the UFC on a win recently and had a winning record there against much better competition. He'll end Kongo's good fortune and do it violently.

    Johnson, TKO, Rd. 1

           

    Harris

    At a combined 76 years old, these two aren't going to show out at the NFL combine any time soon.

    Johnson should be able to muscle Kongo around the cage, but Kongo's veteran savvy will stave off a knockout and do enough to win. It will be a classic heavyweight matchup, in a not-good sort of way.

    Kongo, split decision

         

    Rondina

    Am I the only one who didn't know that "Cup" Kongo is on a six-fight winning streak? That's wild, isn't it?

    Anyway, Johnson is a solid fighter (despite being released from the UFC), but Kongo has been beating similarly skilled opposition pretty consistently.

    There are never any guarantees with the heavyweights, but my money is on a long, boring, dragged out fight where Kongo wins via decision, with most of his points coming via knees in the clinch.

    Kongo, unanimous decision

           

    McCarter

    I'm in lock-step with Rondina on this one. Johnson is steady, but Kongo has beaten foes such as him before.

    There is always the chance that, at his athletically advanced aged, Kongo starts a swift decline, but I'd feel safe with a decision pick.

    Kongo, unanimous decision

Alexander Shlemenko vs. Anatoly Tokov

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Ryder

    Alexander Shlemenko is a former champ, but Tokov is a prospect on his way up and will have youth and hunger on his side.

    Shlemenko has dropped two in a row and has to be feeling a bit shopworn after 67 pro fights and 15 years in the game. Taking the young gun here.

    Tokov, TKO, Rd. 3

          

    Harris

    Shlemenko has dropped two straight, but you can't let that throw you off too much, especially since one of them was to Bellator's best fighter in Gegard Mousasi.

    At 26-2 Tokov is more than ready for this position, but his strength of competition is pretty lacking. This will be an entertaining fight that swings toward the veteran.

    Shlemenko, submission, Rd. 2

          

    Rondina

    I might end up looking the fool for this, but I'm feeling like Shlemenko's loss to Bruno Silva in Russia was a sign of things to come. Shlemenko is 34 years old and 67 fights deep into his MMA career, and that's not ideal for a smaller middleweight.

    For me, this has the look of a torch-passing moment where Bellator crowns its new resident Russian assassin.

    Tokov, submission, Rd. 2

            

    McCarter

    This feels like a spot where Bellator wants to give Tokov a big win over a somewhat recognizable name on a big card. It is a setup, and Bellator will get what it wants.

    Shlemenko may offer some resistance, but Tokov will be able to nab a finish to announce his presence.

    Tokov, TKO, Rd. 2

Benson Henderson vs. Saad Awad

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    Christian Petersen/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

    Ryder

    This feels equally like a fight to get Henderson on track and also a trap for him. Saad Awad is a decent competitor who's won four straight, while Henderson has been an uninspiring Bellator athlete. He should still be a ways above Awad, though, and thus should get it done.

    Henderson, unanimous decision

           

    Harris

    Saad Awad is 35? That makes me feel old. He'll always be a striker first and foremost, and Henderson will always be a guy who neutralizes strikers with his long-range leg kicking and clinch fighting.

    Henderson, unanimous decision

           

    Rondina

    Bendo has been consistently losing to, or looking bad against, anybody who is actually good. Awad? He's actually good.

    It's possible that Henderson taps back into the well that made him the greatest UFC lightweight champion of all time (search your feelings, you know this to be true), but I'm expecting him to listlessly skate to another decision loss.

    Awad, unanimous decision

             

    McCarter

    Steven is exactly right on Henderson's performances in Bellator. I'm sure they thought they were getting the former UFC champ at his height, but he has laid some eggs.

    It can happen here, but look for Henderson to rely on his wrestling to escape with a win.

    Henderson, unanimous decision

Fedor Emelianenko vs. Chael Sonnen

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    Ryder

    There just isn't a time in my life where I believe Sonnen has the tools to beat Fedor. Not today, not a decade ago, not two decades ago when both of these guys were just getting started. Fedor lands a bomb and finishes it on the ground, probably early.

    Emelianenko, TKO, Rd. 1

            

    Harris

    I have no interest in this fight. Just none whatsoever. Fedor is, to an extent, still Fedor, one assumes, and he will have the brute strength to handle the bad guy.

    Emelianenko, unanimous decision

          

    Rondina

    Scott's being a bit of a party pooper, but, honestly, this probably won't be a fun one. Sonnen quietly showed a lot of little improvements to his game in his bout opposite Rampage, and I feel like he shows off even more new wrinkles here...by scoring a clean 30-27 unanimous-decision win.

    Sonnen, unanimous decision

           

    McCarter

    Like many, I was excited for this fight. Well, not so much the fight itself but the lead-up. And Bellator gave us next to nothing. Sonnen could have sold this extremely well.

    The fight itself? Not competitive in the slightest. Fedor will steamroll Sonnen and finish within 90 seconds.

    This isn't a legitimate fight. What could have at least given us chuckles in the weeks leading into the event has given us nothing and will end with an anticlimactic finish.

    Emelianenko, TKO, Rd. 1