Ryan Bader added the heavyweight championship to his Bellator resume Saturday with a first-round knockout of legend Fedor Emelianenko in the Heavyweight Grand Prix Finals at The Forum in Inglewood, California.
It only took one punch for Bader to show he's the baddest man in Bellator's heavyweight division. After a brief feeling-out period, the light heavyweight champion landed a flush left hand for the win.
While knocking out Fedor at this point in his career isn't as impressive as it used to be, the fact that Bader did in so few strikes is what is really impressive. It's something Bader has shown a knack for lately knocking out Muhammed Lawal in similar fashion.
In fact, it was really a fitting end to a nearly flawless run for Bader through the heavyweight tournament. Matt Mitrione took Bader the distance, but was merely surviving rather than competing.
Although it was a big win for Bader, he did take the time to acknowledge the great career of Fedor in a classy move:
The victory makes Bader the first dual-division champion in Bellator. Darth earned the light heavyweight title with a split-decision win over Phil Davis in June 2017 but moved up to heavyweight after he defended that belt in November 2017 for the Grand Prix.
Bader's victory over Davis was his Bellator debut, and his time in the promotion has been a success since. Now, the question is what's next. As the champion of two different divisions, his options are wide-ranging, but he's already mentioned a shot at redemption against Lyoto Machida.
Bader lost to Machida via knockout in 2012 under the UFC banner, but facing him again as the Bellator champ would be different, as he told Alexander K. Lee of MMA Fighting:
"He's one of those not-good highlights for me when they're showing him and I'm rushing in and getting knocked out. I had no idea what the hell I was doing back then striking-wise in — I can't even remember how many years that was, but I definitely would like to get that back and it's a big fight. I'm looking to get into these big fights."
Machida is the latest former UFC star to make the leap to Bellator, winning a split decision over Rafael Carvalho in his promotional debut in December.
With Bader fresh off this win, it wouldn't be surprising for him to get his wish and return to light heavyweight for a chance at redemption.