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Advancing to the semifinals of Bellator’s heavyweight tournament are former UFC contenders, Ryan “Darth” Bader, and Matt “Meathead” Mitrione. In an intriguing clash of styles, who will emerge victorious and make their way to the finals?
The Tournament Favorite
Two-time All-American wrestler, Ryan Bader, is always looking to get the fight to the mat. His grapple-heavy, position over submission style didn’t make him a fan favorite in the UFC - but make no mistake, he’s a world class fighter. In fact, his only career losses have come against excellent competitors like Lyoto Machida, Jon Jones, and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.
Bader is not out of his depth on the feet, as he showed against Rashad Evans, but I doubt he wants to go blow for blow with a powerful boxing stylist like Matt Mitrione. Bader may look to strike initially, but I guarantee he’ll seek to level change sooner rather than later.
He has finished his last two opponents with ground strikes. Given that Mitrione hasn’t shown many competencies at fighting off his back, Bader will look to take him down, maintain top position and unleash a torrent of elbows and punches.
Against an accomplished veteran in Antônio Rogério Nogueira, Bader was able to land takedowns at will and with excellent technique, prevented his opponent from getting back to the feet. Bader finished the fight in round three via ground strikes, and I can envision a similar outcome here.
Interestingly, Bader has never lost a decision and although his style is energy taxing - he seems to have good conditioning. Still close to his athletic prime at 35-years-of-age, I have no doubts Bader can go three hard rounds.
Can “Meathead” Stay Vertical?
Matt Mitrione is light on his feet, throws sharp combinations and packs serious power. Out of his thirteen career victories, “Meathead” has finished eleven opponents via knockout. It’s obvious he wants to keep this fight standing against a suffocating wrestler like Bader.
While Mitrione is on a four-fight winning streak, there have been some extremely dicey moments in those contests. In his Bellator debut against Carl Seumanutafa, Mitrione got dropped by a hammer in the first minute before rallying to win. Some referees would have stopped the fight as soon as Mitrione went down.
In his last bout against the power puncher turned smothering grappler, Roy Nelson, Mitrione started well - showcasing his fluid striking. However, Mitrione slowed as the fight went on and had to survive an ordeal in round three with Nelson on top of him. Now 40-years-of-age, I question whether Mitrione will be able to move and throw combinations for three rounds if he doesn’t score an early knockout.
While “Meathead” is the superior striker, I don’t think can stop the inevitable takedown. If Bader mounts him, he’s in a world of trouble.
There’s no debate Mitrione is a dangerous striker, and he’s got a real puncher’s chance. However, Bader is an intelligent fighter, and I can’t see him taking too many risks standing when he has such an advantage on the mat. I think Bader scores an early takedown and finishes Mitrione violently on the ground.
Pick: Ryan Bader -260
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