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Bellator has been known to put on some bizarre main events, and this is no exception. A middleweight for most of his career, Chael “The American Gangster” Sonnen progresses in the heavyweight tournament to face one of the most accomplished heavyweights of all time, Russian Sambo master, Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko.
Both fighters are now in their early forties, which makes this bout challenging to analyze from a betting perspective.
Is Fedor Completely Shot?
Once known for his spectacular throws and high amplitude takedowns, we’ve seen Fedor move away from his grappling in recent years. This makes sense since offensive wrestling is one of the most cardio draining aspects of MMA and older fighters need to manage their energy wisely. While we saw Fedor take down and maul an overmatched Jaideep Singh in 2015, the Russian chose to slug it out on the feet with his last three opponents.
Against a renowned brawler in Fabio Maldonado, Fedor took a hellacious beating in the first round before staging a comeback in rounds two and three. While Fedor was awarded a decision victory in his home country, the contest probably should have been a draw.
His next two fights lasted a combined 2:02 minutes. Fedor was knocked out by Matt Mitrione and managed to knock out Frank Mir, but you got the sense both fights could have gone either way.
Fedor has never had a problem with takedown defense, and when he has been grounded in the past, he was able to recover with excellent scrambling ability and athleticism. If he can stay standing, he should be able to dominate the striking exchanges. However, can we rely on anything close to the best version of Fedor to show up?
The Supreme Underdog
Not many people gave Chael Sonnen a chance at winning the heavyweight tournament, but he performed admirably in the quarterfinals against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson - taking down a much larger opponent repeatedly to secure a decision victory. When the tournament was announced, Sonnen was priced at +1400 to win the entire thing.
Sonnen has never been the smoothest striker but has racked up numerous victories throughout his career due to his smothering wrestling attack. That being said, when opponents can negate Sonnen’s grappling - it’s usually a bad night at the office for “The American Gangster.”
Stylistically, it’s hard to envision Sonnen grinding his way to victory against a Sambo expert in Fedor who is also the bigger man (Sonnen last weighed in at 222 pounds while Fedor weighed 240 pounds). Still, if the American can avoid getting knocked out early - he could potentially clinch, push his opponent against the fence and do anything to drain Fedor’s cardio. If Sonnen is the fresher fighter in rounds two and three, he has a legitimate chance of winning.
Given that both fighters have a combined age of 83, this is not the type of fight I recommend betting. Fedor should win with his counter-wrestling and superior striking, but I can't advocate playing him at -260. If you absolutely have to wager, I think the value is with the underdog.
Pick: Chael Sonnen +225
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