Bellator returned with a vengeance last week by unveiling some blockbuster news that included a deal with Showtime and an eight-man light heavyweight grand prix that begins on April 9.
We take a quick glimpse at all eight fighters and size up how well they should do in the tournament and if the odds match their prospects.
*odds are subject to change
- Odds: +175
- Record: 12-2 (5-0 Bellator)
- Opponent: Phil Davis
The Bellator light heavyweight champion will face off against Davis in the opening round in a rematch of their 2018 bout he eked out a split decision win. But the Russian protege to the great Fedor should be better prepared this time. With better wrestling, only one or two fighters in the tournament have a chance against him hence why he’s the favorite.
- Odds: +350
- Record: 13-5 (0-0 Bellator)
- Opponent: Anthony “Rumble” Johnson
The former Olympian and all-around athletic specimen make his Bellator debut against an equally dangerous Rumble Johnson. Romero did everything but win gold as a 185er in the UFC and a move up in weight could make him faster and healthier, a terrifying thought. Even at 43, he is the most explosive fighter here.
- Odds: +500
- Record: 27-6 1 NC (5-1 1 NC Bellator)
- Opponent: Lyoto Machida
Bader was “the man” in Bellator until Nemkov rolled in and head kicked him. Despite his recent success, I still see Bader as an overachieving gatekeeper and I favor most of the other side of the bracket against him in the finals. His odds are highly overrated as he’s already facing a fighter who knocked him out cold previously.
Anthony “Rumble” Johnson
- Odds: +650
- Record: 22-6 (0-0 Bellator)
- Opponent: Yoel Romero
Rumble has the best value here as far as betting picks go. I suspect the near-four-year layoff is why oddsmakers are underrating Johnson. But at his peak, Johnson should be the favorite. He has the biggest knockout power here and he can wrestle. The only fighter he’s lost to at 205 is Daniel Cormier and he’s not in the tournament.
- Odds: +700
- Record: 14-5 (1-0 Bellator)
- Opponent: Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov
Just like Bader, I consider Anderson nothing more than a gatekeeper even in Bellator. He has solid wrestling and striking and is constantly improving. But four of his five losses have been KO’s and he’s going up against legitimate knockout threats in every round including his first-round opponent.
- Odds: +1000
- Record: 18-5-1 (0-0 Bellator)
- Opponent: Corey Anderson
I’m not saying Yagshimuradov is going to win this whole thing, but 10-1 is very generous for this dark horse. The Turkmen is built more like a middleweight but that could also give him a speed advantage. He’s dangerous not just because of his striking and sambo, but because not much is known about him. Bet online against him at your own risk.
- Odds: +1500
- Record: 22-5-1 (9-2 Bellator)
- Opponent: Vadim Nemkov
The former champ gets the toughest schedule among the eight hence his longshot odds. I don’t want to dismiss Davis entirely, but he’s already lost to three fighters (arguably four) from this tournament and he is the least threatening as a striker. Still, never count anyone out.
- Odds: +2500
- Record: 26-10 (2-2 Bellator)
- Opponent: Ryan Bader
Speaking of never counting anyone out, Machida has a realistic shot at making it to the Finals though he’d need plenty of chips to fall his way. He’s rematching Bader, who he KO’d before, although he’s 0-3 in rematches and Bader is 2-0. But the elusive and savvy former UFC champion may just pull a few surprises though I won’t hold my breath.