Fedor Emelianenko. Photo: Valery SharifulinTASS (Getty Images)
The identity of the finalists in the Bellator MMA heavyweight grand prix will soon be known.
Former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder Fedor Emelianenko will collide with Chael Sonnen in a tournament semifinal atop Bellator 208 on Saturday at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. A lightweight clash pitting Benson Henderson against Saad Awad serves as the co-main event.
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Bellator 208, which airs live on the Paramount Network at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT and streams to DAZN for West Coast audiences, also features a middleweight tilt pairing Alexander Shlemenko with Anatoly Tokov, a heavyweight affair slotting Cheick Kongo opposite Timothy Johnson, and a featherweight confrontation matching Henry Corrales with Andy Main.
Revered like virtually no other fighter in the sport, Emelianenko has rattled off six wins in seven appearances. The 42-year-old Russian icon last competed at Bellator 198 in April, when he cut down Frank Mir with first-round punches. Emelianenko carries with him a stellar resume that includes wins over five former Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholders: Mir, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia, Kevin Randleman, and Mark Coleman. He has delivered 28 of his 37 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission.
Sonnen, 42, enters the match on the strength of a two-fight winning streak. He last appeared at Bellator 192, where he took a three-round unanimous decision from Quinton Jackson on Jan. 20. Wins over Wanderlei Silva, Mauricio Rua, Michael Bisping, Nate Marquardt, and Paulo Filho anchor Sonnen’s resume. Sonnen was an NCAA All-American wrestler at the University of Oregon before he transitioned to mixed martial arts.
The Emelianenko-Sonnen winner will await either Matt Mitrione or Ryan Bader, as they lock horns in the other grand prix semifinal atop Bellator 207 on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The event will air live on the Paramount Network at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT and streams to DAZN for West Coast audiences. It represents the next step in Bader’s quest to become a two-division champion, with the 35-year-old having already captured the Bellator light heavyweight crown. Mitrione, meanwhile, owns a perfect 4-0 record since joining the Bellator roster in 2016.
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The Bellator doubleheader will not be the only game in town, as the Professional Fighters League moves forward with its 2018 playoffs at PFL 9 on Saturday at the Long Beach Arena in Long Beach, California. It will feature quarterfinal and semifinal bouts in the lightweight and light heavyweight divisions. Vinny Magalhaes enters the light heavyweight draw as the No. 1 seed and takes on Rakim Cleveland, while Natan Schulte does the same at 155 pounds opposite Johnny Case. The event airs live on the NBC Sports Network at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.