Weekend Warrior: Emelianenko vs. Bader Concludes Heavyweight Grand Prix

Photo: Icon Sports Wire / Contributor (Getty Images) and Elsa / Staff (Getty Images)

Bellator MMA moves to the center of the mixed martial arts universe with Bellator 214, where Fedor Emelianenko meets Ryan Bader in the final of the promotion’s heavyweight Grand Prix on Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, California. The winner will lay claim to the vacant Bellator heavyweight championship.

Meanwhile, featherweight super prospect Aaron Pico takes on Henry Corrales in the three-round co-main event at 145 pounds.

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Bellator Emelianenko vs. Bader

Fedor Emelianenko. Photo: Valery SharifulinTASS (Getty Images)

Emelianenko remains one of MMA’s most beloved figures. The 42-year-old Russian icon enters the cage on the strength of back-to-back victories over Frank Mir and Chael Sonnen, having put away both men with punches inside one round. Emelianenko has secured 29 of his 38 career victories by knockout, technical knockout, or submission; a staggering 26 of them have occurred inside the first round, including 12-, 26-, 36-, 48-, 54-, 62-, 63- and 69-second finishes. He has defeated five former Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholders (Mir, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia, Mark Coleman and Kevin Randleman), three K-1 World Grand Prix winners (Mark Hunt, Mirko Filipovic and Semmy Schilt), two Olympic silver medalists (Matt Lindland and Naoya Ogawa), an Olympic gold medalist (Satoshi Ishii) and a former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder (Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira).

Bader with a win can become Bellator’s first simultaneous two-division champion, as he already owns the promotion’s light heavyweight crown. The 35-year-old Reno, Nevada, native has rattled off six consecutive victories and punched his ticket to the tournament final by eliminating Muhammed Lawal and Matt Mitrione. Bader was a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Arizona State University, where he won three Pac-10 Conference championships.

Ryan Bader

Ryan Bader kicks Ilir Latifi. Photo: Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC (Getty Images)

Bellator 214 — which airs live on the Paramount Network at 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT — also features a heavyweight battle pairing former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Jake Hager with J.W. Kiser, a bantamweight tilt pitting Juan Archuleta against Ricky Bandejas and a featherweight confrontation matching Brandon McMahan with Adel Altamimi. A portion of the 11-fight undercard will stream to Bellator.com at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT.

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Even with the UFC idle, Bellator does not have the MMA stage to itself. One Championship “Hero’s Ascent” on Friday in Manila, Philippines, features the organization’s first-ever trilogy bout, as Geje Eustaquio puts his flyweight title on the line against Adriano Moraes. Eustaquio dethroned Moraes in a five-round split decision in June, avenging a 2014 submission defeat to the Brazilian. One Championship “Hero’s Ascent” streams live and free to the One Super App at 7 a.m. ET/4 a.m. PT, available on Android and iOS platforms.

Not to be overshadowed, the Legacy Fighting Alliance promotion continues to rev its engines with LFA 58 on Friday in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Harvey Park will square off with Jaleel Willis in the lightweight headliner, with the winner moving one step closer to title contention at 155 pounds. LFA 58 “Park vs. Willis” airs live on AXS-TV at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.

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