The Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix is in motion, with only one quarterfinal fight left in King Mo vs. Ryan Bader. Aside from the big boy collision Saturday night between Fedor and Frank Mir, the year-long event has mostly been filled with underwhelming fights. Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva, years in the making, was lackluster, as was Matt Mitrione vs. Roy Nelson. Luckily, within the tournament format fascinating stories can and will play out, most notably in the form of Chael Sonnen vs. Fedor Emelianenko.
In the weird world of MMA, fights can typically be categorized into competitive fights and freakshows. Sometimes fight happen when certain fighters are in their primes while others are well past their best days, but it’s an absolute rarity to have a competitive freakshow. That’s what we’re getting with Chael Sonnen vs. Fedor. It’s perfect. Let me tell you why.
Chael Sonnen is going to do his Chael Sonnen gimmick of talking trash to everyone in his orbit. He’ll probably bring up Fedor’s recent interview with the FBI regarding Donald Trump’s connection to Affliction MMA through his “fixer” lawyer Michael Cohen. He may even bring up some of Putin’s atrocities. He’ll also just be plain old obnoxious.
Sonnen’s greatest talent is getting under the skin of his opponents. Anderson Silva was able to ignore him for a time, but then a shoulder met face. We’ve seen Wanderlei Silva attack Sonnen verbally and physically over the course of their feud, and Chael’s never met a name he didn’t drag through the mud with any number of clever insults. But now, it’s different. This is Fedor. The most stoic of all fighters.
Will Sonnen get Fedor to blink? Likely not. Will Sonnen beat Fedor? Probably not again, but it’s possible. These are two older, past-their-prime fighters who have taken a lifetime of damage. It’s Fedor, hot off a win over Frank Mir fighting someone in Sonnen that stylistically is a rarity for him. Fedor hasn’t fought a pure wrestler that’s smaller than him since Matt Lindland or maybe Dan Henderson. At least Hendo had that H-Bomb. Sonnen is more like Lindland and will be trying to take down and wear out Fedor. That’s what makes this so fascinating. That’s why this is so fun.
We’ve seen Fedor in countless wars, but have we ever seen him take on a man that gives so few f*cks? Chael Sonnen is going to make that walk and then rush forward like he always does. Fedor is not who he used to be, and Sonnen is always in incredible shape. This odd pairing of fighters that only a semi-openweight tournament could provide us the unicorn of MMA matchups: a competitive freakshow. Chael can do this. After losing to Anderson Silva and Jon Jones, he may finally have a win over a GOAT on his resume. This is Sonnen’s last shot at eternal glory, and the juxtaposition of fight styles and personalities makes for a thrilling, fascinating matchup.
There’s no reason why Chael and Fedor should ever fight beyond money and glory. At their best, they were two weight classes apart, and now here they are, healthy, hydrated, older and about to fight for no good reason. It’s perfect MMA madness.