Ryan Bader liked his chances to win the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix when the 16 fighters were first announced for the tournament.
Despite being the reigning light heavyweight champion, Bader didn’t feel that size would be a problem for him while going up against bigger opponents from the heavyweight division.
As the tournament has played out, Matt Mitrione is now the largest fighter left in the field with former PRIDE champion Fedor Emelianenko as the only other true heavyweight left with Chael Sonnen about to face him in the next round of the tournament.
Obviously, Bader has his first round fight this Saturday night when he takes on “King” Mo Lawal in a matchup between two light heavyweights who are both going up in size for this tournament.
Looking at the field ahead, Bader can’t help but feel confident in his chances to not only get past Lawal this weekend but then to win his next two fights to become heavyweight champion.
“I do [feel like the favorite],” Bader told MMAWeekly. “That’s the way I would approach it even if I wasn’t. I go in there and look at each matchup. I go out there and I beat “King” Mo and then you have Mitrione. He’s tough and big and he’s fast as a heavyweight but he has his flaws and his flaws are what I do great — the cardio aspect and the wrestling aspect.
“Then you look over and you have Fedor and Sonnen. I think I matchup extremely well with Sonnen and Fedor is a wild card. He’s not the Fedor he used to be but he’s still dangerous.”
Bader has never been a cocky fighter but he’s learned a lot about his potential opposition by watching the first three bouts in the tournament ahead of his matchup against Lawal at Bellator 199.
There have definitely been some impressive performances but Bader has been scouting each one as a future opponent and he likes his chances against all of them.
“It’s exciting. I was pumped watching this last fight, watching Fedor [Emelianenko] win and then knowing my turn is next. What’s been fun about this tournament is that every fighter who has won has been extremely different. Extremely different styles and that’s what makes the tournament format fun. It’s definitely intriguing,” Bader stated.
“Chael [Sonnen] does what he does and went out there and beat “Rampage” [Quinton Jackson] and [Matt] Mitrione went out there and did what he does as well in the striking department, looking quick and fast and it was a close fight after “Big Country” [Roy Nelson] started taking him down and getting him tired. Fedor and [Frank] Mir was just a fun fight, just two dudes brawling. Fedor caught him and ended up knocking him out. It’s been fun watching those so far.”
Trying to predict the results in the next round is nearly impossible but in a perfect world Bader knows exactly how he’d like to see this tournament play out as he hopes to become a simultaneous two division Bellator champion.
“That would be the ultimate finals match if you’re asking me who I want to fight. You go in there and fight and beat Fedor for the heavyweight title in a Grand Prix tournament,” Bader said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”