It’s not often that a Bellator card will overshadow a UFC event, but that’s the case this weekend as Bellator 180 on Saturday night from Madison Square Garden in New York City could be the greatest card in the history of that organization. The five-fight main card is expected to begin at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view. This will mark just the second pay-per-view event in Bellator history. Here’s a look at those bouts and their MMA odds.
Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva
Records: Sonnen (28-15-1), Silva (35-12-1)
Division: Light Heavyweight
MMA Odds: Sonnen -150, Silva +130
Prediction: Sonnen by decision
Even though this is the main event, it’s not for a title. Phil Davis is current light heavyweight champion and he fights on the preliminary card of Bellator 180 against Ryan Bader (Davis is a -125 favourite). Sonnen fought for the middleweight title twice in the UFC, losing both to Anderson Silva, arguably the greatest pound-for-pound MMA fighter in history. Sonnen, a 40-year-old American, also took on Jon Jones, another pretty good fighter, for the UFC light heavyweight title back in 2013 and lost that one. His final fight in the UFC was a first-round TKO defeat to Rashad Evans, and his Bellator debut was a first-round submission loss (rear-naked choke) to Tito Ortiz in January. So while Sonnen has dropped four of his past five overall, they are all to legends of the sport. Silva, a former Pride champion, makes his Bellator debut and hasn’t fought since 2013. The 40-year-old Brazilian was also suspended in 2014 after he refused to take a random drug test. Sonnen and Silva were originally supposed to fight in the UFC in ’14.
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Matt Mitrione
Records: Emelianenko (36-4), Mitrione (11-5)
MMA odds: Mitrione -125, Emelianenko -105
Prediction: Emelianenko by submission
This is the co-main event but also not for a title – even though the Bellator heavyweight championship is currently vacant. There are some in the MMA world who would argue that the 40-year-old Russian Emelianenko is the best heavyweight in history. He’s a former Pride champion in that division but never made his way to the UFC. “The Last Emperor” is on a five-fight winning streak since losses to Dan Henderson, Antonio Silva and Fabricio Werdum in Strikeforce. This is Emelianenko’s Bellator debut. He was retired between 2012 and 2015. Mitrione, a 38-year-old American, lost his final two UFC fights but is 2-0 in Bellator. He last took on Oli Thompson in July 2016 and won by second-round TKO. These two were originally set to fight in February at Bellator 172, but Mitrione was hospitalized with kidney stones.
Douglas Lima vs. Lorenz Larkin
Records: Lima (28-6), Larkin (18-5)
MMA Odds: Larkin -175, Lima +150
Prediction: Lima by KO/TKO
Interesting that Lima is a solid underdog despite being the current welterweight champion as he puts that on the line. The 29-year-old from Brazil might be unknown to some because he has never fought in the UFC and originally was a middleweight. He claimed the Bellator welterweight title with a win over Rick Hawn in April 2014, lost it the following July in via unanimous decision against Andrey Koreshkov, beat Paul Daley to get another title shot and then got the belt back with a third-round knockout of Koreshkov last November. Larkin, a 30-year-old American, makes his Bellator debut. He won four of his final five in the UFC. The winner here faces Canadian Rory MacDonald, who won his Bellator debut over Daley last month and is now considered the division’s No. 1 contender.
Michael Chandler vs. Brent Primus
Records: Chandler (16-3), Primus (7-0)
MMA Odds: Chandler -650, Primus +425
Prediction: Chandler by KO/TKO
Chandler, a 31-year-old American, puts his lightweight belt on the line. A former collegiate wrestler at the University of Missouri, Chandler first won the title in 2011 but lost it in 2013 to Eddie Alvarez and followed that with back-to-back defeats against Will Brooks. Chandler got another shot at the belt in June of last year and knocked out Patricky Friere in the first round. Chandler, who has never fought in the UFC, defended the title with a thrilling split decision win over Benson Henderson in November. Primus, a 32-year-old from Portland, is 5-0 since joining Bellator. He hasn’t been in the Octagon since a split decision win over Gleristone Santos in April 2016.
Aaron Pico vs. Zach Freeman
Records: Pico (first fight), Freeman (8-2)
MMA Odds: TBA
Prediction: Pico by submission
Why is this fight on the main card over Davis-Bader? Because some consider Pico the greatest prospect in the history of this sport. The 20-year-old was an excellent wrestler and finished second at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Trials by a single point. He was so highly-regarded as a former amateur world wrestling champion and Golden Gloves champion in boxing that Bellator signed him in 2014 as an 18-year-old, even though he had no immediate plans to fight in MMA. That’s not to say he has no experience in the sport. At 13, Pico entered the European Pankration Championships, a tournament in Ukraine similar to MMA except with no blows to the head. Freeman is 33 and from St. Louis. It’s his Bellator debut. He hasn’t fought since September, when he lost a decision to Thiago Moises for the Resurrection Fighting Alliance lightweight championship.