With the Bellator Welterweight Grand Prix in full swing, here is all you will need to know about the tournament going forward.
While the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament was going on, Bellator officials announced a welterweight tournament would take place with a stacked field of competitors. The biggest difference between the two Grand Prix tournaments are the welterweights will not have to wait to the end of the tournament to be rewarded the title. Instead, the belt will be defended during the tournament.
The current champion, Rory MacDonald has been entered into the field. His opening matchup will be for his title. The winner of that matchup will be champion and forced to defend the title in the next round and so forth.
The field of fighters for the Grand Prix is the aforementioned MacDonald, Jon Fitch, Michael Page, Paul Daley, Ed Ruth, Neiman Gracie, Douglas Lima, Andrey Koreshkov, Lorenz Larkin, and Ion Pascu who replaced the injured Yaroslav Amosov.
What has happened so far?
The tournament started last September with former welterweight champions Douglas Lima and Andrey Koreshkov going head to head for the third time.
Koreshkov defeated Lima to capture the title back in September of 2015 when he beat Lima by unanimous decision. Lima would get his revenge in November of 2011 when he knocked Koreshkov out.
In this matchup, the Brazilian battered the Russian for the majority of the fight. He stuffed almost every takedown attempt from Koreshkov while picking apart his foe on the feet with strikes. Lima eventually put Koreshkov out of his misery by submitting him in the fifth round to advance to the semi-finals.
Lorenz Larkin was supposed to match up against the undefeated Yaroslav Amosov in the alternate bout, but the Russian was forced out of the competition due to injury. Romanian fighter, Ion Pascu stepped in and faced Larkin back in October.
Larkin used a slow methodical approach to outstrike Pascu to pick up a unanimous decision victory. The win set Larkin as the sole alternate for the tournament.
Lastly, the two youngsters in the competition Ed Ruth and Neiman Gracie battled back in December. Both undefeated at the time, Ruth holds incredible wrestling credentials with his three NCAA Division 1 National title, while Neiman is a decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt.
Ruth entered the fight as a pretty sizable favorite at -380 but it was Gracie who shined. The member of the first family of MMA, Gracie surprised the prognosticators by landing punches and kicks on the feet.
His constant pressure and submission attempts when he was taken down by Ruth slowed down the wrestler until eventually, Gracie submitted him in the fourth round. The win eliminated Ruth while Gracie moved on to the semi-finals.
Gracie entered the Grand Prix as an afterthought but suddenly positioned himself as a huge threat to win it all.
What is ahead?
There are two remaining matchups in the opening round. These are Daley vs. Page and MacDonald vs. Fitch.
Daley vs. Page goes down this Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, in the main event of Bellator 216. This is the only matchup of the opening round that has gotten personal. The two British strikers have barked at each other for what seems like an eternity with the hopes to finally settle who is the best British fighter on the Bellator roster.
Both of these fighters are known for their striking but in contrasting ways. While both have serious fight ending power, they dispatch of their opponent differently.
Daley ends fights with a single strike. His best punches are his bone-crushing hooks and uppercuts. Page, on the other hand, is a long rangy striker, who dazzles the crowd with his athleticism. His best strikes are his jab, straight right and spinning and flying attacks.
Daley enters the fight coming off a loss to Fitch, while Page is undefeated and coming off the best performance of his career, which was the destruction of David Rickels.
The fight is likely the most anticipated bout of the tournament and one of the biggest fights in British MMA history.
The final opening-round matchup pits welterweight champion, MacDonald vs. former UFC title challenger, Fitch.
MacDonald is a bit of a hybrid fighter, who isn’t a specialist anywhere but very good in all aspects of the game. He uses his technical striking to beat grapplers while using his underrated wrestling to best strikers. This balanced game makes him the betting favorite to win the entire tournament.
Fitch, on the other hand, is a bit of a specialist. Not known for his striking, Fitch uses his powerful wrestling chops to take down his foes, and tire them out with his relentless pressure. Though Fitch has been criticized for playing it safe in fights, he is very effective with this strategy.
The American Kickboxing Academy product has won five fights in a row.
The winner of Daley vs. Page will face Lima in the semi-finals, while the winner of MacDonald vs. Fitch will be matched with Gracie in the opposing semi-final bout. Larkin remains on the sideline ready to get a chance to replace a fighter that can’t continue in the Grand Prix.
The dates for the semi-finals and final has not yet been announced.
Bellator 216 takes place on Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, live from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Follow along with FanSided who will be on site for live results, news and exclusive content on fight night.