Nine of the ten participants of Bellator’s Welterweight Grand Prix were announced during a press conference for the US launch of DAZN, Bellator’s new streaming partner. Bellator President Scott Coker announced the participants himself, while officials told MMAFighting.com that the 10th participant will be named later (the 9th and 10th being alternates). Bellator is currently in the semifinal round of a Heavyweight Grand Prix featuring some great matchups that include: Fedor vs Sonnen and Bader vs. Mitrione. The Welterweight tournament has a diverse group of fighters going head to head. Among the names in the tourney, Rory McDonald, who is the current champion, was the biggest surprise in my opinion. There was some speculation as to whether the Grand Prix would result in the victor being declared the number one contender to fight McDonald for the belt, or if it would be a winner take all tournament with the title on the line. This announcement made it clear, win the tournament, win the belt!
Other interesting and notable names in the tournament include former UFC fighters Jon Fitch and Lorenz Larkin. Fitch, known for his takedowns and ground and pound work, could cause some problems for the more accomplished strikers in the tourney. Inversely, Larkin is one of those phenomenal strikers and has the experience to be very dangerous in this competition. Speaking of strikers, Michael Page (aka MVP) was also announced as a participant, and I for one, am beyond excited. MVP has made a splash in Bellator with his dominating performances and his “unique” style of attack. Some criticism has been cast as to the level of competition that has been presented to MVP, but no longer. If Page can move through this competition, he would have to defeat the best fighters Bellator has to offer. This will be a true test of MVP’s skillset and his ability to adapt to different styles.
A couple of former Bellator welterweight champions will also be part of the tournament as Douglas Lima and Andrey Koreshkov will open the Grand Prix in an anticipated rubber match on September 29th in San Jose, California. Koreshkov defeated Lima in their first bout (unanimous decision) to win the Bellator championship, while Lima knocked out Koreshkov in the rematch to reclaim his title. Submission specialist Neiman Gracie and wrestling phenom and up and comer Ed Ruth will round out the eight-man bracket. Ukrainian Yaroslav Amosov is the first known alternate, while rumor from bjpenn.com suggests Bellator is trying to bring Paul Daley aboard as another alternate. Personally, as a fight fan, I was hoping to see MVP vs. Daley in the opening round of the tournament. While it isn’t outside the realm of possibility, it would be a missed opportunity for Bellator to capitalize on if it wasn’t booked, especially with the bad blood between the two.
Any way this tournament plays out, one thing can be certain, fight fans will be in for a wild ride. Fighters will be tested by an array of different skill sets, as they face off for their chance at Bellator Championship glory. Rising stars will have the opportunity to shine brighter than they have before, as the veteran’s try to prove why they have been at the top and belong there still.