One of the most highly anticipated heavyweight battles in Bellator MMA history takes place at the SAP Center in San Jose tonight; the legendary Fedor Emelianenko will (36-4-1) make his debut for the Viacom-owned promotion when he squares off against Matt Mitrione (11-5) in the main event of Bellator 172.
The Russian went 28 fights unbeaten between 2001 and 2009 beating the likes of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Mirko Cro Cop, Mark Hunt and Andrei Arlovski and now enters tonight’s bout riding a five-fight win streak. After three years out from the sport “The Last Emperor” returned to MMA with a win over Jaideep Singh for Rizin in December 2015 and is coming off of a controversial victory over Fabio Maldonado.
Emelianenko is the longest reigning heavyweight lineal champion in MMA history and his legacy and the impact he made in MMA has been compared to the likes of Muhammad Ali in boxing. He is still one of the biggest draws in MMA and in what will no doubt be his last run, Fedor has eyes set on Mitrione who stands between him and his journey for the vacant heavyweight belt.
Mitrione is undefeated since joining the promotion and will look to make it three consecutive victories whilst hoping to secure the biggest win of his career. Both of his victories have come by way of stoppage within the first two rounds and with both men’s knockout instinct, do not be surprised if this fight fails to make it out the first round.
Despite holding a record of 9-2 and securing victories over the likes of Gabriel Gonzago, Dereck Lewis and Kimbo Slice the UFC were willing to part ways with Mitrione due to his inconsistency and now he will hope this pattern does not run over into Bellator. In Bellator’s heavyweight division, he’s a much bigger fish in a much smaller pond and a win over Emelianenko is the platform “Meathead” needs to put himself at the front of contention in regards to claiming the vacant title.
In the co-main event, San Jose’s own Josh Thomson (22-8, 1 NC) takes on veteran Patricky Freire (16-8) in a lightweight match-up. Former UFC contenders Cheick Kongo and Josh Koscheck are also set to feature on tonight’s card, Kongo will face Oli Thompson in a heavyweight bout whilst Koscheck will meet Mauricio Alonso in a welterweight scrap.
Bellator 172: Fedor vs. Mitrione SPIKE-televised main card:
Heavyweight Main Event: Fedor Emelianenko (36-4, 1 NC) vs. Matt Mitrione (11-5)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Josh Thomson (22-8, 1 NC) vs. Patricky “Pitbull” (16-8)
Heavyweight Feature Fight: Cheick Kongo (25-10-2) vs. Oli Thompson (17-9)
Flyweight Feature Fight: Veta Arteaga (2-1) vs. Brooke Mayo (Debut)
Welterweight Feature Fight: Josh Koscheck (17-10) vs. Mauricio Alonso (12-7, 1 NC)
Bellator.com-Streamed Preliminary Card:
Middleweight Preliminary Bout: Anatoly Tokov (24-2) vs. Francisco France (13-4-1)
Welterweight Prelim Bout: James Terry (18-9) vs. J.C. Llamas (8-5)
Lightweight Prelim Bout: Nikko Jackson (1-1) vs. Cesar Gonzalez (0-1)
Featherweight Prelim Bout: Juan Cardenas (1-0) vs. Luis Vargas (0-1)
Welterweight Prelim Bout: Dominic Sumner (1-0) vs. Abraham Vaesau (1-0)
Flyweight Prelim Bout: Anthony Do (4-1) vs. Bobby Escalante (4-5)
Flyweight Prelim Bout: Matt Ramirez (1-2) vs. Jeremy Murphy (3-3)
Lightweight Prelim Bout: J.J. Okanovich (3-1) vs. Zach Andrews (5-1)
Featherweight Prelim Bout: Abner Perez (Debut) vs. Gaston Bolanos (Debut)
Featherweight Prelim Bout: Justin Tenedora (Debut) vs. Roque Reyes (0-3)
Middleweight Prelim Bout: Martin Sano (4-2) vs. Diego Herzog (4-2)