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Bellator MMA on Saturday will close out its 2019 campaign with a massive event, as it touches down in the Land of the Rising Sun for the first time with Bellator 237 at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Two legendary fighters headline the card, as former Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight titleholder Fedor Emelianenko squares off with onetime Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titlist Quinton Jackson.
In the co-main event, three-time Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler looks to rebound from a May 11 defeat to Patricio Freire when he takes on Sidney Outlaw. The rest of the lineup features the continued partnership between Bellator and Rizin Fighting Federation, as competitors from the two promotions encounter each other in battle.
A closer look at Bellator 237:
HeavyweightFedor Emelianenko (38-6) vs. Quinton Jackson (38-13)
Emelianenko is arguably the greatest heavyweight of all-time, and many still consider him the greatest fighter of all-time regardless of weight class. Debate where you want to rank him, but you cannot deny his accomplishments. However, the three-time combat sambo world champion is years removed from his prime, and at 43 years of age, his skills have eroded with time. Emelianenko has compiled a 2-2 record since he joined the Bellator roster in 2017, his wins over Chael Sonnen and Frank Mir offset by losses to Matt Mitrione and Ryan Bader. Despite his decline, “The Last Emperor” still possesses fast hands that come from unique angles due to his use of looping punches thrown from near his waist. The biggest concern on the feet remains his chin, as he has been visibly hurt in each of his last five bouts. Emelianenko is still a solid clinch fighter with good trips and throws that are grounded in stellar hip control. On the ground, he has fantastic ground-and-pound and a slick submission game. While his takedown defense has declined over the years—Sonnen took down the Russian easily—Emelianenko has always been a threat to hit sweeps and submissions from the bottom.
Jackson’s carries an impressive resume of his own, as he has beaten Chuck Liddell (twice), Wanderlei Silva (twice), Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida, among others. “Rampage” sports a 5-2 record inside the Bellator cage, though he has looked sluggish from a physical standpoint. At this late stage of his career, Jackson has become little more than a standard boxer. The 41-year-old stays compact while using head movement and shoulder rolls to avoid strikes. When leading the dance, he still wields and effective jab. When he sits back and looks to counter, he fires off powerful hooks and uppercuts. “Rampage” has learned how to conserve his energy by throwing single strikes at a time—a strategy that helps him go the distance but makes him much less of a threat to score a knockout. He does his best work when he moves forward and marches down his opponent, but in recent appearances, the Memphis, Tennessee, native has been forced to retreat and fight off his back foot. Jackson was once known for his powerful slams (see: Ricardo Arona), but he has largely abandoned his wrestling game as he has aged. His takedown defense has declined, too, with both Sonnen and Muhammed Lawal managing to take him down and control him for extended periods of time. “Rampage” has since gone on record claiming he will not accept a fight with a wrestler again.
This would have been an incredible matchup in 2007, when Jackson and Emelianenko were at the height of their powers. Unfortunately, both men have seen better days. Expect Emelianenko to turn back the clock one more time and stop Jackson inside the first round.
Continue Reading » Chandler vs. Outlaw