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Bellator MMA will be throwing a gala event in Japan with Bellator 237 on Saturday, where legends and future stars line up to fight. Let's count down the remaining days left on the calendar -- and make some yen -- with another edition of Prime Picks!
Quinton Jackson (-105)
Once a prohibitive favorite opening at -290, Fedor Emelianenko has leveled out as a very slight favorite (-115) in what has turned into a pick-em between two MMA legends. With each man sporting 38 wins on their ledgers and finish rates above 60 percent, we likely know what we will be getting ourselves into in a heavyweight bout combining for over 84 years of age. Although Emelianenko once demonstrated prolific grappling skills, he had rarely showcased them since his ill-advised attempt to go to the ground with Fabricio Werdum in 2010. Meanwhile, Jackson has explicitly stated that he has no interest in facing those that wish to wrestle him to the ground. The Russian known as "The Last Emperor" will likely oblige him in that, and it will not play to his advantage.
Since a three-year layoff from 2012 to 2015, Emelianenko returned to the sport with one goal: punch the face of his opponent. That has led to some exciting finishes over the likes of Chael Sonnen and Frank Mir, as well as some devastating losses against Ryan Bader and Matt Mitrione. When facing former light heavyweight boxer Fabio Maldonado, the Brazilian hurt Emelianenko so badly and frequently in the opening round that the fight could have easily been stopped. Although making it the full 15 minutes, an inexplicable set of scorecards still stand with the Stary Oskol, Russia, native stealing a majority verdict, despite an appeal that attempted to overturn the result to a draw.
The motivation of a heavyweight "Rampage" has frequently been questioned since his transition to Bellator in 2013, and perhaps no more than when he faced a series of grappling-heavy fighters that he decried. His last performance, a second-round knockout of four-time opponent Wanderlei Silva, left many wondering how much more the two combatants had left in the tank. Instead of an almost unprecedented fifth match between the two, Jackson instead accepted a fight against a man he respects greatly in Emelianenko. While Jackson has publicly complained about the fight game for multiple reasons in recent years, his ability to take punishment has not been one such complaint. In fact, he even lauds his ability to take damage, as he would rather "stand and bang" than have to worry about stuffing a takedown.
Despite that we have seen "Rampage" leveled three times in his MMA career, the last to do so was Mauricio Rua in 2005 with soccer kicks. Other than "Shogun," the only man to shut the lights out of the exuberant Jackson was Silva, who did so also under the Pride Fighting Championships banner. Since then, the Tennessee native has taken some of the best shots from names like Dan Henderson, Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans. Additionally, in terms of recent head-to-head encounters, the man that did so much damage to Emelianenko in Maldonado was unable to faze Jackson at UFC 186 the year before facing the Russian.
These two men are going to throw with reckless abandon early and often, and one will likely get clipped and put down. Oddsmakers feel a similar situation will unfold, with Fight Goes to Decision sitting at a lofty +420. Grappling and the submission game will not likely play a factor in this upcoming heavyweight slugfest, and we give the edge to Jackson due to ability to take a shot on the chin better than his adversary. In several of Emelianenko's recent bouts, he has been hurt in the opening round, and only sometimes been able to recover. Jackson can stay composed enough, and although he will welcome a brawl, may be content to sit on the counter as Fedor goes for a "home run" swing. As a final note on this bout, Jackson Wins Inside Distance is currently +118, and if Jackson wins, this looks likely the most likely outcome. No fighter has ever won a decision over Emelianenko, and all six men to defeat him have finished him within two rounds. If a line for Jackson Wins by TKO/KO opens, that would also be a recommended option.
Michael Chandler (-325)
Sidney Outlaw will come into this short-notice opportunity against Chandler as a significant underdog, but the line on this matchup is not quite as exorbitant as others on these cards -- Michael Page at -900, Lorenz Larkin at -470, etc. Against Chandler, Outlaw will face a steadfast wrestler with explosive entries and a vicious right hand. This matchup is not an optimistic one for the man putting his nine-fight win streak on the line against a former hard-hitting champ, and one that Chandler should be able to win no matter where the fight takes place.
Outlaw will likely prefer to take this fight to the ground, where he is most effective at getting off offense. A submission of "Iron Mike" would be a massive feather in his cap, as none have tapped the Power MMA representative in his 24-fight career to date. In his Bellator debut, Outlaw landed repeated takedowns on Roger Huerta and utilized heavy top control to capture a one-sided decision. Ready to capitalize on a kick thrown his direction, his best course of action would be to catch Chandler in the middle of his attack and change levels to lift the legs up and hit the takedown. We do not expect that he will be able to land many if any, and if he manages to get the former Missouri wrestler down, he will not keep him there for long. While we anticipate that Chandler will come out the victor, it is uncertain if we will see the aggressive finisher version of Chandler or one that is somewhat hesitant coming off of an emphatic knockout loss. We would lean towards the latter, and Chandler Wins by Decision is currently +145, which is quite reasonable.