Well, here we are. Many years after Ryan Bader and Muhammad Lawal crossed paths in collegiate wrestling, they’ll now stand toe-to-toe in a battle to proceed in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix. Bader and Lawal is the very last matchup of the first round, and the winner will go on to face Matt Mitrione in round two.
Bader is stepping into this contest in hot form. He’s looked superb through his most recent four fights, and it all began with a face-shattering knee that crushed Ilir Latifi in the UFC. Bader then stopped Antônio Rogério Nogueira in the third round before making a move over to Bellator.
Since arriving in Bellator, Bader has claimed the Light Heavyweight Championship by defeating Phil Davis at Bellator NYC and then defended his title successfully against Linton Vassell. The Davis fight was a close one, but Bader returned to finishing ways when he stopped Vassell with ground and pound in the second round.
Muhammad Lawal, or “King Mo,” recently got himself back on track when he ‘outworked’ “Rampage” Jackson in March last year. It wasn’t the most impressive performance, but he got the job done and now enters the tournament with some momentum. “King Mo” typically relies on strategic game planning to defeat his opponents – he can take them down or keep them standing.
Against Bader, though, it’s going to be hard for him to control the pace of the fight.
Prediction: Ryan Bader by unanimous decision
Bet: Ryan Bader to win
Paul Daley vs. Jon Fitch
Well, this certainly isn’t a battle that we had expected to see this year.
Paul Daley, who is a well-regarded name in Bellator, will face Jon Fitch who has only recently made a move over to the organization. Both of these guys are veterans and have been in there with some very high-quality opposition. Now, they’ll compete against each other in what is sure to be an exciting co-main event.
Daley steps in after smashing Lorenz Larkin with a perfect left hook. The win marked his return to form after Rory MacDonald dominated him in the prior bout. Fitch is riding a four-fight winning streak that all happened during his time at WSOF (now PFL) and that included a successful title claim and a defense, as well.
Prediction: Paul Daley by KO/TKO
Cheick Kongo vs. Javy Ayala
In the second and much less important heavyweight clash of the evening, Cheick Kongo will face Javy Ayala on the main card.
Ayala picked up a big upset victory when he crushed Sergei Kharitonov at Bellator 163 in 16 seconds in November 2016. That win propelled Ayala to a position to fight Roy Nelson at Bellator 183. Unfortunately for Ayala, things didn’t go his way that night, and Nelson grounded him for the majority of the contest. It was certainly a sign of respect from Nelson, who chose the most convenient path to victory against the heavy-handed heavyweight.
As for Cheick Kongo, we haven’t seen the 39-fight veteran since he defeated Augusto Sakai in May last year. The win marked the fifth consecutive win for Kongo, and he moved to 7-1 in his last eight fights. His only loss during this time was to “King Mo,” who is in the headline bout of Bellator 199 this weekend. Kongo has managed to defeat all of his most recent opponents by way of submission and it’s approaching three years since he finished a fight inside the distance.
Will this be any different to Roy Nelson vs. Javy Ayala? Probably not.
Prediction: Cheick Kongo by unanimous decision
Aaron Pico vs. Lee Morrison
Bellator’s rising star will step back into the cage this weekend when he faces Lee Morrison
Despite just three fights under his belt, most of us know the story of Aaron Pico. The highly-touted youngster suffered a stunning defeat in his MMA debut last year when Zach Freeman submitted him in 24 seconds. He has since picked up his first and second victory in the sport by defeating Justin Linn and Shane Kruchten. Pico has finished both of these guys with highlight-reel knockouts.
This time, Pico is facing another experienced fighter in Lee Morrison. Morrison has 26 fights to his name, and the 32-year-old has stopped his last four opponents. Upon closer inspection, though, none of opposition had a winning record, and his last opponent was 0-10 when they met in November last year.
Prediction: Aaron Pico by KO/TKO – Round 1
Carrington Banks vs. Adam Piccolotti
The undefeated Carrington Banks will get another stiff test when he meets Adam Piccolotti this weekend at Bellator 199.
Banks is 7-0 as a professional and 3-0 since joining the ranks over at Bellator. With a strong wrestling base, he has caused havoc for his opponents so far. This time, however, he faces Piccolotti who is somewhat of an underrated fighter after dropping contests to Goiti Yamauchi and David Rickels. It’s been a sharp decline for the guy who defeated Brandon Girtz in November 2016.
Prediction: Carrington Banks via unanimous decision
Bellator 199 fight card
Bellator 199 begins at 7:00 pm ET (10:00 pm GMT) on Saturday, May 12.
Main Card (9:00 pm ET / 12:00 am GMT)
- Ryan Bader [-255] vs. Muhammad Lawal [+294]
- Jon Fitch vs. Paul Daley
- Cheick Kongo vs. Javy Ayala
- Adam Piccolotti vs. Carrington Banks
- Aaron Pico vs. Lee Morrison
Prelims (7:00 pm ET / 10:00 pm GMT)
- James Terry vs. Danasabe Mohammed
- Brandon Hester Diego Herzog
- Mark Climaco vs. Daniel Oseguera
- Elias Anderson vs. Hyder Amil
- Josh San Diego vs. Hohelin Hernandez
- Dominic Sumner vs. Tom Oswald
- Khai Wu vs. Cass Bell
- Josh Paiva vs. Adam Antolin
- Justin Tenedora vs. David Rivera-Cruz
- Ignacio Ortiz vs. Matt Aragoni
- Ahmed White vs. Deron Winn
- Janay Harding vs. Amber Leibrock
- J. Okanovich vs. Hugo Lujan
- Gaston Bolanos Malcolm Hill