Home Sports Prime Picks: Bellator 214 – Sherdog.com

Prime Picks: Bellator 214 – Sherdog.com

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The first Bellator
MMA
card of the year takes place this Saturday night at The
Forum in Inglewood, California, with Bellator
214
. The card features the finals of the Bellator Heavyweight
Grand Prix between the legendary Fedor
Emelianenko
and rising pound-for-pound stud Ryan Bader,
not to mention the return of highly-touted prospect Aaron Pico
and the mixed martial arts debut of former WWE wrestler Jake Hager
(aka Jack Swagger). Odds have been released for four of the
main card bouts, and I have given a Prime Pick for each bout.

Ryan
Bader
Inside the Distance (-195)

As much as it would nostalgic to see Emelianenko win the grand
prix, I don’t expect him to get by Bader, who has looked absolutely
outstanding since joining Bellator. “Darth” has won 11 of his last
12 fights overall and is currently riding a six-fight win streak
with a 4-0 record in the Bellator cage. He defeated Phil Davis in
his Bellator debut to win the promotion’s light heavyweight belt,
defended it against top contender Linton
Vassell
, then moved up to heavyweight and knocked out Muhammed
Lawal
in 15 seconds before riding Matt
Mitrione
to a decision. As good as Bader was as a light
heavyweight, he arguably looks even better as a heavyweight, and
now he will be taking on arguably the greatest heavyweight of all
time in the ultimate test.

His opponent has had a resurgence in the Bellator heavyweight
tournament as Emelianenko knocked out former
Ultimate Fighting Championship
stars Frank Mir and
Chael
Sonnen
to bounce back from a disastrous promotional debut where
he got knocked out by Mitrione. He even won the Sherdog Comeback
Fighter of the Year award. While that was deserved, you have to
remember he was fighting two guys who are notoriously chinny, not
to mention at the tail-end of their careers. Emelianenko is now
42-years-old and taking on the younger, more explosive Bader. Sure,
“The Last Emperor” has a puncher’s chance as it’s heavyweight MMA,
and the Russian has special KO power, but his opponent has looked
unstoppable and I don’t expect him to lose this contest with the
way he’s been fighting lately. With the bout being scheduled for
five rounds, there’s no reason the younger fighter can’t get the
finish. I like Bader at -320, but I like him inside the distance at
-195 even more here as him getting a TKO win before the final bell
is likely.
Though some may be tempted to take a swing on the big odds of
underdog Henry
Corrales
, I believe Pico defeats him in what should be a very
exciting featherweight match. As far as I’m concerned, Pico has
future champion written all over him. After losing his debut to
Zach
Freeman
in a gigantic upset, the former freestyle wrestler has
looked unstoppable, knocking out all four of his opponents in the
first round. Only 22 and already a terrific fighter, and he
improves every time we see him step into the cage. The sky is the
limit for this young man, and I recommend jumping on the hype train
while you can. His opponent here, Corrales, has definitely looked
good lately, turning his career around with a four-fight win streak
after losing three straight bouts to open his Bellator career.
However, this looks to be just like Pico’s last fight against
Leandro
Higo
, where it appears to be a step up on paper only to be a
blowout inside the cage. Maybe this is going to be the bout where
the Pankration champion goes to a decision for the first time, but
I think he has a very good chance of finishing Corrales. Though
“OK” hasn’t been knocked out yet, Pico has all the power to put him
away. Obviously -500 is a high line, but when the props are
released for this fight, keep your eye on the Pico inside the
distance odds.
According to the odds, the closest fight on the main card is a
bantamweight tilt between top prospects Juan
Archuleta
and Ricky
Bandejas
. This should be a great fight, but I like Archuleta in
this one. First off, the guy is on a 16-fight win streak, and he’s
3-0 inside Bellator. His quality of opposition has been decent,
with a notable win over UFC veteran Robbie
Peralta
. He trains at a great camp with fighters like T.J.
Dillashaw
and Cub Swanson,
which should help him improve both his skill set and confidence.
Most of his previous bouts came at featherweight, but I think as
long as he makes weight safely he should be even better as a
bantamweight. Archuleta is an incredibly well-rounded fighter and
could soon fight Darrion
Caldwell
for the belt.

Getting by Bandejas won’t be easy, though. The Catone MMA fighter
knocked out highly-touted prospect James
Gallagher
in his promotional debut and is riding a six-fight
win streak. He also holds a notable win over current UFC fighter
Merab
Dvalishvili
from earlier in his career. I think Bandejas is
really good, but I think Archuleta is even better. At -270, the
odds on Archuleta getting his hand raised look about right.

Though most expect Hager to roll over J.W. Kiser in
his MMA and Bellator debut, I’m not so sure about that. Yes,
there’s some hype behind Hager because of his wrestling background
(both amateur and professional), but he has zero experience in the
sport. That factor may come into play here against Kiser, who has
minimal pro experience as well but has ample amateur fight
experience. We just saw a similar situation last week in the UFC,
when Greg Hardy
was a massive favorite to beat Allen
Crowder
yet lost the fight due to disqualification. It’s also
heavyweight MMA and anything can happen when two big boys wearing
little gloves enter the cage. Due to all that, there’s no way I
would bet -400 on the inexperienced Hager, and instead, I am
tempted to take a small flier on Kiser at +300. Normally this
wouldn’t be a fight I would label a Prime Pick, but there are only
odds available for four bouts at this event, so I included it in
this article. If you’re looking for a big underdog to come through
this weekend, consider taking a small punt on Kiser.

Note: At the time of this article’s posting, only Bovada was
offering odds on the Hager vs. Kiser bout, while most other
sportsbooks were offering odds on the other three fights. Adam
Martin is a mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the
sport since 2011. He is currently the lead odds analyst for
Sherdog.com as well as the lead staff writer for MMAOddsbreaker.com. Adam is also the co-host of
“The Parting Shot Podcast” on iTunes. His
favorite fight of all time is Dan
Henderson
vs. Shogun Rua and he wishes
Pride
never died. Adam is based out of Toronto, Ontario,
Canada, and he is a graduate of the University of Toronto and
Centennial College. Get in touch with him on Twitter @MMAdamMartin.

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