Bellator has officially announced the initial 10-man roster for its upcoming Welterweight Grand Prix. The tournament will consist of four quarterfinal matchups as well as an alternate bout featuring 10 of the best welterweights on the planet out in the UFC. Keep in mind Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald is a part of the tournament, and thus each fight in the tournament will be for five rounds, and each one of MacDonald’s fights will be a title defense (or if he loses the title, a title defense for that winner). It’s one of the best 170lb tournaments we have seen since the Rumble on the Rock and PRIDE days, and the tournament’s bouts should draw a lot of action at the betting window as the tournament format should draw interest from fans and bettors.
The opening odds for the fights have not been released, but I will give my initial reactions on the first-round matchups below.
Left-bracket quarterfinal: Douglas Lima vs. Andrey Koreshkov 3
Former Bellator welterweight champions Lima and Koreshkov look to settle the score for good when they fight in a trilogy matchup in the quarterfinals. The first time these two met, Koreshkov won a decision, while in the rematch Lima was able to score the knockout. Lima (29-7) is 11-3 overall in Bellator and has been one of the best welterweights in the promotion for years. After getting his belt back from Koreshkov and going on a three-fight win streak, he lost his belt to MacDonald in his last outing. Koreshkov (21-2) is 12-2 in Bellator overall and is riding a two-fight win streak at the moment with knockouts over Vaso Bakocevic and Chidi Njokuani. I’m of the belief that Lima truly was injured the first time these two met and I think he proved in the rematch he is the superior fighter. I like the fact Bellator did book this trilogy fight to settle the score once and for all, but I have to go with Lima to get the win.
Left-bracket quarterfinal: Michael Page vs. Paul Daley
A pair of rivals meet when Page finally fights Daley in a long-awaited grudge match. Page (13-0) is a perfect 9-0 in Bellator and in his last fight he beat David Rickels so bad he was forced to quit. Page is an incredible striker but the biggest knock on him has been that he’s been fighting lower-tiered opponents. Finally, Bellator got him to fight Daley, and this is a step up for Page, but also a winnable fight. Daley (40-16-2) is 6-3 in Bellator but he was absolutely dominated by Jon Fitch in his last fight in the wrestling department. Daley is an incredible striker as well and he brutally knocked out Lorenz Larkin in his previous fight to Fitch, but as good as Daley is offensively he does have a lot of holes in his game, and we did see him get knocked out by Nick Diaz back in Strikeforce. I think Page is a really unique talent and I’m glad he’s finally fighting a really good fighter in Daley, and I think he can win this fight. Page has been a great bet for a few years now despite what fans think of him, and he should be able to get the win over Daley.
Right-bracket quarterfinal: Nieman Gracie vs. Ed Ruth
Two prospects collide when Gracie takes on Ruth. Gracie (8-0) has looked amazing so far in Bellator with a 6-0 record and all but one of his career wins has come by submission, though he hasn’t been fighting top competition. Ruth (6-0) is undefeated in Bellator since making his pro debut in 2016, with five of his wins coming by knockout, but again he hasn’t been fighting top guys. This is the biggest “wild card” matchup in the entire tournament, as both guys are undefeated prospects with a ton of potential. Gracie has the edge in submissions, but Ruth is a powerhouse wrestler and I like the fact his ground-and-pound has been progressing. While I wouldn’t be surprised to see Gracie get the tapout, I think Ruth should be able to avoid the subs and grind out a hard-fought win.
Right-bracket quarterfinal: Rory MacDonald vs. Jon Fitch
Arguably the biggest mismatch in the quartefinals sees MacDonald defend his title against Fitch. Bellator has did MacDonald a solid here by giving him arguably the easiest stylistic matchup for him in the tournament in the first round. MacDonald (20-4) has looked great in Bellator so far with a 2-0 record as he’s taken out both Paul Daley and Douglas Lima. He’s one of the best welterweights in the world and his 2014 win over Tyron Woodley proves that. Fitch (31-7-1, 1 NC) is 1-0 so far in Bellator with a win over Daley and is on a five-fight win streak overall. However, he’s 40 and prior to his win streak he was really struggling. I think Fitch is going to have problems takind MacDonald down and I think MacDonald controls the standup and dominates the fight with his striking.
Alternate bout: Lorenz Larkin vs. Yaroslav Amosov
The alternate bout between Larkin and Amosov is intriguing, and the winner could eventually find his way into the tournament if there is an injury. Larkin (19-7, 1 NC) has been a disappointment so far in Bellator with a 1-2 record but prior to joining Bellator he had beaten Neil Magny and Jorge Masvidal in fights that showed his top-10 potential. Amosov (20-0) is undefeated in his career and he dominated Gerald Harris in his Bellator debut. I really like this matchup. Larkin is obviously the better striker but Amosov is really good on the ground so it’s a stylistic mismatch. As good as Larkin has looked at times in his career, I think I have to side with Amosov here. This should be one of the closest lines of all the quarterfinal fights.