A few weeks ago, Bellator made the exciting announcement that they would begin an eight man light heavyweight grand prix tournament in April.
Fans of Bellator were elated to hear the news as these tournaments have been a hit with Bellator’s faithful, the fighters, and the ratings. Not to mention, the light heavyweight division has become a must see weight class for the promotion.
The first two quarterfinal matchups will begin on April 9th at Bellator 256 as Lyoto Machida takes on Ryan Bader and Corey Anderson battles Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov
On April 16th, at Bellator 257, the remaining two quarterfinal matchups will take place as Yoel Romero takes on Anthony Johnson and current light heavyweight champ Vadim Nemkov defends his belt against Phil Davis.
Bellator betting sites have released their odds for each fighter’s chances of winning this tournament. Let’s step inside the betting octagon to examine these odds and make our grand prix winning predictions.
Bellator Betting Odds
The following betting odds are courtesy of BetOnline:
- Vadim Nemkov (+190)
- Yoel Romero (+400)
- Ryan Bader (+550)
- Anthony Johnson (+700)
- Corey Anderson(+1000)
- Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (+1000)
- Phil Davis (+1400)
- Lyoto Machida (+3300)
The Light-Heavyweight World Grand Prix kicks off April 9th! 📆
— Bellator Europe (@Bellator_Europe) February 10, 2021
Vadim Nemkov (+190)
- Record: 12-2, 5-0 in Bellator
Nemkov joined Bellator in the summer of 2017 after competing in Rizin. He’s won all five of his Bellator contests which includes a 2nd round TKO victory over Ryan Bader last August to capture the light heavyweight title.
11 of his 12 pro wins have come via stoppage with nine by way of TKO/KO. He’s only gone the distance in two fights and has been stopped one time.
Nemkov is the betting favorite to win this tournament.
Yoel Romero (+400)
- Record: 13-5, 0-0 in Bellator
The former UFC veteran will debut for Bellator by participating in the light heavyweight tournament. Although he’s lost four of his last five fights, they’ve all come via decision and some were questionable. Furthermore, a few of those were world title fights.
Romero has suffered one stoppage defeat in his career and that came in September 2011 via KO to Rafael Cavaltcante in Strikeforce.
Yoel is a solid as they come and will match up well with most of the participants in this tournament.
Ryan Bader (+550)
- Record: 27-6-1, 5-1-1 in Bellator
Bader is the former light heavyweight champ along with being the heavyweight champ. He lost to Nemkov last August via 2nd round TKO and is looking to take the long road back to winning the title.
Bader had won seven fights in a row heading into his matchup against Cheick Kongo where it ended via accidental eye poke in the fall of 2019. The fight was ruled a no contest. His loss to Nemkov was the first defeat since Anthony Johnson five years ago.
Bader has the experience and the grappling to go far in this tournament, but can he win it all?
Anthony Johnson (+700)
- Record: 22-6, 0-0 in Bellator
Like Romero, Anthony Johnson will also make his Bellator debut in this tournament. He hasn’t fought in almost four years and will battle the more active Romero in the first round.
👀 @CoreyA_MMA ain’t sleeping on Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov.
— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) February 9, 2021
However, it can’t be overlooked that Johnson does hold wins over both Bader and Davis. Furthermore, his last two came to Daniel Cormier via submission. I don’t believe he will have to worry about that with Romero.
“Rumble” offers value because he could end up surprising us all by winning this tournament.
Corey Anderson (+1000)
- Record: 14-5, 1-0 in Bellator
Anderson left the UFC last year after losing to Jan Blachowicz in a title eliminator. He had won four in a row prior to that 1st round KO defeat. He made his Bellator debut in November and defeated Melvin Manhoef via 2nd round TKO.
I believe Anderson is being overlooked for this tournament and he does offer value at online sportsbooks. However, he will have a tough opening round fight that could prove to be his undoing.
Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (+1000)
- Record: 18-5-1, 0-0 in Bellator
Yagshimuradov enters this tournament as the unknown as he will make his Bellator debut after a successful run in ACB. He’s won eight straight fights and looks like a legit darkhorse.
Although he’s slightly smaller than the other participants, Yagshimuradov does have the hand speed and striking skills to take out his opponents.
Additionally, Yagshimuradov has a well-rounded wrestling skillset which should keep him competitive in this tournament.
If you are looking for a tournament sleeper then keep your eye on Yagshimuradov.
Phil Davis (+1400)
- Record: 22-5-1, 9-2 in Bellator
Davis’ only losses in Bellator were to Ryan Bader and current champ Vadim Nemkov. Both of those defeats were via split decision. Davis lost to Bader in June 2017 and Nemkov in November 2018.
Davis has won three straight fights since losing to Nemkov. Two of those three wins came via TKO. His last bout was against Machida who he beat via split decision in September 2020.
11 of his 22 pro wins have come via stoppage. He’s 11-5 when going the distance and has never been stopped in his pro career.
For Davis, he is excited to be fighting against Nemkov for the title the Quarterfinal matchup:
“That’s what I want; this is an ideal situation for me, I have all the confidence in the world that I can pull off a victory against Nemkov.”
Lyoto Machida (+3300)
- Record: 26-10, 2-2 in Bellator
Machida has lost two straight fights, but they both came via split decision to Phil Davis and Gegard Mousasi. Prior to that, he had won four bouts in a row.
It’s a shame that we’re not getting a Machida in his prime because he would certainly be one of the favorites. “The Dragon” was an excellent fighter in his heyday. Now, he’s 42 and a step slower.
Machida is the longshot of the tournament and rightfully so. I expect him to be one and done.
Quarterfinal Fight Odds
Bellator 256 on April 9th:
Ryan Bader (-450) vs Lyoto Machida (+350)
These two combatants first fought in 2014 and Machida won via 2nd round KO. It was an impressive performance and one that Bader hasn’t forgotten.
In rematches, Machida is 0-3 in his career while Bader is 2-0. I expect Bader to improve that mark to 3-0 after this contest.
Bader should get this fight to the mat where he will control it and most likely win via unanimous decision.
Corey Anderson (-140) vs Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (+110)
Yagshimuradov is the underdog and is giving up four inches in height along with the strength and power advantages to Anderson.
📊 Check out @PhilMrWonderful: By The Numbers
— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) February 23, 2021
But, there’s something about his striking, quickness, and overall skillset that has many pundits and fans believing he can pull off the upset.
I am leaning towards the newcomer to get the upset via decision. I don’t think he has the power to finish Anderson.
Bellator 257 on April 16th:
Vadim Nemkov (-280) vs Phil Davis (+220)
Phil Davis is excited for this matchup because he gets a shot at the title right away. Unfortunately, I believe things will end the same for Davis as they did in their first matchup where he lost via decision.
Davis has never been stopped in his pro career. All five losses have come via decision. I see Nemkov orchestrating a similar fight plan as their first encounter in November 2018.
Take Nemkov to win this bout via unanimous decision.
Yoel Romero (-130) vs Anthony Johnson (+100)
This is the most exciting matchup in the Quarterfinal round as we have two solid fighters looking to get their first wins with Bellator.
For me, I am leaning towards Romero due to his being more active and the fact that he gets to go up in weight and not have to cut down to middleweight any longer. I think this will help Romero as he should bring power and quickness with him.
.@RyanBader is hyped to enter his second Grand Prix!
— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) February 22, 2021
Additionally, Johnson has to come down in weight which is something that Romero believes could work against his opponent:
“He is coming down and I am moving up. I think 205 is going to be tough [for Johnson]. I am very excited. I have a good respect for him and all of the people in this division for the Grand Prix but I am ready for that. I am ready for that. I have very good experience and this is my time.”
Take Romero to win this contest via decision.
Who Wins the LHW Grand Prix?
The semifinal matchups are set to begin in July and we will see some exciting battles.
One half of the bracket will feature Yagshimuradov taking on Ryan Bader. Although I believe Yagshimuradov will pull off the upset over Anderson, I do not see him getting past Bader. The former champ will make the finals.
On the other side of the tournament, we’ll have Nemkov vs Romero. This is going to be a fantastic matchup. It really could go either way. With that said, I am leaning towards Nemkov to win via split decision, but I am rooting for Romero.
In the final of the tournament, which is scheduled for October, we should see a rematch between Bader and Nemkov. This time, I am taking Bader to win. I believe he will have learned from his mistakes in the first matchup:
“As for Nemkov, of course, he has the belt right now and I definitely want revenge on that with the proper preparation for that fight – and weight cut. Going in there, I feel like it’d be a different story. … (Last time) I felt flat. I felt different in there last time. It was right when I was in my own head, ‘Alright, I’ve got to get this going. This is not going well.’ That’s when I got kicked in the head. I’d definitely like to go back to the drawing board and get that one back.”
Pick: Ryan Bader
$100 Could Win You…$600
Take Ryan Bader to recapture his light heavyweight title by winning this Grand Prix tournament. As he has called it – this is his “redemption tour” as he could avenge three losses on his way to winning the title.
As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed “King of the Blog” in his first year with the site. …