What’s better than one grand prix? Two grand prix (apparently “grand prix” is singular and plural at the same time like “deer”)! This past Wednesday, Bellator mastermind/mad scientist Scott Coker announced that the promotion would be holding a welterweight grand prix to determine the top fighter at 170lbs.
Apparently, Coker is taking the Marvel movie approach and planning sequels even before the first grand prix is over.
However, what makes this tournament different from the ongoing heavyweight slog is that it’s actually filled with fighters who are in the damn weight class. No fat and happy light heavyweights or a huggably soft Chael Sonnen to muddy the waters.
This tournament creates the potential for an endless variety of exciting outcomes, but there are 5 that are the most tantalizing, both for the fighters themselves and the promotion.
1. Rory Announces Himself as an All-Time Great
The term G.O.A.T has been thrown around a lot in the past couple of weeks thanks to Daniel Cormier capturing the UFC heavyweight championship, and Bellator is now giving Rory MacDonald the chance to do the exact same thing as D.C., but in a different order. D.C. won a heavyweight tournament, captured a light heavyweight title, and eventually right-hooked his way into history by flattening Stipe Miocic.
On the night that the welterweight grand prix begins, MacDonald is actually facing Gegard Mousasi for a chance to capture the middleweight title. Despite being the current welterweight champ, Rory is entered into the tournament as well, so there is the possibility that he beats Mousasi, becoming Bellator’s first dual-wielding champion, and then he could win the grand prix on top of that.
While the Bellator middleweight division isn’t exactly brimming with exciting talent, the welterweight division is the hottest in the entire promotion, so besting multiple top contenders to win the tourney while holding two belts would immediately send Rory and his turtlenecks into the vaunted G.O.A.T-sphere.
2. The Resurgence of Russian MMA in Bellator
It has been well documented that Bellator initially tried to make a big push into Russia, contracting and promoting numerous Russian fighters, and then they just kind of…stopped. As a result, one of the top welterweights in the world and former champion, Andrey Koreshkov, has been scarcely booked over the past couple of years.
By winning the grand prix, Koreshkov can easily reinforce his status as one of the best in the world, giving Bellator plenty of incentive to renew their Russian relations and undercut what the UFC is trying to do with Khabib et al.
3. Gracie Greatness Reigns Again
What’s old is new again, in that we have a tournament, and a 170lb. fighter with the surname “Gracie” is in the mix (technically it’s “Stambowsky,” but I won’t tell if you won’t). Luckily for Neiman Gracie, the nephew of Renzo Gracie, he won’t find himself in the cage with fighters who are A). 50-100 pounds bigger than him, and B). Juiced to the moon and back.
He’s currently 8-0 in his young MMA career, and all of his victories have come by submission. How great would it feel for Neiman to win the whole thing, and after the final, Royce and the rest of the Gracie train pile into the cage to congratulate him and lift him on their gi-clad shoulders?
4. The MVP Train Runs Over Everyone
No one believes Michael “Venom” Page’s hype more than MVP himself. The only strikes he’s taken in his last couple of bouts came from him patting himself on the back as he crushed tomato cans for our amusement.
This tournament will be the first time that we see MVP against actual elite competition, and it will be interesting to see how he fairs. If he gets starched in the first round, then the cat is out of the bag, but if he makes a decent showing at all, his stock goes way up, win or lose. If he takes the entire thing, you have a bonafide star on your hands.
Allegedly, he is facing long time Twitter-nemesis Paul Daley in the opening round, giving us the rare chance to hear some 100% proper-British smack talk from someone other than Michael Bisping.
5. A Homegrown Star is Born
One of the big things that has held Bellator back over the years is that they put all of their promotional muscle behind names they didn’t create. Their main events are littered with fighters you know because you watched Pride or the UFC, which constantly makes you think, “Hey, I should really check out the UFC!” Bellator is basically the WCW of MMA whether they know it or not, trying to build something new from the bigger promotions’ scraps. However, in Ed Ruth, there is salvation.
An All-American wrestler with hitting power and a penchant for punishment rather than position, he is just the right combination of likable and incredibly violent to put butts in seats with the right push. He’s currently unbeaten, 5 of his 6 wins have come by spectacular stoppage, and best of all, he is a purely Bellator fighter.
By far, him winning the tournament would be the best outcome for Bellator in the long-run, even above a “champ champ” Rory taking it all. This would give them a name that is all their own to grow and develop, a rising tide that would raise the entire ship…unless they decide to make him the co-main event for Rampage Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva Part 8.
Bonus Outcome: Jon Fitch Spells the End for Bellator
We all love Jon Fitch for his tenacity, but damn, his tenacity is not always that interesting to watch. He made history in his last fight with Paul Daley in that the contest was so boring that even his opponent started to boo. While him winning everything is a bit of a long shot due to his age and lack of tools on the feet, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility that he blankets his way to the mountain top.
This would sap any momentum created by the tournament, giving people all the more reason to not tune in next time. This would probably strike a fatal blow to Bellator, who is already dealing with waning ratings while paying exorbitant amounts of cash to the old but well-established names that litter the heavyweight tourney.
However the tournament goes, the anticipation is already sky-high, which means Scott Coker has done his job. Now, it’s up to the fighters to do the rest.