Last week we saw reigning UFC bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw, fail in his attempt to become a Champ Champ, a title only four fighters previously have been able to do. This weekend, another man will attempt to add that name to his resume.
In order to do that, Ryan Bader will need to go through a legend, an icon, an emperor. Bellator will kick off the new year with the culmination of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix, as reigning light heavyweight champion and NCAA Division 1 All-American, Ryan Bader looks to become the first-ever Bellator two-weight world champion as he meets arguably the greatest fighter to ever live and former PRIDE heavyweight champion, Fedor Emelianenko.
The co-main event features the heavily promoted rising star, Aaron Pico, taking on the seasoned veteran, Henry “OK” Corrales. We will be taking a look at my top three fights that are less heralded and ones that could produce the next big thing in combat sports.
The underrated fights at Bellator 214
AJ Agazarm vs Jesse Roberts
Juan Archuleta vs Ricky Bandejas
Casual MMA fans likely don’t know who either of these two men are and maybe even some hardcore fans don’t either. However, if you watched any of the UFC Embedded series leading up to the UFC’s debut on ESPN, you may recognize Archuleta as the man that was helping out TJ Dillashaw with his weight cut for UFC Brooklyn. Juan Archuleta may seem like a new name to many but he’s not a newcomer, with a record of 21-1 and a deep wrestling background at the University of Purdue, Archuleta is a highly touted prospect according to Cub Swanson and UFC bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw. He will be meeting Ricky Bandejas who is fresh off a brutal first-round KO over rising star and SBG fighter, James Gallagher. Bandejas was supremely overlooked heading into the bout with Gallagher and many thought he would get run through. A clean right straight and a turning side kick put all those thoughts to sleep, literally. Bandejas is extremely dangerous and well-rounded as 7 of his 11 pro victories have come by stoppage. Will Bandejas shut out another Bellator prospect? Or will Juan Archuleta continue his journey and live up to expectations?
Jake Hager vs. J.W. Kiser