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
The first Bellator card is absolutely stacked. Ryan Bader has the chance to make history and become a Bellator double champ. Aaron Pico makes his returned against a veteran opponent, and former pro wrestler star, Jake Hager, makes his professional MMA and Bellator debut. With so many great matchups, there are often awesome fights that get overlooked. We wanted to take a look at a few of those for you. Check out our underrated fights for the upcoming Bellator card destined to make a buzz.
AJ Agazarm vs Jesse Roberts
If you don’t know who AJ Agazarm is, you probably will after Saturday night. A native of South Florida, Agazarm originally wrestled for the Ohio State University before moving on to Jiu Jitsu where he has since become a multiple time world champion as a black belt in both gi and no-gi. His highest feat as a Jiu Jitsu artist was the runner-up honors he earned at the 2017 ADCC tournament, the biggest tournament in no-gi competition. “Lion” is known for his extreme aggression and high-paced, grinding style that wilts opponents. He also trains frequently with brothers, Nick and Nate Diaz, and also trains with boxing coach Freddie Roach. You can expect his hands to be a dangerous back-up in case his ground attacks are stifled. He has competed against numerous proven jiu jitsu masters including Marcos Galvao, Gilbert Burns, Garry Tonon and Dillon Danis. Like Danis, another fellow Bellator and Jiu Jitsu competitor, Agazarm is very talented on the mat but equally as talented at being a mouthpiece. Expect a lot of trash talk if Agazarm can pick up the victory over Jesse Roberts. Roberts is making his pro MMA debut, holding a 3-1 amateur record with all four bouts going to decision. No disrespect to Mr. Roberts but this seems to be another case of an incoming superstar from another discipline getting fed someone who doesn’t belong there. Roberts has fought a man named AJ but not AJ Agazarm, this will likely end quick once the fight inevitably reaches the mat.
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
Most of you reading this article know who Jake Hager and you don’t even realize it. That’s because Jake Hager is former WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Jack Swagger. Now, before you go on citing CM Punk and Greg Hardy and how MMA is a joke because if you have a big name, you can get into a major promotion without having any skills. Relax. Just, relax please. Jake Hager or Jack Swagger does have skills to compete at this level. He was a former collegiate football player and All-American wrestler out of the University of Oklahoma where he set the collegiate record for most pins as an All-American with 30. Not to mention, he is 6 feet 7 inches tall and will have to cut close to 20 pounds to make the 265-pound heavyweight limit, Hager is a gigantic human being. Quite honestly he would more than likely pummel Greg Hardy into oblivion. *Sips imaginary tea*. Hager will be meeting J.W. Kiser. At 40 years old and 6'1" 220-pounds, Kiser will be at a massive physical disadvantage and similar to the AJ Agazarm fight above, this one will end quickly. Hager will take Kiser down and it will be a short night. Jack Swagger will once again be a superstar, mark my words.
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