Two MMA legends, both in the twilight of their respective careers, will face off in the main event of Bellator 237 as the promotion ventures to Japan. The greatest heavyweight of his era, Fedor Emelianenko, faces off with former UFC light heavyweight champ Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in the night’s featured bout from Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.
Emelianenko (38-6) was once one of the most feared men in MMA, a near invincible wrecking machine from Stary Oskol, Belgorod, Russia. At a time when PRIDE boasted the best heavyweight roster in the sport, Emelianenko was untouchable. He won 27 consecutive fights before a shocking submission loss to Fabricio Werdum in Strikeforce in June 2010. That loss was followed by a pair of TKO losses in the promotion and a three-fight win streak over mid-tier competition before a retirement that lasted from June 2012 to a return in December 2015. After a pair of wins, Emelianenko ended up in Bellator where he was knocked out by Matt Mitrione in his promotional debut. After TKO wins over Frank Mir and Chael Sonnen, Fedor was knocked out by Ryan Bader in January in an attempt to win the Bellator heavyweight championship in the finals of the grand prix tournament.
For Jackson (38-13), recent fortunes have been equally mixed. After making his name in PRIDE as well, including a stunning win over Chuck Liddell in the legendary 2003 Grand Prix tournament, Jackson found himself in the UFC, where he again defeated Liddell, this time capturing the UFC light heavyweight championship. He went 5-5 in his next 10 fights in the UFC before leaving for Bellator. Jackson has gone 6-2 in the Bellator cage, though he only fought once in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He fought twice last year and will fight for the only time in 2019 when he faces Emelianenko.
Bellator 237 viewing information
Date: Saturday, Dec. 28
Time: 10 p.m. ET
Location: Saitama Super Arena — Saitama, Japan
TV: Paramount Network Stream: DAZN
Bellator 237 fight card, odds, picks
Fedor Emelianenko -137 vs. Quinton Jackson +110: Rampage has fought infrequently, as has Emelianenko. Both men have also fought “big name” opposition when they do compete. That said, this is a heavyweight fight and Emelianenko has heavyweight power and the willingness to throw it. Jackson’s chin is likely more durable than Emelianenko’s, but the conservative Jackson we’ve seen from time to time — the Sonnen fight is a good example — will not trouble Emelianenko’s weak spot. Prediction: Emelianenko via TKO1
Michael Chandler -345 vs. Sidney Outlaw +260: This fight will be contested at a 160-pound catchweight, though it may well not matter if it was fought at 155 or 170. Chandler has been in with Bellator’s elite during his career, and he has only lost in matches against those elite-level competitors while holding the promotion’s 155-pound title on three separate occasions. He can wrestle, on the feet and should be hungry to avenge a May TKO loss to Patrício Freire by taking out his aggression on Outlaw. Outlaw made his Bellator debut by beating Roger Huerta by decision in November and is stepping in as a replacement for Benson Henderson after Henderson was forced out of the fight. Outlaw is a game opponent but facing a large uphill battle. Prediction: Chandler via UD
Michael Page -833 vs. Shinsho Anzai +500: Another catchweight bout, this one to be contested at 173 pounds. It’s an old song in the Bellator playlist: Page vs. an overmatched opponent seemingly there to get knocked out. Page has trounced low-tier opposition over and over again in Bellator, only to look far less dynamic when the level of opposition increases, be it against Fernando Gonzalez, Paul Daley or Douglas Lima. Luckily, even if these fights are played out, the resulting knockouts are exciting enough to be a brief moment of relief from the self-serious world of MMA. Anzai had a 2-2 run in the UFC, largely unmemorable before defeating Yoichiro Sato at DEEP in September in his lone 2019 bout. Prediction: Page via KO1
Lorenz Larkin -500 vs. Keita Nakamura +350: Larkin was an exciting prospect in Strikeforce before proving a capable, but not elite, welterweight in the UFC. Lima defeated Larkin in his Bellator debut — an attempt to win the welterweight title. He was then knocked out by Paul Daley but has won three straight fights, including a recent split decision win over Andrey Koreshkov. Nakamura had a lengthy UFC run in which he alternated wins and losses for eight fights before his run came to an end. The fight with Larkin will be his first outside the UFC since his September 2015 debut. Prediction: Larkin via UD
Kana Wantanabe vs. Ilara Joanne: Undefeated Wantanabe will make her Bellator debut against the Joanne, who is riding a three-fight winning streak. In Joanne’s most recent fight, she submitted veteran Bec Rawlings with a kneebar in October. The Rawlings fight was Joanne’s debut in Bellator. Wantanabe has finished five of her eight victories by submission or knockout. Prediction: Wantanabe via UD
Goiti Yamauchi vs. Daron Cruickshank: Yamauchi has been fighting for Bellator since September 2013, though he has not earned his way to a title shot despite a 10-3 record in the promotion. He is currently riding a two-fight winning streak with wins over Daniel Weichel and Saad Awad. Cruickshank has fought in the UFC for a lengthy stint but has recently been competing in the Rizin promotion where he has not found much success. He is currently on a two-fight losing skid. Prediction: Yamauchi via UD