Chael Sonnen (Phil Lambert/Combat Press)

Best in Class: Will Bellator 170 Be the Best Event in Bellator History?

Bellator 170 figures to be among the biggest events in the promotion’s history, but will it end up being the biggest? If we’re looking at the card on paper, there’s certainly all the fixings for a hit, both with MMA fans and in terms of TV ratings.

Looking at the preliminary portion of the card, one name that sticks out is Guilherme Vasconcelos. He’s only had one victory inside the Bellator cage, but he is more well known for what has transpired outside the cage. Vasconcelos has been attached to pop-star Demi Lovato over the summer in 2016, and it appears the two have rekindled their romance heading into 2017. This comes only weeks after Lovato was pegged as Luke Rockhold’s girlfriend. Being known as “the guy who’s dating Demi” isn’t the way an MMA fighter wants to become a household name, but for a fighter competing on the prelims, the ability to draw in casual MMA fans is an invaluable asset.

Jumping up onto the main card, Georgi Karakhanyan takes on Emmanuel Sanchez in a bout that could arguably headline a Bellator card on its own. Karakhanyan is a seasoned veteran on a two-fight winning streak, including defeating the highly touted Bubba Jenkins for the second time. The former World Series of Fighting champion has been in the cage against some of the best fighters in the world and proved he belonged among the top featherweights. For Sanchez, a fight with Karakhanyan represents the chance to take the next step in his career. Bellator has built Sanchez into the rising prospect he’s become by wisely featuring him on the undercard of some of the promotion’s biggest events. He’s coming off a split decision loss to perennial title challenger Daniel Weichel, but make no mistake about it, Sanchez is the real deal. The Karakhanyan/Sanchez bout has the makings of a “Fight of the Night.”


Let’s not forget that Hisaki Kato is also on the Bellator 170 card. Kato has become a bona fide star among MMA fans for his two knockouts of former GLORY star Joe Schilling. A pair of knockout wins have Kato right back in the Bellator middleweight title picture, pushing the relatively unknown Japanese fighter toward one of the most exciting fighters on Bellator’s roster. Opposing Kato will be a fighter representing one of the most prestigious families in MMA history, Ralek Gracie. It’s been seven years since Gracie has strapped on a pair of MMA gloves, but that doesn’t mean he has been away from combat sports. The promoter of Metamoris, Gracie has found himself embattled in business and family issues outside the cage. The Gracie name will always bring with it higher expectations, but can the Brazilian make up for lost time?

Then, there’s the co-headliner. Oh you know, it’s only Paul Daley and Brennan Ward! The amount of savage involved in breaking down this fight would even make UFC commentator Joe Rogan jealous. Ward has become a staple of Bellator’s welterweight division by showcasing submission skills coupled with thunderous punching power. A win over Saad Awad in his last fight has Ward back on track. Now, he’s looking for the biggest win of his career at Bellator 170. Standing in his way is the man known as “Semtex.” I don’t care if he’s coming off a loss or coming off five losses, Daley is guaranteed excitement. Possessing Semtex in his hands, Daley is a threat to put every one of his opponents on a highlight reel at any given moment. This fight has the makings to be an exciting battle of power punchers. Both men know the other can crack, so the potential for a slow start is present. However, once the leather starts flying, odds are we’ll be getting an early contender for “Knockout of the Year.”

Capping off the evening is a light heavyweight contest between two legends of MMA. Tito Ortiz has been a household name since the pre-Zuffa days of the UFC. He’s played the part of hated villain for much of his career, which has certainly helped “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” create a lasting legacy in MMA. Standing on the other side of the cage is one of MMA’s best trash-talkers, Chael Sonnen. The former UFC contender has been involved in some of the biggest fights in recent memory and will ultimately go down as one of the most influential fighters of all time. Sure, he didn’t win “the big one,” but his impact on the sport goes well beyond punches and takedowns. Since signing with Bellator, Sonnen has made a beeline for Ortiz. We’ll get to see two legends square off in a fight that features two guys who had similar career paths, but ultimately never faced off against each other until now. They clearly aren’t on the same level they once were, yet both men carry extraordinary name value among MMA regulars and casual fans alike.

Considering the level of talent on display at Bellator 170, the card could end up going down as one of the best in the promotion’s history. It has the names, the talent and the style match-ups to leave a lasting impression in the minds of MMA fans. With Sonnen and Ortiz carrying the load of the promoting duties for the card, the rest of the men and women have to be feeling loose heading into Los Angeles. In a weekend jam-packed with fights, Bellator 170 is without a doubt one of the events fight fans don’t want to miss out on.