Bellator MMA heads to the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn., for Bellator 225.
The main event of the evening takes place in the heavyweight division, where Matt Mitrione clashes with Sergei Kharitonov. This is a rematch of a previous fight that ended in a no-contest due to an accidental groin strike just a minute into the fight. Mitrione took part in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix semifinals, where he met Bellator’s light heavyweight champion, Ryan Bader. Mitrione was unable to get anything going in that fight and ended up falling just short of glory as Bader won by unanimous decision. Kharitonov has won five fights in a row, with two no-contests sprinkled in between.
The co-headliner also resides in the heavyweight division, where Vitaly Minakov fights Javy Ayala. Minakov slipped up in his last fight against Cheick Kongo. Kongo was able to control the fight and take the decision to avenge a nearly five-year-old defeat at the hands of the Russian. Ayala, whose upset of Kharitonov in 2016 helped put his name on the heavyweight map, took another huge step forward when he beat former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir in December.
The main card also includes an additional heavyweight affair between prospects Rudy Schaffroth and Tyrell Fortune, plus catchweight action involving Yaroslav Amosov and David Rickels. On the women’s side, flyweight Alejandra Lara takes on Taylor Turner.
The preliminary card airs on Bellator.com, DAZN and Bellator’s mobile app at 5:45 p.m. ET. The main card airs live on the Paramount Network and DAZN at 9 p.m. ET.
This card is heavy (pardon the pun) on heavyweight talent. The headliner is a rematch between Matt Mitrione and Sergei Kharitonov, the co-main event features Vitaly Minakov and Javy Ayala, and the main-card lineup also includes a clash between undefeated up-and-comers Tyrell Fortune and Rudy Schaffroth. Which three fighters emerge with victories, and who delivers the most impressive performance?
Let’s start with the prospects. Schaffroth has earned his undefeated mark. However, Fortune is going to be a whole different level of fighter. After a dominant collegiate-wrestling career, Fortune became one of Bellator’s biggest signings. He has looked unstoppable through his first six fights, including four outings that ended early. The 29-year-old has improved a lot from his first fight and is now a well-rounded fighter. Fortune will rely on his wrestling against Schaffroth and will look to add his fourth knockout by ground-and-pound. It’s hard for Fortune to contend for the most impressive performance. We expect him to win in this fight, and there’s only a slim chance he slips up.
Minakov is another great heavyweight fighter on the Bellator roster. The Russian is coming off a setback in his last fight against Cheick Kongo. The unanimous-decision loss was the first of Minakov’s career, marking the end of a 20-fight winning streak for the former Bellator champ. Until that point, Minakov had been pretty unbeatable. He had scored big victories in Russia over Tony Johnson Jr. and Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. He had also previously beaten Kongo in Bellator. This fight will be different. Instead of Kongo, a former top heavyweight in the UFC, Minakov faces Ayala, who has ping-ponged between wins and losses with Bellator. He is coming off a victory over former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir, but a fight with an aging Mir is different from a fight against a prime Minakov. Minakov will keep the distance and win by either decision or a late knockout. Again, the name recognition isn’t there to really call Minakov’s win impressive. He’s the favorite, and we expect to see his hand raised at the end of the bout.
Mitrione and Kharitonov pair for a much closer fight. Kharitonov is on a five-fight winning streak and will now, once again, take the cage with Mitrione. Their last fight ended in a no-contest due to an accidental groin strike. Despite being the shorter fighter, Mitrione will have a three-inch reach advantage on Kharitonov. It’s difficult to call either guy the favorite. Kharitonov, who comes from a kickboxing background, can win by keeping the contest on the feet and out-striking Mitrione. Mitrione can win by grinding on Kharitonov and taking him to the ground, where the former football player can really taking the air out of the Russian’s sails. Whomever wins, it will be the most impressive heavyweight performance of the evening. Both fighters are near the top of the Bellator heavyweight division, and this could lead to title implications further down the line.
Welterweight fighter Yaroslav Amosov is undefeated through 21 pro bouts. Now, he draws a catchweight fight with David Rickels. Will Amosov keep his streak alive?
Yes, he will.
Rickels is very much like Amosov’s last opponent, Erick Silva. He likes to take risks on the feet and go for broke in his hunt for the knockout. Rickels is an exciting fighter to watch, but this a fight made just for Amosov.
Rickels has won five of his last six bouts. He’s a long-term Bellator veteran, and anything can happen in his fights. Amosov has been impressive in his undefeated run, though. The 25-year-old has won his two Bellator fights against UFC veterans. By no stretch of the imagination is this an easy feat. We can talk about a weaker resume outside of Bellator from when Amosov fought in Russia, but his last two appearances have shed more light on his talents.
Amosov is a great grappler. He will use these skills to his advantage against Rickels, who is most dangerous on the feet. If the fight hits the ground, the “Caveman” is out of his comfort zone. Amosov applied this same tactic against Silva. He took away Silva’s power edge and outgrappled him en route to a dominant decision victory.
Which fight is the sleeper match-up on this card?
Nick Newell and Corey Browning.
Newell took three years off, but he is now 2-1 since his return to action. This will be the biggest stage he has fought on since his appearances for the World Series of Fighting, where he eventually fought for the title. A majority of Newell’s victories have come via submission.
Browning has been strong in his two fights for Bellator. He opened his career by knocking out Kevin “Baby Slice” Ferguson Jr. and then used a heel hook to submit Aaron Chalmers in his last fight.
Main Card (Paramount Network/DAZN, 9 p.m. ET)
HW: Matt Mitrione vs. Sergei Kharitonov
HW: Vitaly Minakov vs. Javy Ayala
Women’s BW: Alejandra Lara vs. Taylor Turner
Catchweight (175 pounds): David Rickels vs. Yaroslav Amosov
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