With Bellator MMA set to put together an eight-man tournament to determine the next challenger to Rory MacDonald’s crown, we put together a list of the eight welterweights and the four matchups we would love to see them involved in.
Paul Daley vs. Michael ‘Venom’ Page
This one is an absolute no-brainer. Both of these guys have been gunning for each other for quite some time now and given that they’re both English, the opportunity exists for it to be the headliner on what could be massive fight-card on home soil.
Paul Daley has some of the most vicious hands in MMA, period. Sure, his grappling has always been an Achilles Heel but in an opponent like Page, that more-than-likely won’t be an issue.
MVP has been trying his hand inside the boxing ring in recent times but with practically everyone now calling for him to be thrown in with a real test of his clear talent, his reportedly confirmed spot in the 170lb GP will be perfect.
Douglas Lima vs. Andrey Koreshkov
Two former promotional champs. Two fights in the past with one win apiece. Why not set up a rubber match between these two Bellator staples?
This fight, along with the aforementioned Daley/MVP is reportedly a very realistic possibility for the tournament’s opening round. Douglas Lima will no doubt be dying to get another shot at MacDonald’s belt after losing out earlier this year and with a chance to put an old rivalry to bed on the way, what’s not to love?
Andrey Koreshkov has lost out only to Koreshkov and Ben Askren in the past, holding an 11-2 wins under the Bellator banner. As one of the most underrated welterweights on the planet, do not be surprised if he manages to turn a few expectations on their head in this Grand Prix.
Ben Askren vs. Michael Chandler
A lot of question marks loom over this one with Askren’s state of semi-retirement and Chandler reaching the end of his contract but trust us, this would be the most anticipated matchup of the four if it was actually put together.
The question is whether the allure of facing Rory MacDonald would be enough to coax the unbeaten Askren out of his retirement. It should. He has spoken about wanting to face the top 170lb-r in the world and right now, Rory MacDonald has an argument.
Michael Chandler is a Bellator legend, simple as. As the former-lightweight champion, he engaged in some of the most memorable matchups in the promotion’s history. He has fought at welterweight before, but if the jump up is a no-go, sub him out for Benson Henderson or Jon Fitch.
Lorenz Larkin vs. Ed Ruth
This one might be a long shot but if Scott Coker is ready to throw super-prospect Ed Ruth into the big-leagues at just 5-0, then this is the time to do it.
In Lorenz Larkin we have a tried-and-tested veteran of the UFC who looks unbeatable on his day. Unfortunately, his day doesn’t come around half as often as we would like and so far in Bellator has has gone 1-2. He holds wins over Neil Magny, Jorge Masvidal, Robbie Lawler and Santiago Ponzinibbio.
Ed Ruth is one of the most highly-touted up-and-comers in the game today. A three-time NCAA collegiate wrestling champion, his run in MMA thus far has produced five wins and four finishes. Whether he’ll be risked in a grand-prix filled to the brim with high-calibre opponents with a wealth of experience, remains to be seen.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena