Bellator Welterweight GP: A Classic Case of Striker vs. Grappler

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Rory MacDonald, Bellator MMA
Rory MacDonald Credit: Bellator MMA

Tournaments are all the rage these days, but Bellator has harkened back to the glory days of MMA with the welterweight world Grand Prix.

Scott Coker has done an exceptional job at building Bellator’s welterweight division, and the upcoming welterweight Grand Prix is going to be his way of showing it off. Eight of the very best 170-pound fighters in the world, many of which Coker signed himself, will participate in the tourney. The 170lb tournament will be building on the success of the promotion’s Heavyweight Grand Prix. When it launched earlier this year, Coker and company teased there were more tournaments to come. Little did MMA fans know that another GP was right around the corner.

Here is a look at the Bellator World Welterweight Grand Prix first round seedings and alternate bout:

A few things stand out when looking over the bracket. The first thing being that Paul Daley and Michael Page are finally going to fight. The second thing that stands out is that there can quite possibly be three welterweight title changes throughout the Grand Prix. The decision to include current welterweight champion Rory Macdonald in the GP was a questionable one. Couple that with the realization that the title is actually on the line for each of the champions fights, and you have a real life Scooby Doo mystery on your hands.

But the most glaring detail as it turns out is also the most subtle. It’s a nuance that went unnoticed until we looked over the bracket a good seven or eight times. That is, one side of the bracket consists primarily of strikers and the other side of the bracket makes their living grappling. It’s doubtful this is a coincidence that went unnoticed by the powers that be.

The ‘striking side’ of the bracket is made up of former division king Douglas Lima, who by anyone’s standards is an elite striker. He will be fighting arguably the best stand up fighter to ever come out of Russia, Andrey Koreshkov. Just soak that in for a minute. The other fight on the ‘striker side’ has the potential to be a FOTY candidate: Paul Daley vs. Michael “Venom” Page. Daley and MVP are the UK’s two most prolific stand-up fighters and they will finally get a chance to settle the bad blood between them.

The “grappler side” is made up of some of the very best wrestlers and Jiu-Jitsu athletes the sport of MMA has ever seen. Neiman Gracie is the nephew of legendary martial arts figure Renzo Gracie, and a damn fine BJJ practitioner himself. He will have his hands full against one of the best wrestlers turned MMA fighters in Ed Ruth. Then Rory Macdonald will defend the welterweight strap against former UFC title challenger Jon Fitch, a fight that everyone will be watching.

On the surface, the Bellator welterweight GP may just seem like a great way to sell tickets but when you start to peel back the layers you start to see the real genius of Coker. At its core, this tournament is the classic striker vs. grappler contest, perhaps the oldest cliche in modern MMA. The final certainly will be, unless an alternate is called upon. But more than that, this Grand Prix offers fans the perfect mix of young contenders, established vets, and some of the best 170-pound fighters in the world.

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