Bellator 237: Fedor and Rampage to Engage in True Throwback

Bellator 208 Fedor
Credit: Bellator MMA

Two legends of PRIDE will collide in a true throwback as Fedor Emelianenko meets Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in the main event of Bellator Japan in night one of a crossover with RIZIN.

Let’s go back.

The year is 2003 and the UFC is still two years from airing The Ultimate Fighter on SpikeTV.    But in Japan, two of the most prolific stars of the 2000’s are beginning to embark on what would become legendary careers.  “The Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko was just six fights into what would eventually become a 27 fight run where he would not suffer a single loss.  Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was a new upstart in PRIDE after having been a powerful force on the regional circuit in the United States.  By the end of the decade, both men will have reached single name recognition among the MMA fandom.

This Saturday’s contest harkens back to the classic match-ups seen in the early 2000’s in the days of PRIDE.  The entire event has been poised to feel like a true throwback: The two are not only fighting again in Tokyo, but they are even fighting back in the Saitama Super Arena that was the site of many of their classic fights in PRIDE.  Even the undercard has touches of the classic feel, with the entire card being a cross-promotional event between Bellator and RIZIN at a level that is hardly seen in today’s MMA landscape.

But while many expect the energy in the arena to feel like 2003, questions linger about what we may see when the two finally collide.  Emelianenko is fighting for the first time since losing in the finals of the Heavyweight Grand Prix against Ryan Bader back in January.  The event capped off a 2018 run that saw him shock Frank Mir with a first round knockout and bulldoze Chael Sonnen in the semifinals.  Many wondered if he would step away from the sport a second time, and months later he answered those questions by announcing that he had signed a new contract with Bellator in what has been viewed as a retirement tour with President Scott Coker saying he plans to bring Emelianenko to several markets so people can see him fight for presumably the final time.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has been clear that it is his desire to compete in the most exciting fights possible for the remainder of his career.  He is coming off a fourth fight with arch-nemesis Wanderlei Silva where he added another stoppage to his already impressive collection.  Emelianenko is a similar dance partner and a fitting opponent for what is shaping up to be an incredible event in Japan.  While Jackson has not indicated that Saturday is his last fight, it is not lost on anyone that a knockout victory over the legendary Fedor in Japan could be as fitting a finale for his career as he could possibly script.

Jackson’s early days in Japan are filled with startling displays of his power.  His knockouts over the likes of Kevin Randleman and Chuck Liddell stand out, and his slam of Ricardo Arona remains one of his most iconic moments.  His days in the UFC saw another stoppage of Liddell to win the title and a victory over former PRIDE double-champ Dan Henderson to unify the titles at 205 pounds.  They also saw battles with the likes of Jon Jones, Ryan Bader, Lyoto Machida, and Glover Teixeira during his run.  His run in Bellator has seen him hit a stride of fights that suit him at a pace that has seen him compete once a year.

While the year is no longer 2003, their last several fights have many feeling that being back in front of the Japanese crowd at the Super Saitama Arena will bring out the familiar magic for both men to have an exciting contest for as long as it lasts.  Jackson is reportedly expected to weigh in roughly 260 pounds, five pounds more than his last fight back in September of 2018.  It will be a sizable difference compared to the 236 pounds Emelianenko weighed for his fight with Ryan Bader.  On paper, Emelianenko figures to be the faster fighter and should mix up his attack with takedowns and crisp boxing.  By getting in-and-out efficiently, he gives himself the best chance to outwork Rampage over the course of the fight. By comparison, Jackson should come forward with his usual plodding style and batter Emelianenko with heavy shots to accumulate damage.  Jackson figures to win a fire-fight in the middle of the cage with Emelianenko and is favored to be able to land the knockout during the fight, but he should look for an early lead on the scorecards by trying to deliver damage in the opening rounds in case he doesn’t land the finishing shot.

Jackson could find himself in an interesting spot with victory after having a brief post-fight scuffle with current Bellator double-champion Ryan Bader back in September.  Emelianenko is expected to be matched-up with the most intriguing opponents possible as he fulfills the rest of his contract.