Bellator MMA is set to put on their very first event of 2019 and it will showcase the crowning of a new champion. This Saturday night, January 26, Bellator 214 will be live from the Inglewood Forum in Los Angeles, California.
The prelims will start at 7:00 PM EST / 4:00 PM PST on Bellator.com with the main card kicking off at 9:00 PM EST / 6:00 PM PST on Paramount Network.
Here’s what you need to know about the Bellator 214 main card.
Fedor Emelianenko (38-5) vs. Ryan Bader (26-5)
Heavyweight (207 to 265-pounds)
The Bellator 214 headliner is a unique one. The legendary Fedor Emelianenko will take on the current light heavyweight champion Ryan “Darth” Bader in the finals of the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix which will determine the new heavyweight champion.
Obviously, this means that if Bader comes out victorious, he will be the first-ever two-division champion in Bellator history. And how fitting is it to have such a historical figure standing in his way.
Russia’s “Last Emperor” Fedor Emelianenko is looking to become only the second man to defeat Bader in the light heavyweight champ’s last 12 fights. A win for Emelianenko would also make him a titleholder for the first time in 10 years since he defended his WAMMA championship in Strikeforce.
The only person to defeat Bader in that 12-fight span was none other than arguably the hardest hitter in MMA history, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Interestingly enough, the heavyweight great in Emelianenko will likely be the second hardest hitter Bader will have faced in his last 13-fights.
A Sambo master, Emelianenko’s style and size pose a very interesting threat to Bader’s very powerful wrestling game that has been seemingly unstoppable as of late. Of course, his power has appeared to increase with the move up in divisions as well.
Emelianenko has dealt with several incredible wrestlers throughout his lengthy and iconic career. Now at age 42, it will be interesting to see if he still can against one of the best in the world today.
Aaron Pico (4-1) vs. Henry Corrales (16-3)
The 22-year old Aaron Pico is years ahead of his age in experience. Which is obvious and frightening each and every time that he puts his skills on display.
After his upset loss in his debut, there has been no looking back as Pico has added four straight incredible highlight reel wins to his record. All of which came via TKOs despite the fact that his background is in wrestling.
Pico’s last fight was the biggest test of his young career as he was tossed former bantamweight title challenger Leandro Higo who he dispatched of like he was the veteran, not the prospect.
Against Henry Corrales, Pico will be looking to do so once again.
A title shot is well within range for either man with a win, and Corrales has already fought two Bellator champions. Unfortunately for “OK”, he lost both times with his other loss coming between them in a split decision to the most recent title challenger in Emmanuel Sanchez.
However, since the losing streak, Corrales has turned things around with four very impressive wins.
Being the well-rounded fighter that he is, it will be interesting to see how Corrales tackles the ever aggressive and evolving puzzle that Aaron Pico has become.
Jake Hager (Debut) vs. J.W. Kiser (1-1)
Heavyweight (207 to 265-pounds)
One of two intriguing debuts at Bellator 214 will belong to the former WWE star, Jake Hager.
Formerly known as “Jack Swagger” during his time with the WWE, unlike Phil “CM Punk” Brooks and more like Brock Lesnar, Hager actually has an athletic background as he was an All-American wrestler on the collegiate level.
Standing at an intimidating 6’7″, it will be very interesting to see if Hager can transition even half as successfully as Lesnar or even Bobby Lashley did during their MMA stints.
For the 40-year-old J.W. Kiser, the idea is simple: Don’t be the feeder that you’re expected to be.
Essentially a lifelong amateur in MMA as he holds an 11-8 record in those ranks, Kiser didn’t go pro until 2018. Thus making his amateur career eight years long.
With Kiser, you kind of know what you’re getting and that’s just a barrage of strikes. Only once has one of his 21 total fights ended by submission and that was verbal.
This fight should be a classic wrestler vs striker bout. As was to be expected with Hager vs. whoever was selected to be his opponent for his debut.
Ricky Bandejas (11-1) vs. Juan Archuleta (21-1)
It could very well be argued that Juan Archuleta should be fighting for the bantamweight title next rather than Ricky Bandejas. However, RIZIN FF and Kyoji Horiguchi came along and ruined that hope.
No worries though, because we now get another great bout in the meantime that surely guarantees the winner to get their shot at gold.
For Bandejas, he became a viral sensation after the UFC turned him down only for him to go onto Bellator and knockout the brash Irishman, James Gallagher.
Still feeling somewhat underappreciated, Bandejas is a very versatile striker who has a chip on his shoulder which makes him even more dangerous than he already was. His seven finishes are evidence of that.
Bandejas isn’t just a striker though, he can submit opponents as well. Which may end up being what he’ll want to try and do against the smothering teammate of UFC bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw, in Archuleta.
“The Spaniard” pours on the pressure and aggressive pace no matter where the fight goes. It’s either adapt or crumble. And only one out of 22 men have found out how to adapt.
Often times, analysts will say, “this fighter needs a statement win,” Well, for the 31-year old Archuleta, essentially every win is a statement win. And now getting yet another shot to shine on a big card, one better believe that Archuleta will look to make another one on Saturday.
Brandon McMahan (5-6) vs. Abdel El-Tamini (7-5)
If we’re going to be completely honest, this fight being on the main card feels like a bit of a head scratcher. Especially with grappling ace AJ Agazarm making his professional MMA debut on the card.
To put it plainly, the best explanation as to why it’s a top featured bout is likely due to Abdel El-Tamini being from Los Angeles which is where the event will be held.
Despite his absence from fighting in 2018 accompanied by his not so sexy looking record, El-Tamini is 6-2 in his last eight fights with all but one of those wins coming by submission. So it’s safe to say that he was indeed just a slow starter in his career who has really begun to grow. His last loss came to Juan Archuleta as well and there is zero shame in that.
El-Tamini will be highly motivated to return to action and do so in front of his hometown crowd in his Bellator debut. Thus making the challenge ahead of Brandon McMahan all the tougher to overcome.
Funny enough, a former WWE star and a McMahan are on the same card… It needed pointing out, okay?
Anyway, McMahan will also be making his Bellator debut as he looks to snap a two-fight losing streak. Both losses having come via decisions in 2018.
Also despite his similarly deceptive record like El-Tamini’s, McMahan has shown promise in his wins as his last win actually came by the rare Von Preux choke. Or, “Von Flue choke” for the old-schoolers out there.
Regardless, it should be a pretty fun scrap to kick off the main card action before business really picks up.
Drake Riggs is an MMA writer who specializes in feature pieces, the women's fight scene, lists, and rankings. He has been a passionate fan of MMA ever since 2009. Drake also currently writes for BJPenn.com, Fansided MMA, Cageside Press, and is a former contributor to Sherdog and MMA Today. He is also a die-hard fan of the NFL's Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars.