Ryan Bader is set to defend the Bellator heavyweight title on Saturday night in a rematch with Fedor Emelianenko from the Kia Forum in Inglewood.
Not only will this fight be for Bader’s title, but it will also serve as the final fight of the legendary Emelianenko’s career.
Bellator odds anticipate Bader to defeat Emelianenko once more as a solid -300 favorite. Emelianenko comes into his final career fight as a decided +240 underdog.
Here are our picks and predictions for Bader vs. Emelianenko at Bellator 290 in Southern California.
Ryan Bader vs Fedor Emelianenko odds
|Method of victory||Ryan Bader||Fedor Emelianenko|
|To win by KO, TKO, DQ or submission||-225||+275|
|To win by decision||+650||+1,200|
Odds courtesy of Betway as of February 1, 2023
Ryan Bader vs Fedor Emelianenko picks
Click on each prediction to jump to the full analysis.
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Ryan Bader vs Fedor Emelianenko betting preview
There once was a time when Emelianenko was considered the baddest man in all MMA, and many salivated at the prospects of the Russian crossing over to the UFC and facing Randy Couture or Brock Lesnar during his heyday. Those days are long gone, but Emelianenko still generates enough respect on his name to have Bellator allow him to face Bader again for the title in his final career bout.
The last time these two fought, it didn’t turn out too well for Emelianenko. Bader went right at him from the opening bell, dropping him with a stiff jab and stopping him with a follow-up flurry on the ground to end the fight in 35 seconds. That happened three years ago, and while Bader is arguably still at the top of his game, Emelianenko isn’t likely to look any better here at age 46.
Bader is a unique fighter. Since moving to Bellator after a stint with the UFC, he’s won titles at light heavyweight and heavyweight, showing excellent speed and striking power. He’s undefeated as a heavyweight, though, ironically, his reign at light heavyweight came to an end at the hands of Emelianenko protege Vadim Nemkov in 2020.
Since their first fight, Bader has fought six times compared to twice for Emelianenko. Bader has been defending his titles against elite competition whereas Emelianenko fought Quintin “Rampage” Jackson in a glorified exhibition, but destroyed Tim Johnson who was all too willing to stand right in front of him when they went head-to-head in 2021.
These two are strikers at heart and can’t afford to make any costly mistakes. Even at Emelianenko’s advanced age, he doesn’t waste any energy and can still deliver a kill shot under the right circumstances. As far as the champ is concerned, he has all the physical attributes to finish his rival once and for all, but he can’t get careless against his retiring opponent who hopes to end his career as a champion.
Ryan Bader vs Fedor Emelianenko tale of the tape
|Ryan Bader||Fedor Emelianenko|
|233 lbs||Weight||233 lbs|
|74 inches||Reach||76 inches|
|30-7-1 (12 KO)||Record||40-6-1 (16 KO)|
Ryan Bader vs Fedor Emelianenko prediction and best bet
Prediction: Bader moneyline
Once upon a time, Bader wouldn’t have been expected to hold Emelianenko’s towel. That was a long time ago, though, and Bader has since established he has a style “The Last Emperor” cannot conquer in his current state. An already stiff Emelianenko getting rocked by a jab emphasizes how bad his punch resistance has become.
Perhaps Bellator wants to do a favor for someone who helped carry their brand in a big way or do their part to honor a legend, but this is a fight Emelianenko can’t win. It's also a red flag when a fighter has already announced their retirement before a fight.
The call is that Bader walks out of Inglewood still a champion.
Prediction: Bader moneyline (-300 at Betway)
Best bet: Bader moneyline
All of Emelianenko’s six losses have been finishes. Five of those have occurred inside the first round, including one coming at the hands of Bader in their first fight. While the living legend should be able to last longer than 35 seconds this time, it’s a tall order to expect him to get out of the first round.
The only market that looks to be available right now is moneyline bets, so we'll take Bader at -300 before the line climbs even higher. At the same time, keep an eye out for props, particularly Bader winning by stoppage in the first round.
Prediction: Bader moneyline (-300 at Betway)