Bellator 208 -- Chael Sonnen vs. Fedor Emelianenko: Fight prediction, card, odds, start time

Bellator MMA has long been looking to crown a heavyweight champion, and the promotion is slowly moving toward that goal. The semifinals of the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix take place this weekend, with some pretty big names aiming to be called the heavyweight king of the company.

After Friday night saw Ryan Bader thoroughly dominate Matt Mitrione to earn a spot in the final, only one fight remains before crowning the first heavyweight champion in the promotion since 2016.

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Saturday night, the action continues at Bellator 208 in Uniondale, New York, as two marquee names in Chael Sonnen and Fedor Emilianenko do battle in what should be a treat. The card start at 9 p.m. ET and is simulcast on Paramount Network and DAZN.

Let's take a closer look at this semifinal matchup:

Fedor Emelianenko (37-5, 1 NC) vs. Chael Sonnen (31-15-1)

The sexiest potential matchup on paper from a name standpoint when this tournament was launched has now become a difficult fight to handicap given the contrast in styles, natural weight and the tossup as to who is more removed from their respective prime. 

In many ways, breaking down this fight isn't that different from Bader-Mitrione in the sense that it matches a pure wrestler against one of the most dangerous strikers in heavyweight history. The question comes down to who can implement their style first to gain control in this three-round fight and how much will Sonnen's size disadvantage as a natural middleweight offset the fact that the 42-year-old Emelianenko is well past his prime?

It's all debatable at this point, which makes this bout so fun to break down. But Sonnen isn't willing to simply declare that Emelianenko is washed up (nor will he concede the same about himself at age 41) and points to Fedor's 48-second knockout of former UFC champion Frank Mir in April as proof. 

"I think [Emelianenko] was something very special. I think that he still is but I do hope Father Time has caught up with him," Sonnen said. "He has a size that I've never had to deal with and he has power I've never had to deal with. I haven't bought into the fact that Fedor's not in his prime. We are in a world heavyweight tournament and he's in the final four. I don't buy into it yet. 

"I've got real concerns about Fedor, I've got real concerns about taking him down. I've got real confidence that I can keep him there if I get him down. That power is something else too. I'm looking forward to it, I think it's going to be fun to go out and deal with that but I think it's something that has created some stress in my week."


Fedor Emelianenko -250

Chael Sonnen +210


Benson Henderson -420

Saad Awad +335


Anatoly Tokov -115

Alexander Shlemenko -100


Timothy Johnson -130

Cheick Kongo +110


Henry Corrales -530

Andy Main +415


Sonnen, who out-wrestled Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in January to advance, expects to weigh at 220 pounds. Emelianenko, meanwhile, came in at 240 for his first-round bout against Mir. 


Mitrione believes victory is very achievable for Sonnen, but it will come at the cost of entertainment. 

"I think Chael can make it miserable," Mitrione said. "If Chael wins, it will be an incredibly boring fight and there won't be a finish. If Fedor wins, it could be on the ground or standing up and it will be a horrendous and vicious knockout."

"It's really who can implement their game plan and it's no secret -- Chael is going to go in there and look to take you down and lay on top of you and control you," Bader said. "If he can get two takedowns, he can win the fight. But if Fedor goes out there and stops his first two takedowns, I think Chael is going to panic a little bit. He's going to start getting tagged up and Fedor is going to run away with this fight. For me this fight is 50/50 and I really believe it comes down to the first two takedowns."

For all the rightful talk of Emelianenko being past his prime and having done a poor job of evolving his game over the years, he has retained a level of hand speed and explosion that remains dangerous for the division. Not only did he finish Mir after luring him into a war in the opening seconds, he knocked down Mitrione with a right hand in 2017 on a double knockdown before being stopped seconds later. 

The main decline for Emelianenko has surrounded his chin and once legendary punch resistance. It's a weakness that likely won't show itself as much against Sonnen, who is essentially moving up two divisions from his ideal weight and was never a one-punch threat on his feet. 

The big question, outside of whether Fedor can stop Sonnen from shooting, is whether Sonnen's chin can hang in there amid the constant threat that the fight could be over with one punch. Sonnen was floored multiple times in his 2017 decision win over Wanderlei Silva and has historically been vulnerable during chaotic fights in which he hasn't been in control. 

Sonnen has also succumbed to mental errors in some of his biggest fights when he hasn't been the frontrunner. Doing that just once against Emelianenko could bring an end to the fight. Bader's prediction about the first two takedown attempts being the most telling result as to who ultimately wins the fight could be true as Sonnen has little chance to do so should he be forced to stand up.

Pick: Emelianenko via second-round knockout

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Brian Campbell covers MMA, boxing and WWE. The Connecticut native joined CBS Sports in 2017 and has covered combat sports since 2010. He has written and hosted various podcasts and digital shows for ESPN... Full Bio

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