Bellator 290 Predictions – Ryan Bader vs. Fedor Emelianenko: Fight Card, Odds, Prelims, Preview, Expert Picks

MMA returns to CBS on Saturday nights when Bellator 290 becomes the first card to air on the network since 2010. The event will take place at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California.

In the main event, Ryan Bader will defend the Bellator Heavyweight Championship against Fedor Emelianenko. The fight will be the last in the legendary career of Emelianenko, who is one of the greatest fighters in the sport’s history. The pair met before, with Bader taking just 35 seconds to earn the TKO victory and capture the then-vacant championship and Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix in 2019. Bader has successfully defended his title twice since then.

Another championship fight is on the cards as undefeated Johnny Eblen defends his middleweight title against Anatoly Tokov. The fight is Eblen’s first defense since winning the belt with a dominant display against Gegard Mousasi in June 2022. Tokov has had seven straight wins since his debut in Bellator, five of them by stoppage.

Can’t get enough boxing and MMA? Get the latest in the martial arts world from two of the best in the business. Subscribe to Morning Kombat starring Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell for the best analysis and in-depth news, including a full Bellator 290 preview below.

Elsewhere on the map, Sabah Homasi and Brennan Ward are sure to get the hearts of fans around the world racing when they open up the main map. Homasi has built a reputation as a madman in the cage, with five of his last seven bouts ending in finishes. He enters a two-fight win streak in hopes of being shortlisted as a welterweight title contender. Ward returned from a five-year absence in 2022 as he battled his drug and alcohol addictions. He has two TKO wins as he has finished 11 of the 16 opponents he has defeated in his career.

Also, the preliminary rounds fill up with up-and-coming fighters trying to break into the title fight. Former welterweight title challenger Neiman Gracie is back as he takes on Dante Schiro. Heavyweight contender Steve Mowry returns to take on Ali Isaev. And former bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell is back when he takes on Nikita Mikhailov.

With so much happening on Saturday night, let’s take a closer look at the full fight card with the latest Caesars Sportsbook odds before we get to our staff’s predictions and picks.

Bellator 290 card, odds

Odds via Caesars Sportsbook

  • Ryan Bader (c) -330 vs. Fedor Emelianenko +260, Heavyweight Championship
  • Johnny Eblen (c) -300 vs. Anatoly Tokov +240, Middleweight Championship
  • Sabah Homasi -190 vs. Brennan Ward +160, welterweight
  • Neiman Gracie -280 vs. Dante Schiro +230, welterweight
  • Mukhamed Berkhamov -200 vs. Lorenz Larkin +170, welterweight
  • Achmed Magomedov -575 vs. Henry Corrales +425, featherweight
  • Steve Mowry -130 vs. Ali Isaev +110, heavyweight
  • Chris Gonzalez -195 vs. Max Rohskopf +165, lightweight
  • Karl Albrektsson -140 vs. Grant Neal +120, Light Heavyweight
  • Alejandra Lara -130 vs. Diana Avsaragova +110, Women’s Flyweight
  • Nikita Mikhailov -140 vs. Darrion Caldwell +120, bantamweight
  • Jornel Lugo -300 vs. Jaylon Bates +240, bantamweight
  • Isaiah Hokit -380 vs. Peter Ishiguro +300, featherweight
  • Yusuf Karakaya -150 vs. Ethan Hughes +125, welterweight

With such a massive main event, the CBS Sports crew moved on with main card predictions and tips. Here are your favorites: Brent Brookhouse (martial arts writer), Brian Campbell (martial arts writer, co-host of “Morning Kombat”), Shakiel Mahjouri (author), and Brandon Wise (editor-in-chief).

Bellator 290 tips, predictions

Bader (c) against Emelianenko bathroom bathroom bathroom bathroom
Eblen (c) against Tokov Tokov Eblen Eblen Tokov
Homasi vs. Ward Homasi station Homasi station

Bader against Emelianenko

Campbell: Because as romantic as the idea is of Emelianenko capping a storied 23-year career by walking away as champion, Bader remains as tough a duel as when he finished Fedor in 35 seconds in 2019. Yes, Emelianenko still has a dangerous mix of speed and power on his hands and is capable of ending a fight in one punch. But both his stamina and impact resistance remain well below the standard of elite title-level MMA. Should Bader, an accomplished wrestler, stick to the game plan of tiring Emelianenko by taking him to the ground, the dream of a picture-perfect ending could quickly turn into a nightmare.

Brookhouse: It pains me to choose Bader here. Emelianenko is a legend in every sense of the word. But he’s also 46, badly faded from his peak and his once-big chin can no longer reliably withstand the strength that’s always there in heavyweight division. Bader possesses the kind of style that’s just a bad matchup for this version of Emelianenko. Bader is able to wrestle Emelianenko down, drain the Russian’s gas tank and take over the fight. Or Bader could do what he did in the first fight and just crush Emelianenko early. Emelianenko still possesses enough power to end a fight when he lands, but the fairy tale ending seems unlikely.

Eblen vs. Tokov

Campbell: Eblen’s landmark title win over Mousasi was impressive in almost every category. The undefeated wrestler outplayed Mousasi throughout, relying on his engine to set an aggressive pace in a five-round decision win. But what he still lacks after 12 pro fights is an expanded level of experience that Tokov, who is a year older at 32, almost doubles as a pro. Tokov, a Russian native and a talented member of Fedor Emelianenko’s growing team, has gone 7-0 since making his Bellator debut in 2017. He’s also physically strong enough, particularly in the clinch, to keep Eblen from dominating him on the floor. Tokov has been looking for his own breakthrough moment, similar to what Eblen achieved against Mousasi. And he’s versatile and enduring enough to be a true-to-life canine capable of adding another world title to the Team Fedor gym.

Brookhouse: It’s easy to see Tokov’s experience advantage as a huge plus, but experience doesn’t mean much in a heads-up match, and Tokov doesn’t have many fights against “top contenders” either. Tokov is a tough hitter and very strong, but Eblen is a master at imposing his will on his opponents. Mousasi is not an easy man to wipe out completely from his competitive edge and Eblen has done just that. This will likely be the toughest fight of Eblen’s young career but he should be up to the task and able to find a way to pull off a win.

Mahjouri: This is a throw. Eblen’s one-sided dominance over Mousasi was an eye-opener for a relatively young fighter. Tokov has nearly three times the pro experience of Eblen with far fewer miles than Mousasi. Tokov is a powerhouse and should give a slight advantage when hitting. Eblen is a standout wrestler, but his ability to knock Mousasi down showed his game is progressing well overall. The biggest mystery is how well Eblen handles adversity. Tokov hits like a truck and had the willpower to weather a tough first round against Gerald Harris. Eblen has a greater advantage in grappling than Tokov in hitting. For this reason, I will side with the champion.

Homasi vs. Ward

Brookhouse: If this fight goes the way it looks on paper, it will be a fantastic way to bring MMA back to CBS. Both men are aggressive and dangerous on their feet. Much has been said about both of them being willing to go on strike. Should that happen, the battle could simply boil down to who lands the first bomb. Ward’s story is good, he returned to MMA after trouble with the law and his drug addiction as he scored two straight stoppage wins. Predicting who will win a slugfest between fairly evenly matched fighters is something of a guessing game, but Ward may have a slight advantage in raw power.

Mahjouri: Homasi vs. Ward wrote fight of the night everywhere if not fight of the weekend. Almost 88% of the pair’s fights end in stoppages, most of them in knockouts. Ward returned from a five-year layoff in 2022, defeating two unheralded fighters. It was a responsible decision for Ward to do some voting battles before taking on a ranked opponent. Homasi is certainly not the most consistent fighter, but he can hit remarkably hard. It would be touching to see Ward climb into the welterweight top 10 after overcoming his personal demons, but Homasi is more likely to land the decisive blow. Bellator 290 Predictions – Ryan Bader vs. Fedor Emelianenko: Fight Card, Odds, Prelims, Preview, Expert Picks

Chris Estrada

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