Bellator fights we want to see in 2021: Bader vs Minakov

With Ryan Bader’s reign as light heavyweight champion coming to an end in August, the former dual-champion has nowhere else to go but back up to the heavyweight division, to defend the last piece of Bellator gold he has. And in my mind, there is one Russian mountain the American has to traverse to get a true stranglehold on the division. It’s a fight demand for Bellator that better happen in 2021.

Bellator dream fight: Ryan Bader vs. Vitaly Minakov

At 37-years-old, Ryan Bader is a good light heavyweight, but better heavyweight. In August, his trip to the Vadim Nemkov woodshed showed he starting to age out of the 205-pound class. However, his absolute dominance over the field in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix proved “Darth” is a terror when not having to cut weight. That said, his most formidable heavyweight test on paper was an eye-poke shortened bout with Cheick Kongo in 2019. No disrespect to his wins over Muhammed Lawal (far from his best version), Fedor Emelianenko (even farther from his best version), and Matt Mitrione (still wrestling deficient), but those men are not the best Bellator has to offer.

Enter the division’s final-level boss Vitaly Minakov. The man looks the part of a hulking heavyweight and can match it in the cage. He’s a former division champion who was never beaten for his title. Instead, a two-year-long contract dispute ended his reign prematurely and lead to the aforementioned grand prix. His lone loss is a razor-thin decision to a red-hot Kongo on a seven-fight winning streak. And Minakov had beaten Kongo previously. Minakov has shown heavyweight power with nearly 60% of his wins by knockout. However, what should give Bader Nightmare on Elm Street sweats is that the Russian strongman’s Sambo champion grappling.

At heavyweight, Bader has a speed advantage he never does at 205-pounds. Although, outside of Phil Davis and Minakov, Bader has made a Bellator career of fighting older opponents. If speed isn’t enough against Minakov, best of luck trying to wrestle a monster who will be stronger and outweigh him by 20 to 25 pounds. In addition, it’s a chance to promote some classic Rocky IV, US of A versus Russia violence.

Who would win?

However, unlike in Rocky, I’m putting my money on the Russian winning and Vitaly Minakov becoming a two-time Bellator heavyweight champion.

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