Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix Betting Odds and Predictions

Bellator Light Heavyweight Background

Oh Bellator, you have truly outdone yourselves this time! And I’m not even being sarcastic. I love the new blood we get in this tournament. Anthony Rumble Johnson and Yoel Romero have both come over from long careers in the UFC and will both be in the mix right away for the belt.

Grand Prix tournaments are something that the UFC just doesn’t do. I really wish they would. There really is nothing like a tournament that culminates in a champion being crowned. Strapping up a new title holder after months and brackets is a really cool thing.

So, who is the champ right now and who are the fighters in the field?

Recently, Vadim Nemkov fought Ryan Bader for the promotion’s Light Heavyweight strap and got the win. Ryan is still the heavyweight title holder and both men will be in the Grand Prix.

Nemkov Defeating Bader

In addition to the light heavy and heavyweight champs, we get to see the aforementioned Rumble Johnson and Yoel Romero who is a natural middleweight, mind you. Corey Anderson, who we once thought could challenge for the UFC title one day, has made his way to Bellator.

People wonder why these fighters would leave the UFC for Bellator and there are a couple of reasons. They have been taking performance enhancing drugs in the past so their bodies don’t produce as much naturally anymore.

Please Note:
With USADA in place in the UFC, they know they can get over to Bellator and get their testosterone levels back to a “healthy” range. There’s also the money. That’s important as well and since Bellator doesn’t have hundreds of stars like the UFC, they can afford to pay the few they have under contract. Another entrant to the Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix tournament is Dovletdzhan Yagshimuridov. We will not be typing that out over and over. We shall call him Dove. As an added bonus, we get Phil Davis and Lyoto Machida to spice things up. Davis could be a dark horse to win this thing but it is going to be difficult for the 40+ Machida to deal with the strong wrestlers in the field.

BetOnline.AG being the best online sportsbook for MMA betting that they are released betting odds for every fighter in the tournament to win the tournament. Let’s take a look at those and make out predictions on a winner.

We can also look at the betting odds for the first round of the tournament and see if there is any current value in the lines.

Betting Odds to Win the Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix

Lyoto Machida: +3300

I realize that Lyoto isn’t the only elder statesman in this field and he has shown the ability to knock anyone out in a variety of ways. Since joining the ranks in Bellator, Lyoto Machida has fought 4 times, racking up a 2-2 record.

He beat fellow Brazilian Rafael Carvalho in his debut and then embarrassed and retired Chael Sonnen after that. Next up, was Gegard Mousasi which was a rematch from their days fighting inside of the Octagon.

Machida Retiring Sonnen

Machida made it close and the judges were split but the Dutchman pulled it out 3 rounds to 2. Then, in another rematch from the UFC days, Lyoto fought Phil Davis to a split decision loss.

You can make the argument that he could be 4-0 if a couple of things would have gone differently but honestly, I didn’t think either fight should have been a split decision and if Machida would have been named the winner, a lot of folks would have been upset.

I love Lyoto as much as anyone but he isn’t quite as big as the others and just may be too old to make a run through a tourney as strong as this one. If he stays at the same weight he normally fights at, then he is going to have a hard time with the larger wrestlers.

I’m sorry Dragon but I can’t back you here.

Phil Davis: +1400

This betting line surprised me A LOT! There are others close to the top like Yoel Romero who is undersized and 40+ that have odds half the size of Phil Davis.

Ah, the reason Phil Davis has betting odds north of 10 to 1 is because he fights the #1 seed, if you will, Vadim Nemkov in the first round. Phil is just a (+127) underdog in that fight, though. Both men have similar styles and Phil has the experience edge by a country mile.

Davis Vs Nemkov

He did win a split decision over Phil a couple of years ago and you have to imagine that the now 28 year old Russian has progressed and the 36 year old Davis has regressed. This is a tough pick between the two men.

Davis is the taller longer fighter, the naturally bigger man. If Phil Davis can get by Nemkov in the first round, this gives Mr Wonderful even more confidence heading into the next round and so on.

A little sprinkle on Davis here isn’t the worst play ever. It certainly has some decent value.

Dovletdzhan Yagshimuridov: +1000

I had to look this guy up. Dov is originally from Turkmenistan but trains out of Ukraine. This will be his first fight inside of the United States.

He has been finished 4 times in his career, though, and I just don’t see this 5’10” guy coming in here and getting through Anthony Johnson, Nemkov, Ryan Bader, or Phil Davis.

Dovletdzhan Yagshimuridov Winning

Dov’s first round fight is against Corey Anderson so he has a chance to advance. He is just a (+110) underdog right now so the books know the possibility is there for a win from the Turkmenistan fighter, Dov Yagshimuridov.

I can’t get behind the guy with my money, though, for the tournament win or against Corey Anderson. Dov is an unknown and so is Corey. He won his debut in a nearly perfect stylistic matchup against Melvin Manhoef.

I am staying away from Dov until we see what he can do against the big boys.

Corey Anderson: +1000

Anderson is a solid guy, good wrestler, sneaky power, and fights smart but I don’t think he has what it takes to win more than once or twice in this tournament, not against this particular field of competition.

Corey Anderson Staring

He would need the best possible matchup in each round and he may not even have that in round one. We shall see, though, how his fight with Dov plays out and that will tell us a lot about what to expect from each man moving forward.

Anthony Johnson: +700

Now, things are beginning to get a little interesting. And guys, if you don’t think Corey Anderson or Anthony Johnson were on the sauce, you have to be kidding yourself. You can see it in the shape of their heads.

Anthony Johnson Staring

I remember when Anthony used to fight at 170 pounds! That was the craziest thing. I met him at my first UFC Fan Expo probably 10 years ago and thought he was easily one of the biggest guys there and I had met Randy Couture and Anderson Silva who had fought at 185 and heavyweight.

Rumble Johnson is bursting at the seams and said seams refers to his all powerful skin. How does it hold the muscle inside like that. It’s like the skin has to be stronger than the muscle that is constantly trying to burst out.

Please Note:
This tournament is made up mostly of grapplers and if you guys remember correctly, unless your name is Daniel Cormier, you haven’t defeated Anthony Johnson in a fist fight in almost 10 years.

DC got him twice but those were his only losses after moving up to light heavyweight and seeing how there aren’t any natural heavyweight wrestlers in this field, I like Anthony’s chances to go all the way.

Who does he face in the first round?

He has drawn the dreaded Yoel Romero straw and the two will continue the South Florida rivalry of American Top Team and Sanford MMA. I’ve got Johnson in this fight, all day, really.

I know he has taken a lot of time away from fighting and that is certainly a worry but he has more power in his hands than the entire field and has shown to have the takedown defense to keep everyone not an Olympian off of him.

Anthony Johnson Punching Power

You can get AJ Rumble right now for even money against Romero and I think it is a great spot. Of course, there will always be a level of uncertainty when your guy hasn’t fought in years but Rumble will be ready for Romero, in my opinion.

The two will be 37 and days away from 44 when they fight. I know Yoel takes care of his body but 44 and taking shots from Rumble? I don’t like his odds of surviving. There are size and power advantages for Anthony and I definitely want to tip him at even money.

I think he should at least be the (-150) favorite in this fight so the value is apparent. We have a minimum 10% edge on the sportsbooks right now but who knows? Yoel Romero is so popular that more money might roll in on the Soldier of God and give us an even better payday on the underdog Johnson.

Pick: Johnson (+100) to beat Romero and (+700) to win the tournament

Ryan Bader: +550

Could he come back and get revenge on Vadim Nemkov? You know he wants it! Ryan Bader is a competitor and absolutely hates to lose.

He has drawn the name of Lyoto Machida for his first round fight. Ryan is 37 now and will be coming off of that head kick loss to the new champ, Nemkov. Sure, Bader was a good champion for the organization but who, not 40+ has he defeated inside of the Bellator cage?

Ryan Bader With Bellator Belts

Split decision over Phil Davis…Yes, he beat Fedor but so did Matt Mitrione. Does that mean Matt is better than Fedor? No. It means that Fedor is far far past his prime. That’s it.

I think Bader has about the same chance as Phil Davis at winning this tournament so it doesn’t make any sense at all to bet on Bader when he just lost to the champ and Phil Davis’s betting odds are double that of his.

Yoel Romero: +400

I just don’t see it. The guy is popular. I know that but come on!

He is a natural middleweight with the height of a welterweight. Don’t believe this 6’ tall stuff. No way. I don’t buy that for a second. Yoel is about 5’10” tall.

Yoel Romero Roar Flexing

Romero is very short and stocky and the dude is about to 44 years old! Come on, man! You think he can beat Nemkov and Davis? How about Bader? Maybe he sneaks out of the first round of the tournament but I don’t see him winning any more.

I think Rumble Johnson is going to have to beat himself in their first round matchup. Romero competes with about a negative fight IQ. The guy could get takedowns and change the course of fights but he chooses to stand with his back against the cage and get hit.

I can’t put my money behind Yoel anymore.

Vadim Nemkov: +190

The champ is rightfully the favorite to win the tournament but should his betting odds hold more or less value? That is the question we have to ask ourselves before adding his name to our betting cards.

Vadim Nemkov is just 28 years old and now a world champion. The Russian could very well win this thing but let’s say he faces Anthony Johnson. He is going to be at a 5 inch height disadvantage.

Vadim Nemkov Flexing

That is worrisome and where his betting odds are now, how can you play it? He is only (-140) to win his first round fight. It isn’t like he is expected to completely dominate the field of fighters.

The number is just too small for me as he is.

In Conclusion

Bellator’s Light Heavyweight Grand Prix kicks off in early April with back to back weekly events. We will have the first round out of the way at that point and 4 men will remain.

I’m thinking Phil Davis can potentially get by Vadim Nemkov.

I really wish they wouldn’t have matched these two up in the first round. I think they could easily be the favorites. Well, Nemkov is the favorite.

That’s the problem with him is his betting odds stink. I believe that is by design. Actually, I know it is and in these spots, you can find value on a betting favorite. I will stay away from that for now, though.

I like Phil Davis’s betting odds to win the whole thing at (+1400).

If he gets past Nemkov, a man he went to a split decision with, Davis would then probably be a (+250) favorite to win the thing depending on who is left.

That is a big jump and you consider that the same sportsbooks have Davis as a slight underdog, a play on him to win it all isn’t the worst one you could make.

I like Johnson (+700) as well.

Anthony is even money also to defeat Yoel Romero who is incredibly overvalued. The time away from fighting is a worry but we have to remember just how dominant and scary this guy was just a few short years ago.

Get your plays in soon and let’s enjoy the 2021 Light Heavyweight Bellator Grand Prix!


Mike Pruitt / Author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.