One of the most fascinating divisions in Bellator at the moment is the heavyweight division. Led by Ryan Bader, several challengers are gunning for the champion.
An issue the division, and Bellator itself, has created is the recent Heavyweight Grand Prix. Won by Bader, the Grand Prix included Roy Nelson, Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir. Those are considered the top fighters within the division. The company also leans on Sergei Kharitonov, former champion Vitaly Minakov and Cheick Kongo. The latter Bader fought to a no-contest at Bellator 226 in September, and with their history, a rematch is almost certain.
The issue I previously mentioned is the cycle of fighters that have fought for the title. Contenders who have either lost, are going through a losing streak or who’s level within the standings don’t make for a sexy matchup. Perhaps moving away from the normal group of misfits would be best for creating a new audience? On the latest “Why Should I Care“, FIGHT SPORTS looks into the Bellator 239 bout between Timothy Johnson and rising star Tyrell Fortune.
A homegrown star, Fortune (8-0) debuted with the promotion in 2016. He has five wins via knockout and continues to climb up the card. The 29-year-old from Portland’s last fight was a TKO-win over Azunna Anyanwu at Bellator 233 in November, his third win of 2019.
As part of the young guard Bellator promotes, Fortune is looking for more opportunities as he gets closer to the top. He faces the 34-year-old Johnson (12-6), a former Dakota FC Heavyweight Championship. After a stint in the UFC in which he went 4-3, the Minnesota native joined Bellator in 2018. He lost to Kongo and Minakov, both via knockout.
Fortune could be considered a prospect, something that Johnson is used to. He doesn’t mind the apparent reputation he has been given, so long as he could benefit from it.
“My UFC career, I think I fought for three or four (opponents’) debuts,” Johnson stated to MMAJunkie. “That was my nickname. If you want to be a gatekeeper, call yourself the ‘prospect killer,’ because I kind of beat a lot of prospects.”
The man with five knockouts is as dangerous as they come, no matter what some say. He is also a piece of the puzzle Fortune looks to collect on.
“I’m developing every fight, every time I get up in the cage,” Fortune stated to MMAMania. “I’m continuously adding things to my game. So I think it’s going to be really hard for Timothy to figure out what’s going on, and I think his reactions are going to be too slow. He plans to try to grapple and grind the match out but I don’t see that being very successful with my wrestling background, so it’s just one of those things where I think Father Time has just caught up.”
Here are some stats for the fight, via MMAJunkie:
- Fortune’s eight-fight win streak is the best in the heavyweight division
- Only Cheick Kongo (12) has more wins in Bellator’s heavyweight division compared to Fortune
- Fortune is tied for the most stoppages (6) and knockout wins (5) in Bellator heavyweight history
- Johnson’s two-fight losing streak is the first multi-loss run of his career
While he has one win via submission, Fortune uses his wrestling background to trample on top of his opponents and take them out. Fortune is using his platform to show Scott Coker and the top brass of Bellator that he belongs. Speaking to FIGHT SPORTS at Bellator 233, Fortune discussed his displeasures of fighting on the prelims while fighters like Jake Hager, a pro wrestler, has gotten spots on the main card.
This past weekend at #Bellator225 I asked Tyrell Fortune his thoughts on facing Jake Hager next (aka Jack Swagger). Fortune stated that Hager is scared to fight him and that he should go back to #WWE. #BellatorMMA #MMA pic.twitter.com/p15xbR2jyV
— Daniel Yanofsky (@DanYanofskyMMA) August 27, 2019
A win against Johnson could bring Fortune closer to fighting Hager (2-0, 1NC), if he decides to go that route. Even though Hager hasn’t had that many fights, it is a high-profile bout against a multi-sport athlete that could boost Fortune’s credibility. If not, why wouldn’t he be close to getting a title?
“You know I have two fights left on my contract, so I really don’t see that being far away if me and Bellator can sit down and get something worked out,” Fortune continued with MMAMania. “I think this next contract will definitely be moving into fighting the champion, fighting for the belt, because this weight class isn’t deep. With 8-0 I already have more experience than 65, 70% of the division, and the average age of our division is 42 — I’m 29. So I think that already puts me right there in the forefront. If I fight Javy Ayala and (Cheick) Kongo I’m right there, so that’s two fights. It all depends on who I fight next and what they’re looking at.”
Fortune is willing to do whatever it takes to get his opportunity, as long as it benefits him. His first major test comes this Friday, February 21. Can his plan come together?
Both Fortune and Johnson will be looking to give all that they got to impress anyone watching. This fight is a way to freshen up the heavyweight division, while also watching interesting styles clash. How do you see this fight going down?
Bellator 239 takes place inside the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. The main event will be Ed Ruth taking on Yaroslav Amosov.