John McCarthy picks his fantasy Heavyweight Grand Prix

Watch Ryan Bader vs Fedor Emelianenko on Bellator Recharged this Saturday on Sky Sports Action from 10pm

Thursday 18 June 2020 06:13, UK

Francis Ngannou 3:48
We asked Bellator analyst John McCarthy to pick eight fighters he would include in a fantasy Heavyweight Grand Prix

Throughout 2018 and 2019, Bellator's Heavyweight Grand Prix drew vast interest as some of the biggest names in the sport met in the cage.

It culminated in a final match-up between Ryan Bader and Fedor Emelianenko for the title, a fight which is being aired on Saturday evening on Bellator Recharged.

But if there were to be another instalment of the bracket in 2020, who should be involved?

That was the question put to Bellator analyst John McCarthy; the parameters being six fighters should represent the promotion, while he could pick two others from outside the organisation.

"If I was going to pick from Bellator, I would put nobody that was in the first Grand Prix. I would go with a bunch of new fighters," McCarthy told Sky Sports.

"That doesn't mean they're young fighters. Some of them are older fighters. But I would pick some younger fighters like Valentin Moldavsky. He would definitely be in that. I would also pick Tyrell Fortune, I would pick Tim Johnson.

"Vitaly Minakov would definitely be a part of it.

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"Cheick Kongo, since he wasn't a part of the first one, he would be a part of that too.

"And I think I'd put Linton Vassell in there. Linton has moved from light heavyweight into heavyweight. He just beat Sergei Kharitonov, who was one of the top-ranked heavyweights in Bellator, so he'd be the sixth person from Bellator that I would put into that Grand Prix.

"I wouldn't put Ryan Bader in, because he's the champion, and all those guys would be working through that Grand Prix to get a shot at Bader in the heavyweight final.

Ryan Bader MMA
Image: Ryan Bader is the current champ

"If I was to pick guys from the outside, that's a tough one. I love Francis Ngannou, and I would love to see him in that type of tournament, because he's so explosive in what he does.

"And then I would pick, probably a guy from another organisation who is older and had a lot of success. Brandon Vera. He fights in ONE Fighting Championship, and Brandon has always been dynamic. His kicking is so hard. He kicked me one time with pads, that gave me a headache from hitting me it was so bad! But the guy has just great skills, great ground skills. He would be my eighth."

Francis Ngannou
Image: Ngannou is one of the hardest-hitters in the UFC

And the big question is - how would he see it going?

"It depends on the match-ups and what they did," he mused. "Obviously Minakov is probably the guy from the Bellator side, he's 22-1. He's only got one loss, that was a decision loss to Cheick Kongo, and he had some physical problems insofar as he was sick. And you could see that he really tailed off in the fight. But that's his only loss ever, and he has a win against Kongo earlier on when he was the heavyweight champion.

"He was the guy who was in the position on one end, and if you look - Francis Ngannou would be the guy on the other end.

"But guys like Tyrell Fortune, he is getting better and better. He's got incredible wrestling. He comes from a very high level of wrestling background, and his hands have got better. He got beaten in his last fight against Tim Johnson, who I also have there. Tim is improving. He's always had his wrestling, but now his hands are getting better.

"Anybody in the heavyweights can win a fight. It just takes one punch, because they're so big, so strong and hit so hard. It only takes one shot to land to change everything.

"So it would be an exciting Grand Prix to watch."

Watch Ryan Bader vs Fedor Emelianenko on Bellator Recharged this Saturday on Sky Sports Action from 10pm.