Bellator MMA is back after a six-week layoff to bring us Bellator 225. Unfortunately for prospective bettors, as of Thursday evening just one line has opened for the 15-fight card. Therefore, below is our one and only play in the abbreviated Bellator 225 edition of Prime Picks — or with a sole pick, perhaps it should be coined “Prime Pick.”
Sergei Kharitonov (-110)
Since we have but one betting option for this event, we must attempt to recommend one heavy-handed heavyweight over the other. The oddsmakers are just as torn on this fight, as the line has fluctuated between each man as the betting favorite. At the time of this writing, the odds are perfectly split at -110 for both man, in a true pick-em. This is very similar to the first time they met at Bellator 215, when the odds closed with Matt Mitrione as the slightest of favorites at -115 compared to Kharitonov at -105. Due the closeness of those odds as both were deemed the favorite, it was still considered a pick-em. The result of that fight, a 15-second groin kick stoppage resulting in a no-contest, gave the betting public nothing to work with, make a determination on how the fighters implemented their respective game plans, or learn practically anything from their first meeting.
Mitrione has one plan, and one plan only. His sole intention is to figuratively knock his opponent’s head off their shoulders. He has evidenced this with strike stoppages of all-time great Fedor Emelianenko, former Ultimate Fighting Championship title challenger Derrick Lewis and current KSW king Philip De Fries. He has never pulled off a submission, and in fact across his entire 14-fight UFC tenure, he only attempted four — and all four came against “Kimbo Slice” Kevin Ferguson. It is not likely that he has attempted even that many in his six outings in Bellator, further emphasizing that Mitrione has no interest in any ground game.
Both men are finishers in true heavyweight fashion. Mitrione holds a high finish rate of 85 percent, with 11 of his 13 wins by knockout. Kharitonov, on the other hand, has almost as many knockout victories to his credit (18) as his opponent has in total fights (20). He has also sprinkled in submissions ranging from armbars to a leg-only ankle lock throughout his illustrious career, amassing a tremendous stoppage rate of 93 percent. In the times they have each suffered defeats, the methods have varied for both. Mitrione has dropped two by decision, two by submission and another two by knockout, while Kharitonov holds three knockout losses, two by tap out and one on the scorecards.
While Kharitonov has the total experience advantage, having competed in 16 more bouts than his opponent, in terms of high-level mixed martial arts experience, they are much closer than expected. Mitrione is one of those rare fighters that made his professional debut in the UFC. After leaving the promotion, he went straight into Bellator with no stopping off at the regional level, so he has had to face top-flight competition throughout the majority of his career. Kharitonov, meanwhile, went through the Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight gauntlet, having to square off against the likes of Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Along the way, Kharitonov also competed in Glory kickboxing, where he immediately contended with elite heavyweights like Jerome Le Banner, Rico Verhoeven and Daniel Ghita.
We predict this fight could play out a lot like when Kharitonov met Roy Nelson, another destructive striker, at Bellator 207. Kharitonov used his left jab to keep Nelson at bay and unable to set up his fight-ending right hand. Any time “Big Country” wound up to unleash his bomb, the Russian was out of the way. Nelson shot for a takedown early in the fight, and Kharitonov did land an illegal knee that cost him a point, but the knee did not appear to be as impactful as advertised. Mixing in a few low kicks to disrupt the movement of the burly brawler, Kharitonov got it done when Nelson closed the distance to land powerful uppercuts and knees, securing the finish.
We should be clear once again: this is a heavyweight fight. Both men have knockout power, and both have displayed it throughout their careers. In his Bellator debut in 2016, Kharitonov came out over-aggressive against Javy Ayala, who laid waste to him in 16 seconds with a massive right hand. Kharitonov was careless and left his guard down, and it cost him dearly. If he does the same against Mitrione, a sharper striker than Ayala, he could again find himself separated from his consciousness. With this in mind, we expect Kharitonov to come out measured and composed as he pumps his left jab out, all while avoiding Mitrione’s most dangerous strikes.
Kharitonov has more ways to win this fight, as if he ever chose to take the fight to the ground, he would likely be at a sizeable advantage. If he keeps this standing, he should still have the upper hand, with more tools in his arsenal including fierce knees and clinch strikes. If a prop bet were available, we would also recommend you take the “Fight doesn’t go to decision” line, which would likely be considerably high, but as of now, the only available option is to pick the winner of this main event.