For two straight weeks, Bellator Fighting Championships was forced to cancel its heavyweight tournament finale, and for two straight weeks, it was hard to tell if anyone truly cared.
After reviewing the series of unfortunate events that began when Eric Prindle absorbed the cup check from hell on Nov. 26 and ended when Thiago Santos failed to make weight on Thursday, it is probably for the best that the promotion chose to scrap the fight altogether. Prindle-Santos 1.5 was building to the type of crescendo that would have made it a cult classic, something that fight fans would joyously put on mute and dissect with Mystery Science Theater 3000-like enthusiasm, and that is not a good thing.
Instead, Prindle gets a title shot against Cole Konrad and $100,000 for 84 seconds of painful work. Santos gets a nutritionist and a second chance from his benevolent boss. The fans are robbed of the opportunity to see how the “American Soldier” would fare against “Big Monster” without a fight-altering flagrant foul, but were they really robbed? Bellator 62, like Bellator 61 the week before, went on as planned, and it went well. A quartet of action-packed lightweight tournament bouts highlighted all that is right with the Chicago-based promotion: underrated talent backed by solid matchmaking putting on exciting fights, several with replay-worthy finishes.
Brent Weedman offered an unsolicited astronomy lesson before his fight with J.J. Ambrose. Then he gave a refresher in obscure submission holds by finishing his opponent with the little-utilized Von Flue choke. Olympic judoka Rick Hawn looked like a force to be reckoned with at 155 pounds in knocking out Ricardo Tirloni, while Lloyd Woodard added new meaning to the phrase “fear the beard” when he submitted Patricky Freire with a nasty kimura. The only non-finish of the bracket was a closely contested split-decision win by Thiago Michel Pereira Silva over Rene Nazare.
Through it all, nobody really missed the heavyweights. Outside of Santos and his management team, there was no clamoring for yet another reschedule of the final.
The reality is that Bellator is strongest from the bottom up, so it might be time for Bjorn Rebney to take a page from World Extreme Cagefighting’s book and consolidate his company; if not now, at least start moving in that direction to be ready when Bellator moves to Spike TV in 2013.
When the WEC elected to dissolve its light heavyweight and middleweight divisions -- and later, welterweight -- it was under the ownership of Zuffa LLC, meaning that any top-tier talent from those weight classes could move directly to the UFC. If Bellator were to make such a move, it would lose any such fighters altogether.
If done correctly, that would not be such a great loss. Bellator does not have to make the drastic cuts the WEC once did. For now, pending the potential free agent status of Hector Lombard, it is reasonable to see the promotion keeping everyone up to and including 185 pounds. Outside of that, is there anyone on the roster over whom fans are salivating to see challenge current heavyweight king and former NCAA national champion wrestler Cole Konrad? Is there an overwhelming demand to see 205-pound titleholder Christian M'Pumbu -- the same M’Pumbu who lost to journeyman Travis Wiuff in a non-title bout -- in action again? Not likely.
As it has become more established, Bellator has been wise in not trying to compete with the UFC. Instead, it has existed successfully on its own terms. To those who think they will be missing out if future fight cards lack heavyweights and light heavyweights: balance is overrated. The WEC got along just fine without it; so, too, can Bellator. In fact, it would be better to accentuate the company’s positives as it transitions to a new network home next year. The Pat Currans and Michael Chandlers of the world deserve it.
As Weedman would say, “If that doesn’t blow your mind, you’re not thinking hard enough.”
The Beautiful Lame?
During a press conference on Wednesday, UFC President Dana White announced that the long-anticipated rematch between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen will take place at UFC 147 in June at a soccer stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Then the UFC boss shared his views on what Brazilians often call “The Beautiful Game.”
“It’s the least talented sport on earth,” White said during the UFC 147 presser. “There’s a reason 3-year-olds can play soccer. When you’re playing a game and the net is that big and the score is 3-1, are you kidding me? You know how untalented you have to be to score three times when the net is that big?”
He later added that “we live in a world where everything has been so ‘pussyfied.’”
High scoring or not, most people can recognize that soccer features some of the best displays of athleticism in the world. Outside of the United States, it is likely that much of the UFC’s international fan base prefers futbol to its American counterpart.
Does White insulting the world’s most popular sport mean that tickets and pay-per-view buys are going to suffer as a result? Hardly. White’s biggest mistake was not saving the comments, putting them to pad and paper and passing them along for Sonnen to incite the Brazilian fans at a later date.
A Little ‘Slice’ of Controversy
It would be remiss to neglect a mention of Kimbo Slice’s fourth professional boxing match, which took place in Springfield, Mo., on Saturday. Slice took on Brian Green, a veteran of 44 professional MMA bouts who stepped in to make his pro boxing debut on short notice.
The weigh-ins for the fight took place at a local Wal-Mart, with Slice tipping the scales at 245.6 pounds and Green weighing 227. The fight itself deserves its own place on a clearance rack. Various reports have Green outworking his larger opponent for the better part of four rounds until Slice connected with an uppercut that sent him crashing to the canvas -- with three seconds remaining in the bout.
Slice, who only two weeks ago did promotional work for the “The Ultimate Fighter Live” on FX while hosting “Ultimate Fighter Friday” on Spike TV, has been a lightning rod for controversy since he rose from YouTube sensation to main-event headliner a few years ago. Despite his limitations, everyone from EliteXC to White managed to profit on Slice’s 15 minutes of fame.
Although it is not the first time people have cried foul over the results of a Slice bout, a performance like the one against Green will not do him any favors as he attempts to rebuild his urban legend.