I’ve gone over this before, but there are a couple reasons I haven’t been covering Bellator lately. One is that I already spend a lot of time covering the near-weekly UFC events and it would be a challenge to add weekly Bellator events on top of that. The other is that a large portion of my analysis is reliant on Fight Metric statistics, and Fight Metric does not cover Bellator.
Even then, I would be somewhat inclined to give Bellator at least some coverage, but to be perfectly honest I’m not a fan of how Bellator has done business recently. I liked Bellator a couple years ago when it was a promotion that focused on the tournament format, developed prospects, and stuck to the mantra that title shots are “earned,” not given. I never preferred Bellator to the UFC but I liked it as a change of pace and an opportunity to sit down and watch some fights in a low key environment.
However, Bellator has recently transformed into a company that is suddenly employing fighters like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Tito Ortiz, who at this point are badly diminished versions of what they used to be. They’ve gone into the pay-per-view business, something that’s a lot easier to sell to me when it feels like the fights are important. They’ve made a mockery of their “title shots are earned” mantra by burying Patricio “Pitbull.” Their legal feud with Eddie Alvarez left a bad taste in my mouth.
The one fight scheduled for Bellator 120 that I could really get behind was the rubber match between Alvarez and Michael Chandler, both fighters I feel would perform at a very high level in the UFC lightweight division and would be serious threats to take the UFC title. Unfortunately, Alvarez recently suffered a concussion, forcing Bellator to replace him with Will Brooks and promoting the Jackson – “King Mo” fight to the main event. What’s left is a pay per view show with a main event featuring a shot Quinton Jackson and a badly faded “King Mo” (injuries really seem to have taken their toll on Mo), two squash matches and one somewhat interesting fight.
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (-235) vs. Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal (+215)
It’s amazing to me that Jackson is considered this strong a favorite to win this fight. (At one point the line on Jackson was -465! How?!) I guess knockout victories over Joey Beltran and Christian M’Pumbu were enough to get people back on Jackson’s side? Lawal hasn’t exactly been spectacular in Bellator, losing twice to Emanuel Newton, but there is at least some hope for Lawal to break through and become the top tier light heavyweight it appeared he could become in his early career. There’s no hope of that from Jackson, and it’s worth questioning how motivated he really is at this point, even coming off two knockout wins. I’m going to throw a degenerate gambling bet on Lawal, risking $3.00 to win $6.45.
Michael Chandler (-1000) vs. Will Brooks (+800)
Brooks isn’t half bad for a short-notice replacement fighter. The problem is that he’s taking on an opponent in Chandler who is one of the sport’s best examples of a wrestler with knockout power. I like Brooks but not if he’s taking on the lightweight version of Chad Mendes.
Alexander Shlemenko (-510) vs. Tito Ortiz (+440)
The reality of Tito Ortiz is that he hasn’t been good at MMA for ten years now – at least, not good by high-level standards. In this particular matchup, Ortiz will have a serious size advantage but it isn’t going to matter at all. Ortiz crumples when he’s hit hard to the body and Shlemenko is excellent at landing strikes to the body. Skill beats size at the end of the day, and Shlemenko’s skill is far beyond Ortiz’s at this point.
Blagoi Ivanov (-130) vs. Alexander Volkov (+120)
This is by far the most interesting fight on the card to me. Ivanov is undefeated at 11-0 and initially became famous for defeating Fedor Emelianenko in a Sambo competition. As Emelianenko and Khabib Nurmagomedov have shown, Sambo can be an outstanding base for a mixed martial artist, and Ivanov appears to be one of the better examples of Sambo working in MMA. He’ll be taking on a tough opponent in the tall and lanky striker in Volkov, but I suspect Ivanov’s advantage in takedowns and grappling will be enough to carry him to victory.
If you’re buying this show tomorrow (and I won’t be), I sincerely hope you get to watch some good fights and feel like you got your money’s worth out of your purchase. Best of luck.