Five Quick Rounds 01.22.13: Bellator Debuts on Spike, UFC Returns to Brazil, and More!
Welcome to the penultimate edition of Five Quick Rounds, 411’s fastest-finishing weekly opinion column. I’m your host, Wyatt Beougher, and this will be the next-to-last installment of 5QR that I author, as my schedule won’t permit me to continue with this column, host Fact or Fiction, and cover The Ultimate Fighter now that it has moved to Tuesday nights. However, I am going to get back to my Championship Rounds column, although it’ll likely only be a monthly deal. At any rate, this was a pretty significant week for MMA, so let’s get to the action, shall we?
Round 1: Bellator Makes Spike Debut
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
Bellator 85 took place this past Thursday night, and, for the first time in the promotion’s history, they aired on SpikeTV. The long-standing relationship between Spike and the UFC came to an end at the end of 2011, but Spike retained the rights to rebroadcast UFC events until the first of this year in spite of purchasing a stake in Bellator. With the UFC deal now completely dead, Spike is able to begin airing Bellator on their network (instead of just on their website), and they loaded the card with two title fights. In the opener, featherweight champion Pat Curran successfully defended his title against Patricio Freire, edging the challenger out to earn a split decision win. In light heavyweight quarterfinal action, Mikhail Zayats picked up the TKO win over Renato Sobral with just 11 seconds left in the first round. Lightweight champion Michael Chandler defeated challenger Rick Hawn with ease, winning the first round with excellent ground striking and then he came out in the second and softened Hawn up with more ground and pound before locking in a rear naked choke for the win in 3:07. The other light heavyweight quarterfinal fight saw Jacob Noe get the TKO win over Seth Petruzelli with some serious hammerfists.
Normally I wouldn’t put a Bellator show ahead of a UFC show, but this was their SpikeTV debut, it was (IMO) a better show, and I think when we look back on this week at the end of the year, the Bellator show is going to be more historically significant. Not only did it feature two title fights, but the show averaged 938,000 viewers, which is a 394% increase from last season’s debut on MTV2 and Epix. The Curran/Freire fight that opened the show drew the peak ratings, with an estimated 1.2 million viewers, but, in what has to be considered a troubling trend for Bellator and Spike, the ratings decreased as the show went on, especially during the twelve-minute overrun that occurred after midnight. At this point, I’m not sure that it’s a huge issue yet, as the ratings fall-off wasn’t all that great, but if Bellator’s ratings continue to improve while
TNA’s Impact Wrestling’s continue to stagnate, I wouldn’t be surprised if Bellator becomes the lead-in show. In unfortunate news for Bellator, both Michael Chandler and Pat Curran have been given 180 day suspensions, Chandler for a potentially broken foot and Curran for a potentially broken toe. If I’m not mistaken, both guys can be cleared earlier than that by negative X-rays, but that’s still a potentially huge blow to Bellator’s forward momentum, especially since Curran already has two additional challengers for his title in the works in the form of Daniel Straus and the winner of next month’s Shahbulat Shamhalaev/Rad Martinez season seven featherweight final fight.
Round 2: UFC Returns to Brazil
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
On Saturday night, the UFC returned to Brazil for UFC on FX 7, in spite of an official investigation by the Sao Paolo DA’s office regarding the city’s sponsorship of the event. The main card started off with an impressive showing by Khabib Nurmagomedov, who needed just 1:55 to drop Thiago Tavares with an uppercut and pound him out with punches and elbows on the ground. The action continued with Gabriel Gonzaga and Ben Rothwell fighting nearly even for one round before Gonzaga locked in a standing guillotine and pulled guard to get the submission at 1:01 of round 2. CB Dollaway and Daniel Sarafian earned fight of the night honors for their three-round contest that saw Dollaway pick up a split decision win, and in the main event, Michael Bisping looked well on his way to a bout with Anderson Silva in the first round before getting blasted by a head kick from Vitor Belfort and then being pounded out.
As usual with these FX affairs, if you went in with low enough expectations (and with Ben Rothwell on the main card, how couldn’t you?), this show was a pleasant surprise. Only one fight went to a decision, and it was actually a really solid contest. And while I was hoping Bisping and Belfort would pull a double Randleman, I absolutely won’t complain about the Count getting his head kicked off of his shoulders. I’d like to pretend Belfort’s post-fight interview didn’t happen, but I can’t, so about that…
Round 3: Vitor Belfort Is an Idiot
**TOUCH OF THE GLOVES**
After earning a decisive victory over Michael Bisping on Saturday night in a fight that likely would’ve been enough to earn Bisping a title opportunity against Anderson Silva had he won, it really shouldn’t have been all that surprising to hear Vitor Belfort call out the champ. Belfort didn’t call out Silva, though; he directed his post-fight interview towards inserting himself into Chael Sonnen’s main event spot at UFC 159, a fight that will be for Jon Jones’ middleweight title. To the surprise of absolutely no one, Sonnen didn’t take kindly to being called a clown, and he responded that he’d be happy to arrange a meeting between Belfort and Jesus, whom Belfort had credited for his win moments before running down Sonnen.
Admittedly, I can’t stand Vitor Belfort and the repeated undeserved title opportunities that he’s received since returning to the UFC. With such a brutal loss to Anderson Silva just two years and five fights ago, Belfort couldn’t realistically call out the middleweight champion after his win over Bisping, but calling out Jones made even less sense. Not only is Jones already booked for a fight while Silva is not, Belfort lost to Jones IN HIS LAST FIGHT BEFORE THE BISPING FIGHT. And it’s not like it was a close, split-decision loss either – Jones handily won the first three rounds before submitting Belfort with a keylock less than a minute into the fourth. And for Bisping to talk about Sonnen “cutting the line” – apparently he missed the part where Sonnen was the only one to volunteer to take Dan Henderson’s place against Jones at UFC 151 on less than a week’s notice. Jones turned down the fight, opting instead to fight Belfort, who had done absolutely nothing to earn that fight and thereby cutting the line, at UFC 152. No, Chael Sonnen doesn’t deserve the fight with Jones, but if there’s one man less deserving of the fight than Chael, it’s Belfort, and I look forward to Sonnen’s eventual victory over Belfort sometime this summer or fall.
Round 4: UFC to Make Return to Sweden
**TOUCH OF THE GLOVES**
The UFC announced late last week that it would be making its return to Sweden on April 6, 2013, running a show from the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm. Sweden native Alexander Gustafsson will headline the show, taking on fellow European Gegard Mousasi in the latter’s UFC debut.
As the UFC looks to continue to expand their global reach, it only makes sense to highlight fighters in their home countries (or, in Mousasi’s case, their home continents). With Gustafsson being widely discussed as a future contender to Jon Jones, but Jones himself tied up with Chael Sonnen and then likely the winner of the Dan Henderson/Lyoto Machida fight, it only makes sense to pit Gustafsson against the best light heavyweight Strikeforce has to offer. Still, though, there are a great many variables that’ll come into play with this fight – is Gustafsson as good as billed? Which Mousasi will show up – the dominant former light heavyweight champion or the fighter who struggled with Keith Jardine and had absolutely nothing for King Mo? If Gustafsson is a legitimate threat to Jones’ title, and Mousasi comes to fight, this could be a fight of the year type fight. If not, it could be an absolutely brutal fight to watch.
Round 5: Brazil Establishes Regulatory Committee; Joins IMMAF
***TOUCH OF THE GLOVES***
Last Thursday, the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation, the European-founded organization created with the goal of creating a unified international standard for MMA regulations and furthering the growth of MMA, announced that they were welcoming the Commisao Atletica Brasileira de MMA (CABMMA) into the fold. CABMMA will initially be based in Rio de Janeiro, but they plan to expand to Sao Paolo, Bahia, and Amazonas this year. As part of the IMMAF’s charter to provide a solid foundation for growth, they will partner with CABMMA to hold a national summit in Rio de Janeiro in June.
When I previously covered the IMMAF last year upon their founding, I opined that this was a huge step forward for MMA, as creating a unified governing body to standardize rules and regulations, drug testing protocol, and further improve fighter safety (especially in amateur bouts) can only have a positive effect on the sport’s future. Again, though, I have the same fear that I voiced then – if the organization gets too big without set protocols in place, it runs the risk of corruption so prevalent in FIFA. So far, though, less than a year into their existence, the IMMAF seems to be doing everything right and I sincerely hope that that trend continues.
Thanks for joining me this week, and I hope to see you again next week. Remember, if you haven’t signed up for Disqus (411’s new comment system) yet, make sure you do so. We’re sincerely hoping to improve the overall level of discussion here at 411, and we’d love it if you were a part of that! If you have any feedback, leave it in the comments, email me at the link below, or let me know on Twitter: @webeougher or on Google+. I’ll see you back here for the final edition of Five Quick Rounds next Tuesday, so until then, remember 411 MMA for all of your mixed martial arts needs!