On the day of the battle between Bellator Welterweight Champion Ben Askren and Jay Hieron, I lamented about how the fight was getting no buzz or attention because of its placement directly against a UFC pay-per-view featuring two well-known entities in B.J. Penn and Nick Diaz.
A few days later, that thought is still prevalent as Askren and Hieron battled for 25 minutes in one of most entertaining bouts in the promotion's history -- one that begs for an immediate rematch in a similar vein as the non-title bout between 205-pound champion Christian M'Pumbu and Travis Wiuff the week before.
For those that didn't see the fight, I implore you to find it as there was some controversy following Askren's split decision victory over Hieron to retain the belt. Hieron's striking gave the champion fits throughout, while Askren was able to secure takedowns and control the challenger on the mat. It was a close bout between someone that is still young as a fighter against a veteran who appeared to do everything right to take home the gold.
But because of Bellator's tournament format, there's no easy way to give Hieron a deserved rematch without delaying the opportunity afforded the winner of the ongoing 170-pound tournament. However, it seems odd to ask Hieron to go back into the tournament mix and do the whole thing over again when many thought he beat the champion to begin with.
A lot of this depends on when Bellator expects to start their next season on MTV2. If in March, you could have the fight at the beginning of the season with the tournament winner getting their opportunity in June or July. However, making either Ben Saunders or Douglas Lima wait eight months seems counterproductive in addition to avoiding the pitfall of either man lose an interim bout and weaken their contender status.
There are a lot of positives with the Bellator format, but there are a few negatives when you have great title fights and can't cleanly do immediate rematches. Hieron deserves another opportunity, but might have to fight his way through another tournament to get there.
Halloween Weekend Horror
Not surprisingly, ratings were scary for Bellator 56 Saturday, dropping for the second straight week. According to MMA Junkie's research, 154,000 people tuned in to see Askren vs. Hieron and the heavyweight tournament semifinals -- a dip of 14,000 from the week before. That continues a three-week slide, contributed to by UFC 137 and Halloween weekend.
Luckily, the promotion won't see a drop next week as they are taking a week off, airing a season recap/tournament final special at 11 PM EST instead. However, they return on November 12...against the UFC's debut on Fox.
The Big Guys Work Fast
Fans that didn't see Saturday's show missed Eric Prindle and Thiago Santos making quick work of their opponents and advancing to the tournament finals. Prindle (9-1) won his seventh straight by knocking out Ron Sparks in 40 seconds while Santos (10-1) took his fourth win in a row with a 38-second submission of Neil Grove. Prindle and Santos will meet in the season finale event on Saturday, November 26, with the winner facing champion Cole Konrad in 2012.
Foster The People
Former UFC welterweight Brian Foster was signed Tuesday and is already gearing up to challenge Askren in the future. The 27-year-old has won four in a row, including his last two in the UFC. However, he was medically released earlier this year after having to pull out of a April fight due to a brain hemorrhage and he later suffered a burst testicle during training.
The Bellator release said Foster (18-5) is medically cleared and he fought twice last month with two first-round submission wins within two weeks time -- his first action in nearly a year. No date was given for his promotional debut.
The quick work by the heavyweights Saturday allowed for an entertaining featherweight contest from the undercard to make air in Jeremy Spoon vs. Adam Schindler. After a competitive first round, Spoon turned it on in the final two with great striking that bloodied up Schindler's face. His unanimous decision victory puts him at 12-0 and an interesting, likely candidate for the promotion's next 145-pound tournament.