Last week Bellator 57 was a stonking card featuring two tournament finals and some other really fun bouts. I really enjoyed Alexandre Bezerra's heel hook on Doug Evans and the really strange belly of Roger Hawk, he looked a bit like he had been deflated. The highlights of course were the championship fights and Douglas Lima and Alexander Schlemenko won $100,000 each and title shot at Ben Askren and Hector Lombard respectively.
Bellator's tournament format is pretty unique in MMA at the moment and is its main selling point. During a Bellator season a tournament gains momentum and we, the audience, get attached to the fighters who impress us. The organisation comes in for some criticism because the title holders end up defending their belt once or twice a year and then fighting in mostly meaningless feature fights against under matched opponents. The problem arises when like Christian M'Pumbu, the champion loses in a non-title fight. Or, like Ben Askren, the champion is run very close in a controversial decision victory in title shot. The tournament structure rules out rematches and title fights with anyone but season champions.
Those problems do matter and need to be sorted out. The fact remains though, that there is something really satisfying about knowing that the guys fighting for the title have had to fight to get there, not just talk trash about the title holder (a la Sonnen or Diaz). I am looking forward to Eddie Alvarez' title defence against Micheal Chandler this weekend just as much as I am looking forward to seeing Henderson vs Rua and Bowles vs Faber. This leads me to wonder why it is that Bellator usually gets roughly the same amount of viewers as an underwhelming UFC pay-per-view despite being aired free on MTV2. I watch MMA from the UK usually by nefarious means such as downloading, so it is very possible that I am missing something about the mindset of the fight watching (and paying) American public. But, when good cards are available for free on TV, why are people not watching them?
Alvarez vs Chandler
Eddie Alvarez is, according to Sherdog, the sixth best light weight in the world. He stands one place below Shinya Aoki, who he will face in February, provided he wins tonight. He is probably the biggest the asset that Bellator has and I expect this card to produce the best viewer numbers the organisation has seen in a while. Certainly they will be banking on that. Micheal Chandler is undefeated as a pro, having a notable win over Patricky Freire. This promises to be an intriguing fight.
Eddie Alvarez has won his last seven fights since the Aoki loss and completely dominated Bellator's lightweight division. He will come into this fight as the massive favourite. He is a great boxer, training with UFC champion Frankie Edgar, but also has solid wrestling and sprinklink of submission victories among his 22 wins, especially recently. The fact that Alvarez is well rounded and experienced, not to mention riding a massive wave of confidence, is going to make him very difficult to stop. Chandler has heavy hands, but he is without doubt a wrestler. Alvarez will likely struggle to get him off of him should he end up on the bottom and I fully expect him to use his wrestling to keep this fight standing up. On the feet, slick boxing, moving in and out with combinations and using good footwork and head movement to avoid Chandler's more wild striking, should be Alvarez' best plan of attack.
For Chandler's part, he knows where his strength lies. Certainly against a guy like Eddie Alvarez, he can only believe he is superior in one area, that being wrestling. Chandler will come in to this fight not worried about making it pretty, but looking to establish a top position and to grind down the champion (I really think a veteran like Alvarez will be hard to submit). On the feet he absolutely must not stand in front of Alvarez but cut angles and use strikes to set up take down opportunities.
Chandler will not take Alvarez down, at least not repeatedly. On the feet he has nothing to make the champion worry so I think Eddie will take him apart and finally knock him out in round 2.
Lombard vs Prangley
Hector Lombard is unbeaten in an astonishing 24 fights. He is the reigning Bellator middle weight champion, although this will not be a title fight, indeed being a catchweight 195lb fight. His opponent Trevor Prangley is a journeyman fighter who has fought in the UFC, Strikeforce and Dream and holds notable victories over Chael Sonnen and Keith Jardine. This is one of those fights that Bellator's champions reputedly get frustrated with and which MMA fans certainly do. It will almost certainly be a fun fight but does smack of the organisation giving Lombard somebody to beat up to keep him busy until he defends his title against Schlemenko next year.
Hector Lombard has heavy heavy hands and a great highlight reel of knockouts. He also has a very solid judo base, ju jitsu credentials and the ability to fight at a high pace for a sustained period. His last real test was against his next opponent and the only real danger Lombard faces is having looked past this opponent towards his title defence early next year.
Prangley has, of course, a punchers chance of catching Lombard with something but that really is it. Coming off the back of 2 losses and at the age of 39 it would be a surprise to say the least if he caused an upset at Bellator 58. He has solid take downs but will not be able to shift a solid guy like Lombard. He has a solid ground game but the fight will never get there and his hands are nowhere near up to scratch.
Lombard by TKO in round one.
Bellator 58 features an intriguing title match up between a real force to be reckoned with in Eddie Alvarez and new kid on the block Micheal Chandler and the chance to see one of the most dominant fighters (albeit against a certain standard of opponent) in MMA.
Bits and bobs
I cannot make my mind up if Silva vs Le deserves a co main event slot at UFC 139 this weekend. It is no exactly the most relevant fight on the card and has pushed what will be an exciting and meaningful bout between Faber and Bowles down to third billing. On the other hand, it will be really fun to a guy from movies who fights like he is in a movie, fighting against Chris Leben without the chin.
I am not sure why so much of the build up to the headline fight has centered around Henderson being powerful and Rua a bit dithering and old. Henderson is a big strong guy, but he really has limited tools. Rua still has an explosive attack but maybe more of a calm head, is just putting his career back together and looked good knocking out Forest Griffin. I am not sure I fancy either guy for a title shot should they win, but let's not rule Rua out yet.
I suppose everyone has seen this already, but if you have not, take a look at this video of Chael Sonnen being a parody of Chael Sonnen.