With Bellator 84 this past weekend, Bellator brought their 7th season to a close, and along with it, their relationship with MTV2. All eyes are now on the future, as the company plans for some stacked cards to kick off their Spike launch on January 17. But before we get there, a quick look at the last show of the season and the entirety of season 7.
Bellator 84 was not a bad show, but it was one that in many ways epitomized the entire season. The clear theme of this season, and this show, was "preparing for the future." In the main event, Alexander Volkov defeated Rich Hale to become the new Bellator Heavyweight champion. Like many of the names from this season, Volkov came in a relative unknown, yet has looked impressive, and walks away a new player for the company. He didn't get the stoppage, and it wasn't the electric fight many anticipated, but it was still a solid technical display.
Sadly, another one of those new talents, Marcin Held, did not get to show what he is capable of. The 20 year old Held was denied access to the show by the Indiana Gaming Commission due to the venue's location inside a casino. And again, that theme of preparing for the future holds true, as Held's Lightweight final against Dave Jansen now gets bumped up to Spike. Hearing the news, it was hard not to draw comparisons to the previous week, when the Rad Martinez vs. Shahbulat Shamhalaev Featherweight final was similarly cancelled and moved to Spike.
It's a shame that the last two episodes of the season had to include these cancellations, as this was not a bad season by any means. If the season goal was to introduce new talent, it absolutely succeeded in that task. Volkov, Shamhalaev, Martinez and Andrey Koreshkov all walk out of this season as possible Bellator stars who I absolutely want to see more from. And, as they head towards the biggest audience in company history, isn't that the feeling Bellator wants?
Other random observations on Bellator 84:
- Held's loss was Felice Herrig's gain, as the popular fighter was bumped up to the main card. She turned in a good performance, beating up a game and gutsy Patricia Vidonic (who took the fight on short notice). I loved Herrig's kicks in the fight, and wish she had used them more as the fight wore on. That's the second week in a row Bellator has featured a women's fight on the main card, and the second time a woman has walked away looking strong. Good to see.
- Speaking of Held, Bjorn Rebney was able to give more details in that situation at the post fight press conference. As he explained it, Bellator had filed the appropriate paperwork, had fully disclosed Held's age, and had received permission for him to fight. The day of the show, a higher authority at the Gaming Commission overruled the special permission, and Held was denied. We've reached out to the Commission for comment, and will let you know what they have to say.
- UPDATE: The Indiana Gaming Commission chose not to comment on this issue.
- It was a good night for local talent in Chicago. In addition to Team Curran's Herrig, Chicago fighters Daniel Vizcaya and Louis Taylor also won on the main card in a pair of upsets that got the crowd excited.
- One other local fighter who won was Christian Uflacker, who I had talked up pre-show. For the opening minutes, he proved me right, with some terrific low kicks and strikes. But he eventually struggled on the mat. He took a technical decision victory, but it was the result of a bad call. In round 3, his opponent Cliff Wright caught him with an upkick right as Uflacker was moving in for some ground and pound. The referee ruled it an accidental illegal blow, Uflacker was unable to continue, and they went to the score cards. The trouble is, replays clearly showed Uflacker was not grounded when the kick hit, so it should have been a TKO for Wright, or at worst a No Contest. Bad call, and a reminder that sometimes you really, really need instant replay.
- Hats off to prelim fighter Belal Muhammad. Another local fighter, Muhammad came in just 1-0, but looked fantastic in his decision win over Quinton McCottrell. The fight aired after the main card, so I'm not sure how many people saw it, but it was very good stuff, and I look forward to seeing more from Muhammad.
- I was there live and very close to the blue corner, which provided me with an interesting opportunity to really hear a corner's instructions. It's fascinating to see the difference a good corner makes, as veterans like Jeff Curran and Conan Silveira add a lot. Best corner move of the night came from Conan. During Joe Vedepo's fight, there was a break in the action to fix his opponent's glove. Conan quietly told Vedepo to stand close to their corner, so that when the referee restarted the action, he would be closer to his coach. Great, subtle veteran move. Vedepo sadly didn't do it. On the flipside, Richard Hale had only one person in his corner. No cut man, no second - just one coach who tended to be pretty quiet. For someone fighting at this level of the sport, I found that odd.
- Check back soon for lots of details on what to expect from Bellator on Spike.
Overall, it was a fun show, capping off a weird, but entertaining season. As I look back on season 7, there's a lot to like: the emergence of those new stars and their incredible highlight reel wins, the Bellator swansong of Eddie Alvarez (maybe), the short but terrific Jessica Eye vs. Zoila Gurgel fight, the absurdity of a second Prindle vs. Santos groin strike... Season 7 may have been short on names, but it provided a lot of fun. And really, at the end of the day, that's what I want from my MMA.