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Bellator 71 Preview: Brett Rogers And Three Friday Night Storylines

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Brett Rogers (left) returns to action Friday at Bellator 71. (Photo: Esther Lin/MMA
Brett Rogers (left) returns to action Friday at Bellator 71. (Photo: Esther Lin/MMA

When Brett Rogers was going through his legal issues that saw him released from Strikeforce, it was hard to imagine him getting another high-profile shot in a major MMA organization.

As Bellator Fighting Championships kicks off their Summer Series Friday in West Virginia, Rogers will get his first opportunity toward redemption and restarting a career that started out promising but got derailed badly and quickly.

Even with a bigger UFC event as competition, here's three things to watch for Friday at Bellator 71.

1 - Does Brett Rogers have anything left?

It was just three years ago that Rogers stood at 10-0, fresh off a 22-second knockout of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei Arlovski and ready to emerge as a player in Strikeforce's thin heavyweight division. Unfortunately, that was his undoing. Rogers was thrown to the wolves against Fedor Emelianenko later that year and while he hung around for a bit, Fedor's skillset was too much to overcome.

While most organizations would have set up an appropriate next opponent to help build things back up, Strikeforce matched Rogers against Alistair Overeem with predictable results: a first round destruction. Since then, Rogers is just 1-2 and there's not much bloom left on the rose.

An opportunity to use what's left against equally matched competition might be good for Rogers. If there's any shot for him to begin the rebuilding process, it will be Friday against Kevin Asplund. A loss would almost certainly stop that comeback.

For more SBN coverage of Bellator 71, click after the jump.

2 - Why didn't Travis Wiuff get a title shot?

I realize Bellator is beholden to the tournament format as the only way to earn a championship fight. However, when Wiuff defeated 205-pound champ Christian M'Pumbu last year and there was no 205-pound tournament to decide a No. 1 contender, it made perfect sense for an immediate title rematch. Again, he beat the champion in a non-title match. What other evidence would one need?

Alas, that simply earned Wiuff an opportunity in the summer light heavyweight tournament. The journeyman fights Chris Davis tonight, hoping it will be the first step toward getting the shot he rightfully earned. Meanwhile, M'Pumbu has no one to fight and has been on the sidelines for eight months.

3 - Friday nights are not alright for fighting...or are they?

It's no secret that both the UFC and Bellator's move to Friday night action has been met with tepid response. Between The Ultimate Fighter Live's struggles to bring in viewers despite a new live format and Bellator's unfortunate decision to go essentially head-to-head with TUF and occasional live events, no one is getting the message it's a bad night for MMA on free TV.

The spring series ratings were all over the place with big names like Eddie Alvarez making no dent in viewership spikes. 108,000 was their lowest viewership, while 209,000 watched the second-to-last event of the season. Last season's three-event Summer Series drew nearly 230,000 viewers on average but it was a different climate on Saturdays.

Against a UFC main event of Clay Guida vs. Gray Maynard and with a lineup made up of fighters that only the hardcore fans would know, attention will be light on Bellator Friday outside Rogers' performance. With six months to go before their Spike debut, the time is now to correct the small issues and begin a positive build toward 2013.

Follow along with all the action of Bellator 71 here on Bloody Elbow.