It will be another month before we get some non-UFC programming of an MMA nature, as Bellator returns on March 9th with their 60th event to kick of season 6 on MtV2 and SPIKE.COM. The event features a title fight and the opening round of an eight man tournament in the Featherweight division. A week later, Bellator 61 airs with the finals of last year’s Heavyweight tournament and the start of a Middleweight tournament, and we can be sure that Bellator will keep up their aggressive scheduling until four tournaments are done. Bellator has firmly established themselves as the number two group running MMA, but is it enough to compete with the UFC?
Bellator needs more events. They are being complimented for their aggressive schedule, and they have completed 60 show very quickly, however they are not developing fighters quickly enough. Their lead off main event bout of between Pat Curran and Joe Warren is a compelling fight. Curran has won two Bellator tournaments, in two different weight classes no less, while Warren brings world class wrestling credentials, along with a need for redemption after being knocked stiff in a KO loss his last outing. I wonder if it would even make a UFC on Facebook Stream?
For the record, I am going to pick Curran in this fight. Curran has had a solid run in Bellator, and Warren had looked beatable even before he was left twitching by Alexis Vila. Curran has too complete a game, and I see him walking away with the Featherweight title.
The following week’s main event is more lackluster, and would not be close to UFC material, unless you count them fighting at a bar showing a UFC. Heavyweights Eric Prindle and Thiago Santos meet to finish off last season’s heavyweight tournament. Their first encounter at the end of season 5 was a sloppy jiggly fat fest that ended in a no contest. Both guys had made short work of their semi final competition, but it was a weak tournament to begin with. It is unlikely that there will be anything artful in this one, and it should be a pick ‘em fight.
I would also like to see more fights per Bellator event. Each show could stand to have between 3 and 5 more fights per event, to really start looking at talent. While it is commendable that they are doing 4 tournaments (lightheavyweight, middleweight, welterweight and lightweight), they are leaving entire weight classes with very few opportunities to develop fighters.
Likewise on the women’s side of MMA. They have an opportunity to move faster than the UFC is, yet at least in the opening two shows of Season 6, there are no women’s fights.
Hopefully with their new partnership, Bellator will expand the number of shows and fighters they have on roster, or else they run the risk of never having as much talent as the UFC.