The Bellator Heavyweight Tournament brackets have been revealed, but first, UFC Fight Night 122 was this past weekend. Let’s get to the rundown.
UFC Fight Night 122
GOOD- Alex Garcia submits Muslim Salikhov
Garcia landed some nice takedowns and was working his grappling until he was able to lock in a rear-naked choke about halfway through the second round for the finish. Good win for Garcia.
GOOD- Wang Guan vs. Alex Caceres
Guan punished Caceres over and over with strikes, nearly finishing him several times. Caceres showed good toughness but he was outmatched here. Somehow, though, Guan had to settle for a split decision win. I don’t get that at all. Maybe you give Caceres the third round (big maybe there as he got rocked a few more times) but there’s no way he won either the first or second round.
Guan almost finished him at the end of the first round, Caceres was saved by the bell, and the second round saw Guan stagger Caceres three times. I don’t see how you could give Caceres either of those rounds, but I guess it doesn’t matter because the right man won regardless. Good win for Guan.
GOOD- Li Jingliang stops Zak Ottow
Jingliang used his kicks well here to keep Ottow at distance. He waited for his spot, got it, and crushed Ottow with a right hand and then jumped on him to get the ref stoppage. Big win for Jingliang in his home country of China.
GOOD/BAD- Kelvin Gastelum stops Michael Bisping
Bisping had a few moments of success but he also took a lot of big shots. Gastelum got the stoppage win about halfway through the first round. It’s a big win for Gastelum, but it’s also one that plenty of people think shouldn’t have been allowed to happen. Bisping is only a few weeks removed from losing the UFC Middleweight Championship to Georges St-Pierre. I saw a good amount of people here at The Torch saying the UFC shouldn’t have allowed Bisping to take this fight, and that was echoed by others in the MMA community.
I’m of the mindset that if Bisping wanted to fight, let him fight. That’s me personally, though, the UFC has to look at things differently. For one, this is someone they know and (presumably) care about. Letting him do something dangerous to his long-term health should be last on their list of things to do. For two, and allow me to be crass here, Bisping is a product, there’s money to be made off of him. The UFC shouldn’t allow anything to happen to that product, at least not something that they themselves can control.
This loss to Gastelum damages Bisping’s marketability. There’s a number of matchups the UFC could have built towards involving Bisping. He and Chris Weidman have been publicly sniping at each other for a very long time. Luke Rockhold and Bisping have a history together, with Bisping knocking out Rockhold to win the middleweight title in the first place. Those are easy sells. There’s also fights with Yoel Romero as well as a fight with Gastelum (with sufficient recovery time) they could have built towards.
Instead, they sent Bisping out there on a freaking Fight Pass card? The only reason money-wise to have Bisping fight this early would be if there were lots of money to be made off of it, like at a UFC on FOX event or pay-per-view. You don’t have him compete on a Fight Pass card that’s not likely to generate any real interest or revenue. Ultimately, this just looks like another in a long line of bungled decisions by the UFC.
Bellator has created a tournament to crown a new Bellator Heavyweight Champion. That’s cool, I love tournaments. There’s one big problem with this tournament and some really cool things about it, I’ll start with the bad.
The tournament is scheduled to take place over an entire year. That sucks, and feels like way too long. I understand the final two fighters will have to fight three times and they need time to recover and such, but this still feels like too long. You could make the whole thing last nine months and that would be better. Anyway, on to the cool things. The brackets have been announced and they provide some interesting matchups. I’ll go over each of them quickly.
Up first is Chael Sonnen vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. They gave Sonnen his best chance at getting out of the first round here. Of course, he could easily get KTFO as well so there is some danger here. This all depends on how motivated Rampage is. If Rampage is ready to go, I think he wins. If he’s just there for a paycheck, I think he loses. To be honest though, I have super low expectations for this fight. I’m fully expecting a dreadful bore fest.
Fedor Emelienenko fights Frank Mir in another first round matchup. I’m a big Fedor fan so of course I’m going with him to win this one. Mir has been out for quite a while so it’s hard to know what he’s going to look like. Mir definitely has the tools to beat Fedor, but I think Fedor remains patient and stops Mir in the third round. Another thing that makes this interesting is the possibility of this fight going to the ground and seeing these two go at it there. Two of the best submission artists in heavyweight history grappling? That’d be awesome.
Roy Nelson vs. Matt Mitrione is the third round first round matchup. I think Mitrione is the favorite to win the whole thing so obviously I’m going with him here. I think this will be a hard matchup for Mitrione because Nelson can take a punch and is dangerous on the ground. I still think Mitrione wins, but he might have to go to a decision in order to get that win.
The final first round matchup is UFC Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader vs. Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal. I think Bader is a strong candidate to win the tournament and he should get the win here, but he’s going to have to earn it. King Mo is going to hang around, he’s not likely to be stopped, so I expect this fight to go the distance as well.
The Sonnen/Rampage winner will fight the Fedor/Mir winner while the Nelson/Mitrione winner will face the Mo/Bader winner. There’s also the possibility of alternates stepping in so there’s a chance of some crazy matchups. That only adds to the excitement. I’m ready for this tournament to begin.
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NOW CHECK OUT HYDEN’S PREVIOUS TAKE: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from Bellator 188 and UFC Fight Night 121