Out of the three big cards tonight – UFC 180, Bellator 131, and UFC 180 – Bellator has the most stacked card from top to bottom. As far as the television broadcast goes, the main card begins on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET, and it’s one that marks the beginning of a new era for Bellator MMA. Sure, it’s been months since Scott Coker took over after Bellator founder Bjorn Rebney had his baby taken away from him, and Coker, a proven starmaker in the world of MMA, was forced to go through the motions to continue Bellator’s weekly season schedule to get to tonight’s card, and beyond. Tonight, you’ll start to see more signs of what the future of Bellator MMA, in house and on your T.V. screen, will look like.
The Main Event
A lot of the hardcore MMA folks have voiced their displeasure when it comes to the pro wrestling shtick that has played a big role in the Tito vs. Bonnar build up. To that I say – Tito Ortiz has been doing this for nearly two decades. Why are you surprised? He knows what he’s doing. You don’t have to like it, but you will watch it.
Ortiz is like the John Cena of MMA. He’s a polarizing figure who has inspired many, and angered even more to the point where some have even seen red. That said, when it comes to the major PPV stars that helped put the UFC on the map in their time of need – he is the only one that is still willing to lace up those gloves and put on a show. Face it, when the cage door closes and these two UFC Hall of Famers answer the opening bell, all of the talk goes out the window. Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar will fight tonight, and they will leave everything they have inside of that Bellator cage.
Who is the best lightweight outside of the UFC?
When Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez was granted his release from Bellator to join the UFC one would have assumed that interim lightweight champion Will Brooks would be promoted to their undisputed champion effective immediately. That was not the case. The man just gets no respect. He’s a +185 dog heading into tonight’s fight after beating Chandler to become the interim champion at Bellator 120 in May, and Chandler and his team have let everyone know that he [Chandler] was nowhere near 100% the first time they fought. One would’ve thought Bellator’s lightweight division would be in shambles with the loss of Alvarez (who was defeated by Donald Cerrone in is UFC debut). Instead, they begin a new chapter with the continuation of a rivalry between two men who have yet to even scratch the surface of what they are capable of in this sport.
With Justin Gatheje versus Melvin Guillard and this highly anticipated rematch between Will Brooks and Michael Chandler both popping off tonight you can bet that a lot of the water cooler talk Monday morning will be about who the best 155 lb’er is outside of the UFC.
With 73 professional kickboxing matches between them, you better believe that Melvin Manhoef and Joe Schilling will keep it standing until one man falls tonight. Schilling had a rough first go round with the sport of MMA but has found major success in the world of kickboxing. For Manhoef, although he hasn’t found much success in the world of kickboxing of late, his MMA career came back to life with his violent finish of Doug Marshall in his Bellator debut just a couple of months ago.
This fight may just been the most meaningful scrap on the card for the simple reason that it signifies the beginning of a partnership between Spike TV’s two major combat sports powerhouses – Bellator MMA and GLORY. For combat sports junkies, Manhoef vs. Schilling is a true super fight, and it may just be the first of many we will see down the road.
The King Mo factor
When it comes to MMA, King Mo Lawal is a superstar. Now that he’s back in the saddle with Scott Coker, you can expect a much happier Mo than we saw during the Rebney days. The now 6-2 Bellator veteran may even be the happiest man on the roster since the “dick riding” Rebney (Mo’s words – not mine) was forced out the door, and even though he’s fighting a man unknown to many in Vedepo, it’s a fight that could give Mo some trouble. ‘The Doctor’ is by far the biggest dog on the card at +650 but he does present some serious problems for Lawal. Hopefully Mo doesn’t take this fight lightly. Regardless of the outcome, Mo’s fanbase will be tuning in to support one of the true fan friendly fighters, and smartest minds of the sport tonight; they’ll still have his back should he win or lose. If he does win, which he should, expect that rematch with ‘Rampage’ Jackson to headline a major Bellator card in the first quarter of 2015.
One of the most controversial decisions in the modern UFC era was awarded to Leonard Garcia back in 2010 at the TUF 12 finale when he “beat” Nam Phan. Coincidentally, tonight’s headliner Stephan Bonnar also headlined that card and was victorious against Igor Pokrajac. Also of note, Leonard Garcia announced his retirement from the sport of MMA just last night after being tapped out by Daniel Pineda at Legacy 37.
*Phan will take on ‘The Marine’ Mike Richman in a catchweight bout of 143 lbs. that is just perfect to kick off tonight’s festivities on Spike TV. This will be one of those stand and bang fights between two lighter weight fighters with no quit that will set the pace for what could very well be a historic night for Bellator MMA. And even though it’s just one night – every victory in this sport is a big one.
* – King Mo vs. Vedepo would replace Phan vs. Richman as the opening fight on the Spike TV broadcast
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