Bellator and Spike TV had more than a year to plan their first event together. That was the waiting period required by Spike's previous broadcast partnership with the UFC. And while many of us might have been tempted to procrastinate, it was apparent right away that the two companies, both owned by media giant Viacom, were plenty active in preparing for the this show.
"There's really not an area of our show you'll see up on the screen that hasn't been touched by Viacom and Spike," Bellator president Bjorn Rebney told Bleacher Report. "Everything from production elements to the huge traveling production trucks, monster tractor trailers that are just edit bays....we've got a new graphics package premiering that is just state of the art. It gives great clarity to everything we are doing."
It was a brand new Bellator, from the graphics between bouts to the HD picture for a promotion that had mostly been seen only in standard definition for most of its four-year run on a variety of television networks. The result was a huge win overall for Bellator and Spike.
But what about the individual fighters? In every MMA bout there is an official winner and an official loser. Sometimes, however, a fighter can lose by winning a boring decision and win in the hearts of fans by losing an exciting slugfest.
So who were the real winners and losers at Bellator's Spike debut? Read on.
A former Olympian with hands of steel, Rick Hawn was supposed to push Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler to the limit. Instead, Chandler ran over Hawn like he was nothing, making a legitimate tough guy look like an over-matched beginner.
Chandler's problem, if this is even possible, is that he is too good. Now 11-0, Chandler belongs in the cage with the world's best. Bellator's challenge will be finding fighters on his level to credibly challenge for his title belt.
Rick Hawn represented America in the Olympics and other competition.
I hate to tag Hawn a loser, but tonight it was fitting. He was barely in the fight against Chandler and looked like he simply didn't belong in the same cage with the champion.
Hawn has already dropped a weight class and fought his way to a title shot. I'm not really sure what's next for him. With Bellator, the answer is likely another tournament run, and a chance later this year to earn a second title shot.
Compelling features that brought the fighters to life?
Every thing you could possibly ask for, Bellator and Spike delivered. If this is what we can expect going forward, count me in.
We—and by "we," I mean me and other goofballs who know nothing—wrote Mikhail Zayats off. I was waiting patiently for Renato Sobral to take on "King" Mo Lawal in the Bellator Light Heavyweight Tournament finals. After all, they were the names, and who doesn't love names?
I didn't count on Babalu coming to the cage looking roughly 500 years old. I didn't count on his only offense being the dreaded hug against the cage, prompting my buddy, Jeremy Botter, to dub the fight "Hug Fest 1." And I most certainly didn't expect Zayats to land a spinning back fist and dozens of follow-up shots to secure his place in the semifinals.
For Sobral, a 37-year-old who has lost three of his last five by knockout, the end has to be near. Ten years ago, this is a fighter he would have eaten alive. No man, it seems, is forever young.
Pat Curran and Patricio "Pitbull" Freire were the first Bellator fighters ever to take the cage on Spike TV. That's plenty of pressure, but both men were up for the challenge, going back and forth for 25 razor-thin minutes of fighting.
"Judo" Gene LeBell had the fight for Pitbull. The other two judges, who don't get a shout out because they don't wear pink judo gis, had it for Curran, who got to keep his world title.
Very good fight to open the show and introduce the world to Bellator. Pitbull fights with plenty of passion, and Curran has a very sophisticated stand-up game. If the point was to let people know these are world-level fighters, I think they delivered.
With the advent of UFC prelims streaming on Facebook, I've gotten used to watching fighting on the computer. It's generally a mixed bag, with quality varying dramatically over the course of the evening.
My stream on Spike.com looked great from beginning to end. Not only were the fights filled with a bizarre collection of castoffs from every MMA promotion in history (which I love), they were also beautifully shot and produced. Well done, Spike.com.
Savant Young has been around the game for a minute or 12. The journeyman has done time in the WEC, IFL Affliction and even Japan's Shooto. Now getting a chance in Bellator, it's fun to see the old warhorse score a big win.
Young struggled badly in the first round against UFC veteran Mike Guymon, but the only struggling done in the second was Guymon—struggling to regain consciousness after a huge left hand. It just goes to show that a champion is never out of a fight. And neither is Savant Young.
Holy cow, you guys, Jamie Yager is both alive and fighting! Sure, the former The Ultimate Fighter "star" may have lost to Joe Williams in the first round, but at least the world knows he's still around and kicking, literally and figuratively.
Best of all? He's still sporting that incredible fro. He can lose every fight for all I care—but more Jamie Yager, please.
- Jacob Noe defeats Seth Petruzelli via TKO Round 1
- Michael Chandler defeats Rick Hawn via submission (rear-naked choke) at 3:07 Round 2
- Mikhail Zayats defeats Renato Sobral via TKO at 4:49 Round 1
- Pat Curran defeats Patricio Freire via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47)
- Aaron Miller defeats Joe Camacho via unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)
- Jason Lambert defeats Hector Ramirez by submission (inverted armbar) Round 1
- J.J. Ambrose defeats Brian Warren by submission (guillotine choke) Round 2
- Emmanuel Newton defeats Atanas Djambazov by submission (rear-naked choke) Round 2
- Savant Young defeats Mike Guymon by TKO (left hook) Round 2
- Joe Williams defeats Jamie Yager by TKO (punches) Round 1
- Cleber Luciano defeats Mario Navarro by unanimous decision (30-27 x 3)