While the biggest story regarding Bellator 106 so far has been the withdrawal of Tito Ortiz and the card being moved from pay-per-view to Spike TV, in reality the card is pretty much as strong today as it was three weeks ago.
No matter which way you hack it, Bellator MMA's champions are some of the best fighters in their respective weight classes, and two of them will be fighting on Saturday night. Not to mention the opportunity to see the rematch of one of 2013's greatest upsets, "King" Mo Lawal vs. Emanuel Newton 2.
Regardless of how you feel about Bellator, you have the chance to see one (possibly two) of the greatest lightweights in MMA, and perhaps the greatest featherweight in the world. For free.
Main Card (Spike TV)
Bellator Lightweight Championship Bout: Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez
Bellator Featherweight Championship Bout: Pat Curran vs. Daniel Straus
Bellator Interim Light Heavyweight Championship Bout: Muhammed Lawal vs. Emanuel Newton
Fight Master Final Bout: Joe Riggs vs. Mike Bronzoulis
Mike Richman vs. Akop Stepanyan
Preliminary Card (Spike.com)
Jesse Juarez vs. Joe Williams
Joe Camacho vs. Cleber Luciano
Brandon Halsey vs. Hector Ramirez
Mike Guymon vs. Aaron Miller
Darren Smith vs. Josh Smith
Obviously, the main card has the lightweight and featherweight titles both up for grabs. Additionally, there is the aforementioned rematch between Mo Lawal and Emanuel Newton, which has both bragging rights and the interim light heavyweight belt on the line. Joe Riggs vs. Mike Bronzoulis, the Fight Master Finale, was delayed from Bellator 98, and was previously relegated to the preliminary card, but seems to now be penned into the primary broadcast. The final main card fight, oddly, is a featherweight tilt between Mike Richman and Akop Stepanyan.
The preliminary card features UFC washouts Hector Ramirez and Mike Guymon. It also features Fight Master also-ran Joe Williams.
It's worth noting that, following the shift from PPV to Spike TV, the card was pruned down considerably. In addition to the loss of Tito Ortiz vs. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, the Season 9 Heavyweight Tournament Final between Cheick Kongo and Vinicius Queiroz has been postponed. UFC veteran Karo Parisyan vs. Fight Master alumnus Cristiano Souza, and the promotional debut of fellow former UFC fighter Terry Etim, have been bumped back a week to Bellator 107.
12-0: Michael Chandler's record. All his fights came in either Strikeforce or fighting Bellator's best. He has absolutely demolished fighters like Marcin Held, Akihiro Gono and Rick Hawn, who all own wins over UFC veterans, and choked out Eddie Alvarez in their first fight.
21: Stoppage victories by Eddie Alvarez. This includes 14 knockouts and seven submissions over the likes of Tatsuya Kawajiri, Joachim Hansen, Shinya Aoki and Patricky Freire.
9-1: Pat Curran's record in Bellator. His first four fights were at lightweight, with his lone loss coming in a championship bout with Eddie Alvarez.
5-5-1: Emanuel Newton's record against UFC fighters, past and present. That doesn't include his win over former Strikeforce champion Mo Lawal.
2: Knockout losses suffered by "King" Mo Lawal. More on that in a moment!
5: Joe Riggs' winning streak entering his fight with Mike Bronzoulis, not counting the four fights he won competing in Fight Master. It is his longest professional winning streak since 2004. If you count that as nine, it is the longest of his career.
31: Joe Riggs' age. He is still relatively young, but has been competing professionally since 2001, winning his first (sanctioned) professional fight just three days after turning 19 years old.
10: Knockouts to Mike Bronzoulis' credit. Growing up, Bronzoulis trained in basically striking-focused martial art you can name, and it really shows on his record.
Only two fights are up for bids (most betting sites only have the main event available, however). They are as follows (per SportBet.com):
Michael Chandler (-219) vs. Eddie Alvarez (+191)
Muhammad Lawal (-430) vs. Emanuel Newton (+570)
There is currently no option to bid for Curran vs. Straus. If that changes, expect Curran to rightly open an enormous favorite.
Michael Chandler opens as a solid favorite at -219. Eddie Alvarez isn't a big enough underdog to make a bet on him especially tantalizing, especially since Chandler is a fairly clear-cut favorite, given their first fight and Alvarez's time out of the cage (his last fight was in October 2012). Definitely a fight to avoid putting money on.
The crazy thing is how huge an underdog Emanuel Newton is compared to "King" Mo Lawal. In spite of the fact Newton won their first fight with an early knockout, Newton is a huge +570 underdog while Lawal is a -430 favorite. Naturally, it's rare for a fighter to be favored in a rematch so soon after losing, never even mind the 1000-point difference between them.
This is definitely the fight to bet on.
While Lawal is by far the more accomplished fighter, and stylistically should be able to demolish Newton with his Olympic-caliber wrestling, his overconfidence in his boxing has been, and likely continues to be, his Achilles' heel. Lawal committedly tries to emulate Floyd Mayweather's front-hand-down style, but he simply doesn't have the hand speed to actually make it work in an MMA setting. Dropping his left hand amid exchanges has led to both his losses (knockouts suffered at the hands of Newton at Bellator 90 and Rafael Cavalcante at Strikeforce: Houston).
Unless he rectifies that problem, a flash knockout is very, very possible. That makes Newton worth betting on.
Unfortunately, Bellator is not nearly as generous as the UFC when it comes to putting out free fights to promote their upcoming events. Still, you can find some bits and pieces on Spike TV.
Pat Curran defends his belt from Shahbulat Shamhalaev at Bellator 95.
Emanuel Newton beats Mikhael Zayats by unanimous decision to win the Season 8 Light Heavyweight Tournament at Bellator 94.
Emanuel Newton upsets Mo Lawal with his shocking backfist knockout at Bellator 90.
Fight Master can be watched in its entirety here.
Unfortunately, all Bellator has readily available past that are highlight reels from individual events on their YouTube page (which you can find here). I'll generously provide a few extra links to the reels that include Lawal's amazing knockout of Seth Petruzelli, Eddie Alvarez's revenge on Shinya Aoki and this video which includes wins by both Chandler and Curran.
The one fight that Bellator actually deemed worthy of being uploaded to internet immortality was the original bout between Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler. If you're going to choose just one of your fights to make available, that would definitely be the one.
Yours truly once did a piece picking and ranking the Top 10 Lightweight Title Fights in MMA History, and I ranked Alvarez vs. Chandler third, behind only Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard 3 and Benson Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis 1. It was truly a great fight between great fighters.
A good friend of mine once said that the easy way to tell if a movie is bad is if it has the number two in the title. Similarly, it's always hard to say that the rematch of a great fight will live up to its original. We've seen some serious duds (Ben Henderson vs. Frankie Edgar), and some that actually exceeded the original (Chan-Sung Jung vs. Leonard Garcia).
As such, it's impossible to say that this will be better than the original, be as good as the original or will fall short. No matter what, though, this is a card worth watching.