Bellator 120: Burning Questions for Bellator Moving Forward

Steven Rondina@srondinaFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2014

Bellator 120: Burning Questions for Bellator Moving Forward

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Bellator 120 is in the books. The results are as follows:

    Bellator 120 Main Card

    • Quinton Jackson defeats Muhammed Lawal by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
    • Interim Lightweight World Championship: Will Brooks defeats Michael Chandler by split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47)
    • Tito Ortiz defeats Alexander Shlemenko via technical submission (arm triangle) at 2:27 of the first round
    • Alexander Volkov defeats Blagoy Ivanov via submission (rear-naked choke) at 1:08 of the second round
    • Michael Page defeats Ricky Rainey by TKO at 4:29 of the first round

    Bellator 120 Preliminary Card

    • Cheick Kongo defeats Eric Smith by TKO at 4:35 of the second round
    • Marcin Held defeats Nate Jolly via submission (armbar) at 4:20 of the first round
    • Fabricio Guerreiro defeats Shahbulat Shamhalaev via submission (kimura) at 3:29 of the first round
    • Goiti Yamauchi defeats Mike Richman by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
    • Austin Lyons defeats Zach Underwood by technical decision (30-27, 29-28, 30-27)
    • Mike Wessel defeats Justin Frazier by TKO at 4:28 of the first round
    • Ben Brewer defeats Andy Uhrich by KO at 2:40 of the second round
    • Codie Shuffield defeats Anthony Lemon via submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:15 of the second round
    • Brian Hal defeats Cortez Phelia by TKO at 0:24 of the third round

    In the aftermath of Bellator's inaugural pay-per-view, now is the perfect time to analyze where the promotion may be headed. There are a lot of things to talk about, from stars past, present and future to TV ratings and the organization's relationships with its top draws.

    So what topics are worth pondering when it comes to America's second-largest MMA promotion? Find out right here!

What Was Bellator 120's Buyrate?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    This, obviously, is the biggest question exiting Saturday night's event. How many folks ponied up the money to watch Bellator 120?

    The decline of the UFC's buyrates is well-documented. So too are the struggles of any non-UFC promotion to get people to buy its events. That makes many people very pessimistic regarding Bellator's potential as a pay-per-view draw.

    Obviously, the stakes are high. The Viacom-owned fight company desperately wants to establish a PPV presence and has been trying to do so for months. Lawal vs. Jackson represented the biggest fight that Bellator could conceivably make, and if that proves to be a dud, that may be the end of the company's PPV aspirations.

    This topic, more than anything else, will be the thing to watch for in the coming days.

What Will Bellator Do About Michael Chandler?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Uh oh. Bellator's poster boy lost. Again. This time to "Ill" Will Brooks, an obviously talented but still green fighter whom fans barely even remember.

    The Viacom-owned promotion is invested in Chandler in a big way. He is signed to a lengthy contract and is the centerpiece of its advertising. With him coming off back-to-back losses, though, it's worth discussing how Bellator is going to handle its favorite fighter.

    A lot of that is bad luck. I, and many others, scored both Alvarez vs. Chandler 2 and Chandler vs. Brooks in favor of the Alliance MMA product. Still, Chandler should have been able to win this fight without too much trouble. Right or wrong, his position as the big man on campus is much less secure now than it was on Friday.

    So what will Bellator do with its struggling star? Will it stand by its man? Will it hustle up a rematch between Chandler and Brooks to try and right the course?

When Will Eddie Alvarez Come Back?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Eddie Alvarez is out for an unknown length of time after suffering a concussion during training. While sometimes an athlete can recover from a serious head injury in a matter of weeks, it's hard not to think of former lightweight contender TJ Grant, who suffered a concussion nearly a year ago and still has no timetable to return.

    For Alvarez and fans alike, it's a serious disappointment, and the questions regarding his return could use an answer sooner than later. He is quite possibly Bellator's best pound-for-pound fighter, and the dynamics of his relationship with his longtime home promotion is one of the most intriguing storylines surrounding Bellator. Everyone is better off with him returning as quickly as possible.

    So when will it happen?

What the Heck Happens with the Lightweight Title?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    So yeah.

    Eddie Alvarez has the belt. Will Brooks has the interim belt. Dave Jansen earned a title shot last year and is still waiting for it. Marcin Held and Patricky Freire will face off in the near future to decide who else gets to throw a hat into the ring. Michael Chandler is still around.

    There are a lot of different ways to describe that situation, but the best is probably "pileup." In the immediate future, four dudes will have their hands on the Bellator lightweight belt, and there will be no graceful way to work that out.

    So what will happen at 155 pounds? We shall see.

What Does the Future Hold for Quinton "Rampage" Jackson?

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    Richard Shotwell/Associated Press

    This is an interesting question. There's no doubt that Bellator would gain a lot from having Quinton "Rampage" Jackson be its light heavyweight champion. However, when you read between the lines of his recent interview with Bloody Elbow, it seems he doesn't want to be a champion anymore.

    I actually hypothesized that this may be a possibility after Bellator 106:

    Jackson has always been clear that he didn't join Bellator, he joined Viacom, and he didn't join Viacom to fight. He joined Viacom to land a gig in pro wrestling, get his foot in the door with Paramount Pictures, star in a reality show and, when he doesn't have anything else on his plate, fit in a little something with Bellator.

    That isn't to criticize Rampage in the slightest. He has been fighting professionally for more than a decade, and if he wants to have the sort of relationship with Bellator that Cung Le has with the UFC these days, then more power to him. Being Bellator's champion would hinder him more than help him in that regard.

    Now, though, Bellator finds itself in an awkward position. After Jackson eked out a close decision win over Muhammed Lawal, the promotion has to address Jackson's aspirations as a fighter and his overall career going forward.

    Is he, indeed, actively avoiding becoming the Bellator champion? If so, what is next for him? If not, will he be willing to fight his friend and training partner Emanuel Newton for the belt?

    Or does Jackson even want to be a full-time mixed martial artist at this point?

    All those questions are absolutely crucial for Bellator.

What Does the Future Hold for Tito Ortiz?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Well, Tito Ortiz pulled off something that vaguely resembled an upset. It was a silly fight that hardly asserts him as a force in the light heavyweight division, but when you're 39 years old, two years separated from your last fight and coming off a 1-7-1 stretch, any win is a good one.

    The question now, though, is, what is next for him?

    It is unclear how Ortiz will fit into Bellator's anemic light heavyweight division, and it's hard to pin down what his ultimate goals are in MMA at this point. As was previously mentioned, Jackson doesn't seem especially driven when it comes to getting the belt. Ortiz's legacy is arguably more secure than Jackson's, and it's unclear how long Ortiz may want to stay in the sport.

    So if he opts to stick around, how will Bellator tackle that? Will it slot Ortiz into a tournament and move him toward the belt? Or will it do with him what it did with Vladimir Matyushenko, slotting him in for novelty fights?

    Will Bellator just go right back to square one and book Ortiz vs. Jackson? That will be interesting to see.

Will the Public Ever Gravitate Toward One of Bellator's Champions?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Take a look at Bellator's week-by-week ratings in Season 9 and Season 10. Comparing and contrasting them points to two facts: MMA fans seem to be very willing to tune in to watch "Rampage" Jackson and Cheick Kongo...and that's about it.

    Vitaly Minakov? Eduardo Dantas? Douglas Lima? Not so much.

    That's a shame, of course. Minakov could be a star in the making, Dantas sits securely among the top five of the bantamweight division, and Douglas Lima looked downright scary in his belt-winning effort against Rick Hawn. The fans, though, just don't seem to be all that interested in them.

    Of course, the magical formula for what makes the public give a crap about a fighter has been lost since the days when Georges St-Pierre, Randy Couture, BJ Penn, Anderson Silva and Chuck Liddell were the cream of the cage-fighting crop. The UFC is still trying to rediscover the recipe themselves, but can Bellator figure out its own mix? Or will its only steady draws be random UFC castoffs?

How Prevalent Will Tournaments Be Going Forward?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Tournaments are a great thing, and Bellator's initial commitment to a sports-first promotional model was admirable, compelling and, above all, doomed to fail. Obviously, the ratings weren't really there, but that isn't what put the promotion in a tough spot. Bellator simply doesn't put on enough cards to keep its champions active to the tune of three fights per year.

    Initially, the only way to get a title shot was winning a tournament. That led to ugly non-title superfights between champions and random, vaguely identifiable names. Michael Chandler vs. Akihiro Gono, Hector Lombard vs. Herbert Goodman and Christian M'Pumbu vs. Travis Wiuff were all put together for the sole purpose of keeping champions busy, and man, they just weren't very good.

    In that way, partially (or completely) abandoning the tournament system has always been inevitable. What role, if any, will tournaments play in the near future?

    Will they still be the centerpiece of Bellator's cards? Will they still be the primary means of deciding contenders? Or will they merely be a stopgap when there isn't a compelling match to be made?

How Well Is Bellator Going over on Fox Sports Latin America?

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Last year, it was announced that Bellator had reached an agreement with Fox Sports LatinoAmerica, which prompted a unanimous "wait, what?" from the MMA media. Something that slipped past the notice of many, however, is that while the deal was initially supposed to kick into effect in 2015, the timetable was radically changed to where it debuted back in February with Bellator 110.

    Specific details on how well Bellator is doing in Latin America are unclear at this time, and specific numbers regarding the ratings and reach have been quite elusive. This, however, is a deceptively important thing to watch. The importance of flag-planting in new markets cannot be understated.

    Hopefully, we will get some definite numbers in the near future.