Bellator seems to be cursed when it comes to trying to do a PPV. Last year they tried, and failed, as Tito Ortiz’s last minute injury forced the PPV’s cancellation and onto Spike TV for one of the best cards of the year featuring a title fight for the ages. Now the trilogy fight between Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez was set to conclude, as well as Alvarez’s time in the nascent #2 MMA organization in North America, and karma bit them in the ass again as Alvarez suffered a concussion last week.
Now Michael Chandler fights for an interim title against Will Brooks and the PPV’s proper main event is being labeled as a “grudge match” but feels about as real as your average WWF feud. Considering both men have been on TNA Impact as “sports entertainers” as well and trained as pro wrestlers … as well as the “pull apart” brawl that was the cause of some consternation earlier in the Bellator season for appearing to be choreographed … well it doesn’t feel as authentic as “biggest grudge match in the history of everything” it’s being portrayed as.
On paper, though, it’s as good a card as many UFC PPVs but doesn’t have that surefire main event that Alvarez/Chandler 3 would’ve been. And now it’s time to make some predictions on what could be an interesting PPV, nothing more.
Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal vs. Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
Let’s be fair in that the fighter we assumed King Mo was going to turn into isn’t going to happen, probably ever. The staph infection is blamed for taking away a lot from his legs but let’s look at the facts: he’s had a ton of knee injuries, multiple ACL repairs and a PED suspension blamed on the “tainted supplement” that have all contributed to a steady decline. He’s incredibly talented as a fighter in all facets of the game but the factor that made him such an intriguing matchup, his athletic ability and explosive fast twitch, seem to have declined at an accelerated pace.
It’s only noticeable, though, against guys in a certain range. Lawal’s still so incredibly talented that he’ll look like an absolutely ruthless killer on occasion against an overmatched opponent. It makes him basically a fringe Top 25 fighter in the division; he’s good enough to mess up guys who aren’t in his league, like Seth Petruzelli, but guys who are anywhere near him in talent he looks ordinary. Thus Lawal is kind of stuck looking like a killer against a lot of mediocre and below talent but anyone near him in talent can make it close. That’s a problem because Rampage does enough well to give him all sorts of fits.
Jackson isn’t anywhere near the fighter he was four years ago … but his takedown defense is sturdy and his hands will give Mo fits. Before the decline I’d have picked Lawal, no problem. Right now, though, I think Jackson finishes him late in the second/early in the third.
Prediction: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson
Michael Chandler vs. Will Brooks
This is a matchup I’d have liked for Brooks after some more seasoning 12 months from now. Is he ready for Chandler, or anyone elite, at this point? I’m not sure. So far he’s improving steadily but no one he’s faced in his career has been anywhere near as good as Chandler. It’s a problem because right now Brooks is taking a step from guys who are fringe players in the Top 70-100 of the division to a Top 5 lightweight in one fell swoop.
That’s a heck of a jump in competition, especially on a week’s notice.
I think there’ll be a point in the future where Will Brooks is a legit threat to Michael Chandler and the two face off for the Bellator title, properly. I just don’t think it’s now. Outside of a fluke KO, which is very possible, I think Chandler dominates Brooks and finishes him early. Brooks isn’t anywhere near being a Top 10 caliber fighter right now. He most likely will be in the future … but not now.
Tito Ortiz vs. Alexander Shlemenko
Tito Ortiz had perhaps the greatest send off in UFC history. He got to co-headline one of the biggest cards of the year in his final UFC fight, was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame and got honored by fans (and the media) for what was a great career. It felt right, burying a longtime hatchet with the UFC and going out against a long time rival in Forrest Griffin (who also fought his last fight). The stars aligned for Tito to walk away and become the Greg Jackson type coach we all thought he should become; the one thing on two seasons of “The Ultimate Fighter” that was most prominent was how good a coach he was. I always hoped he would revive his “Team Punishment” and bring another high caliber fight camp into the world.
Instead Tito floundered and eventually came back into MMA, signing with Bellator and trying to work an odd angle on TNA with “Rampage” Jackson to sell a PPV fight in Bellator last year. Another neck injury ruined that and now Tito is fighting for the first time since 1998 and the second time ever. It’s kind of crazy to think that Ortiz has fought for the UFC exclusively since Al Gore held elected office and a remake of Godzilla was in theatres.
Hell, Ortiz had his high note to retire on (the finish of Ryan Bader) that gave us a nostalgia flashback for one moment. The gravedigger following the tap was one of those great MMA moments I wish he could’ve retired on. But he didn’t and the hope of a revitalized Tito was squashed as he went on another three fight losing streak (and was finished twice).
It’s only fitting, in a weird way, that a remake of Godzilla hits movie theatres the same weekend as Ortiz steps into an MMA cage that isn’t the UFC Octagon. The problem is that Tito Ortiz is walking into a fight with a deadly, deadly opponent a shell of a guy that was a shell of an elite fighter. There’s no way this fight doesn’t end with Ortiz tapping to strikes at some point.
Shlemenko is a small middleweight facing off against a big light heavyweight, of course, but Ortiz is nowhere near the fighter he was when he was the best light heavyweight not in Pride. And Shlemenko hopefully beats him back into retirement. This is going to be hard to watch because Tito’s going to get hurt, probably badly, before he gets finished.
Alexendar Volkov vs. Blagoi Ivanov
Volkov wins if he can keep this standing pepper Ivanov. Ivanov wins if he can get Volkov down and tap him. This is as simple a fight as it gets: the winner moves on to a title shot for the Bellator heavyweight title. Volkov is a rematch for Vitaly Minakov of a fairly one sided fight a short while ago. Ivanov is most known for being the guy that snapped Fedor’s Combat Sambo world championship streak.
I think Volkov can finish him on his feet but Ivanov is going to be hell bent to get him down quickly. On the mat he’s a terror and if it gets there he’ll get the tap. I’m just not confident he can do so without getting lit up first.
Michael Page vs. Ricky Rainey
Page on paper looks like a great prospect … but the best guys he’s faced are guys whose regular gyms have Zumba classes as their main source of income. He hasn’t faced anyone who has remotely even challenged him or tried to make it into a grappling fight. Rainey’s not particularly known and has admitted that he doesn’t gameplan fights, either.
Rainey’s being brought in to lose to Page in perhaps hilariously spectacular fashion. It wouldn’t be all that shocking, based on Bellator’s past, if Rainey just leaves Page in the dust. I’m still going with Page, if only because I think he connects with something spectacular early to get the KO.
From the Spike TV Prelims:
Cheick Kongo > Eric Smith
Shahbulat Shamhalaev > Fabricio Guerreiro
Goiti Yamauchi < Mike Richman
Marcin Held > Nate Jolly
Tags: Bellator 120, Mixed Martial Arts