The Juggernaut MMA News Report 1.16.14: Bellator Season 10 Hype
Posted by Jonathan Solomon on 01.16.2014
News and thoughts on Georges St-Pierre explaining what drug testing had to do with his leaving the UFC, new fights for UFC on FOX 11, a preview of Bellator's upcoming tenth season and more!
Bellator Season 10 Hype
Bellator MMA is unique to professional mixed martial arts with their schedules of three-months-on at a time. Not counting the summer when they run one show per month, they typically hold new seasons for three months before taking a break. For example, season nine lasted from September through just before Thanksgiving and they've been on break ever since.
This will change on February 28th (or March 1st) when Bellator 110 kicks off their tenth season at a yet to be announced venue. The only shows announced for the upcoming season fill out the month of March with shows in Oklahoma (March 7th), Indiana (March 14th), Kansas (March 21st) and Utah (March 28th). They have only started making these official over the past week to ten days and the schedule will fill out as we reach the end of January.
Yes, this is an early preview of season 10 as we really only know fights for three shows and that includes two tournament we're expecting to see. Still, we have a mix of "WTF?!," young prospects looking to cash in on their opportunities and some hoping for redemption. As always, Bellator finds a way to tweak some with decisions seen as favoring particular fighters and as usual, it's tough to argue against that logically. Let's take a look at what we know as of midweek.
Bellator 110 - February 28th, 2014 - TBA
As of Wednesday night, the particular date for the new season's kickoff is not known. I have 2/28 above because it's the Friday before the first official show, which is seven days after the fact. It's possible Bellator will want to maximize their audience with a Saturday launch, but either way, it's one of the two dates.
Of course, they may be skipping 110 and starting with the March 7th date because…well, why the hell not?
Based on the title fights named in the weeks ahead, by process of elimination these bouts may be in play for 110 (assuming there IS a 110) without considering additional details: Vitaly Minakov vs. Cheick Kongo [heavyweight], Emanuel Newton vs. Attila Vegh [light heavyweight], Douglas Lima vs. Rick Hawn [welterweight]. Stay tuned.
Bellator 111 - March 7th, 2014 - Thackerville, Oklahoma
The first confirmed show of season 10 is Friday 3/7 at the WinStar World Casino for the fourth company show from Thackerville. The main event will pit bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas against Rafael Silva, who won last summer's tournament. The challenger is on a 13-fight win streak with only three fights during that stretch reaching a decision. This fight will see Dantas look to defend his title for just the second time, his first came last February when he knocked out buddy Marcos Galvao. Unfortunately, the champion missed the rest of 2013 with an ankle injury; on the bright side, he'll be just 25-years-old when he returns to the cage.
Also official is the start of the latest heavyweight tournament with these quarterfinal bouts:
Lavar Johnson vs. Ryan Martinez
[Former Champion] Alexander Volkov vs. Mark Holata
Peter Graham vs. Mighty Mo
Blagoi Ivanov vs. Richard Hale
This tournament marks the first that Ivanov, a Bulgarian Sambo champion, will participate in for Bellator since season 5 in 2011. He had to leave after advancing to the semifinals due to injury and never had another opportunity until now. In 2012, he was stabbed in an altercation at a bar in Bulgaria and nearly died as a result (authorities are prosecuting the accused attacker). He was placed in a medically induced coma and after emerging from that, began his long road to recovery, leaving the hospital about three months after the incident. Ivanov returned to his pro MMA career this past September and has choked out both opponents in Bellator, improving his record to 9-0.
Ivanov shot to international fame in 2008 when he upset Fedor Emelianenko in the World Sambo Championships, earning the gold medal when he was just 22-years-old.
Bellator 112 - March 14th, 2014 - Hammond, Indiana
Featherweight champ Daniel Straus vs. Pat Curran in a rematch of their title fight last year (and third meeting overall) headlines this card. The decision to go with an immediate rematch pissed off one of the two contenders who have won tournaments in the division, Pitbull Freire (the other man waiting is Frodo Khasbulaev). He has a good reason to be angry as this decision is a purely superficial one from Bellator matchmakers. Pitbull in particular is fresh off a 2013 stretch which saw him win four consecutive fights (after losing a split decision to then-champ Curran in January).
Presumably, Khasbulaev was passed over for the shot in some part because of his past visa problems. Such issues led to Straus getting the shot at Curran in the second half of 2013.
Straus defeated Curran in November by unanimous decision, but the fight was not overly close enough to warrant a rematch if that's the deciding factor. It's more likely that Bellator chose to provide Pat with the opportunity for being a company man above all else. Don't get me wrong, he was a fine champion but this promotion for the longest time marketed themselves as the place where title fights were "earned" and not given away. Now, last year (or maybe late 2012), Bjorn Rebney came out and publicly said they were stepping away from such guidelines and would grant immediate rematches based on individual circumstances. Still, I don't see how a Straus/Curran fight has more pull than a fight with Freire. But, it's Indiana and Curran is from Chicago, so if someone is going to sell tickets among their current crop of fighters, it's the local guy.
Also booked for this show is the start of the welterweight tournament, though only two quarterfinal fights are known. Joe Riggs is back to fight Sam Oropeza while War Machine will fight Nah-Shon Burrell. This tourney marks Riggs' first entry into such a Bellator tournament off the heels of his Fight Master reality series win. Oropeza has won his past five fights, finishing all of them including his BFC debut in November (TKO win over Chip Pollard in 37 seconds).
War Machine was choked out in the semifinals of the previous tournament by Ron Keslar while Nah-Shon Burrell won in his BFC debut in November. Whether Burrell will be able to consistently make weight (should he advance) may be the biggest question here as he has missed weight in Strikeforce and the UFC (TRIFECTA?!).
Bellator 113 - March 21st, 2014 - Mulvane, Kansas
Bellator returns to Mulvane for this card and no fights have been confirmed just yet.
Bellator 114 - March 28th, 2014 - West Valley City, Utah
So far, just two fights have been announced but color me intrigued on both accounts.
First, the main event will see middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko defend his gold against tournament winner Brennan Ward.
The Russian striking specialist is the only Bellator titleholder who has more than one successful defense (2x) and he continues to do nothing short of win. In fact, he's been 12-0 since his loss to Hector Lombard over three years ago. The closest he came to losing one of those dozen fights was last September in the classic war with Brett Cooper (he retained via a unanimous decision).
Enter 25-year-old Connecticut wrestler-turned-slugger Brennan Ward. He's only 9-1 as a professional (Shlemenko boasts a 49-7 known pro record), but all of his fights safe for one came by knockout or submission. He stormed through the season nine tournament to defeat Justin Torrey by TKO, Joe Pacheco by submission and Mikkel Parlo by TKO.
The other confirmed fight is a non-tournament bout in the featherweight division between Rad Martinez and Edson Berto.
For Martinez, the 27-year-old (as he'll be when this fight happens) will close the book on his pro fighting career win or lose. He emerged as a budding star in Bellator in 2012 when he reeled off three consecutive wins to find himself in the tournament finals opposite Shahbulat Shamhalaev. Unfortunately for the Utah native, he was knocked out in the second round last February in West Valley City.
As for Berto, the 30-year-old veteran may be in this position so Rad Martinez can send the people home happy, if that's how you think. You may not be totally wrong. He's a journeyman fighter , 17-11-1 overall and his 1-1 record in 2013 was the first time since 2009 he had multiple MMA fights in the same calendar year.
JUGGERNAUT NEWS BRIEFS
- On Tuesday, the MMA community learned from Cat Zingano's manager, Jorge Guimaraes, that her husband Mauricio committed suicide on Monday. Only 37-years-old, he was a father and well known as a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor.
- Georges St. Pierre told Canadian media outlets that a significant reason he stepped away from MMA was due to the UFC's lackadaisical stance on drug testing. Prior to the fight with Johny Hendricks (both men passed their tests conducted by the Nevada State Athletic Commission), St. Pierre underwent testing by the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (I believe on his own dime). He insists performance enhancing drug use remains rampant in the sport (note he did not accuse Hendricks of being one of those such athletes).
Also, GSP cited the UFC's status as a monopoly as a reason why other fighters choose not to speak out about such issues for risk of reprisals.
In response, UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta went to Kevin Iole at Yahoo: It was extremely disappointing to hear Georges make those comments because I don't think any organization has embraced drug testing as we have…We'll do as many [tests] as [a commission] wants. I think perhaps Georges' people didn't communicate with him in detail and everything we'd do as they tried to arrange the testing for the fight with him and Johny.
- Confirmed for UFC on Fox 11 on April 19th is the key heavyweight scrap pitting top contenders Fabricio Werdum and Travis Browne in what should be the co-main event. The winner would then become the #1 contender and presumably fight champ Cain Velasquez near the fall. Also, Miesha Tate will fight Liz Carmouche.