Don't look now UFC, but both Bellator and Strikeforce are succeeding and making noise in the world of big-time MMA. While the UFC is still the big boy on the block here in the states, Bellator and Strikeforce are the other two international promotions, which are not owned by Zuffa, that are showing they are not small by any stretch; the WEC is a Zuffa owned promotion. With a rare weekend without any live action from the UFC, although they did counter Strikeforce with a package of previous fights on Spike TV, the two promotions made the most of their opportunity on the big stage and put on two action packed entertaining cards. On the other hand, Shine Fights, a smaller promotion trying to make a name for themselves with some big names of their own, never even got a chance to throw a punch with their Boxing vs. MMA main event.
Bellator, which is currently in its second season, aired live on Thursday, as it does every week during its season. The word season may throw off MMA fans unfamiliar with Bellator, but their niche has been two seasons of running fights that are part of 8-man tournaments in four weight classes. They feature a roster of fighters in the featherweight (145), lightweight (155), welterweight (170) and middleweight (185) classes and hold tournaments in each class to determine who their champion is. With so many questions these days as to who truly deserves title shots in the other promotions, this seems like the right way to do things and thus far for Bellator it has worked. This, along with a TV contract with FOX Sports Net, has made Bellator a household name and has done the same for many of its fighters.
Their first season last year produced many exciting fights, as it seemed like every week there was a buzz about a fight in Bellator, and more importantly it created some worthwhile champions. Eddie Alvarez (pictured above), the current lightweight champion, is ranked in the top five in the world. Featherweight champ Joe Soto and welterweight titleholder Lyman Good are both undefeated through a combined 18 fights. Finally, middleweight champion Hector Lombard showed this past Thursday why he is just that, as it took him all of six seconds to dispatch of Jay Silva in a 'Super Fight' main event on the card.
The 'Super Fight' concept is another formula they have used successfully to showcase their champions while keeping them busy waiting for this year's tournament winners. The week before last, Alvarez looked very impressive in submitting MMA and UFC veteran Josh Neer in a 'Super Fight' at a catch weight of 160. They have created many young stars as well, including Toby Imada who is a veteran of 30 plus fights, but finally put himself on the map in last year's lightweight tourney in one of the more exciting fights of the year against Jorge Masvidal. In that fight he finished Masvidal in the third round with an unbelievable inverted triangle choke that would eventually garner him submission of the year honors at the 'Fighter's Only' MMA Awards. Another prospect on the rise is Pat Curran, who just a couple of weeks ago won a semifinal fight in this year's lightweight tourney against former UFC hotshot Roger Huerta. Ironically, Curran will meet Imada in the finals this year. With word spreading that Alvarez may eventually fight Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez in a cross-promotion event, Bellator seems to be pushing all the right buttons so far.
The same can be said for Strikeforce who rebounded nicely Saturday night from last month's lackluster card on CBS. It may have taken Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem two and a half years to defend his title, but it only took him less than four minutes when he did. The 'Demolition Man' lived up to his name as he demolished Brett 'The Grim' Rogers in devastating fashion. Rogers should've been introduced as The Grim Brett Rogers as that is how he looked against Overeem who was sharp with his striking game whether standing, in the clinch or on the ground. It finally looks as though Overeem may get his wish and fight 'Pound for Pound' King Fedor Emelianenko, assuming Fedor handles his business next month against Fabricio Werdum. Things could not be looking better for Strikeforce who hope to return in the fall with another card on CBS.
Finally, in what some may have been calling a "freak" show match, but others found interesting, including myself, Shine Fights was supposed to have a card this past weekend which would've featured a main event between MMA veteran Din Thomas against former two-time boxing champion Ricardo Mayorga. Unlike the real freak show last year between past his prime UFC Champion Tim Sylvia and over the hill former heavyweight boxing contender Ray Mercer, which lasted all of 12 seconds, this fight at least had some intrigue to it. Unfortunately it never came to pass as legal ramifications over Mayorga's boxing contract with Don King put a halt on the main event, thus prompting the North Carolina Commission to put a halt on the entire card. I guess we'll have to wait till the proposed fight in the UFC between Randy Couture and James Toney before we can get our MMA vs. Boxing question answered. Nonetheless, while Shine Fights may have struck out this weekend, Bellator and Strikeforce shined ever so brightly.