Check out my reaction to the Bellator NYC PPV show.
I wouldn’t call Bellator’s latest PPV attempt a big success. I wouldn’t call it a complete and utter failure. It’s not that easy to define.
As the underdog of the MMA wars, everyone should want Bellator to be successful merely because it would create a nice competition with the UFC and force both companies to step their games way up. As the underdog, Bellator has to be different while also being familiar all that the same time. MMA fans get enough product with the UFC. Why should they watch Bellator? And what hooks can be used to get them to watch Bellator? Well, old UFC stars who are no longer with the company.
Let’s take a look at Bellator NYC.
The best thing about Bellator NYC was the broadcast. I didn’t get to see much of the Spike Bellator 180 broadcast (yes, the TV version and PPV version had two different names), but they split the play by play men up. UFC vet Mike Goldberg called the Spike version in the ring while Pride and Strikeforce vet Mauro Ranallo called the PPV version in the ring. Jimmy Smith was the color commentator on both versions of the show.
Each also led the hosting desk when they weren’t calling the action inside the cage. Josh “The Punk” Thomson and Brendan Schaub were the analysts at the desk discussing the before-and-after of the fights. It’s clear that Thomson and Schaub are green as grass, but we’ll get to that later. I think Punk could be really good at it with more reps.
This isn’t surprising for anyone who has watched both the UFC and Bellator. Bellator gives fighters an explosive entrance closer to how WWE does than UFC. In the UFC, each fighter gets the same exact entrance. In Bellator, there’s a video screen and some fireworks. It makes each fighter look more important.
Preceding Chael Sonnen’s entrance was still shots of him on the video screen with his most over-the-top sound bytes playing before he actually started walking down the ramp. As a guy in the main event, it made him feel bigger than life.
The show had its fair share of unpredictable moments, which may become memorable moments.
Bellator’s wunderkind, Aaron Pico, may very well become the prospect that we all expect him to be. But it wasn’t meant to be on Saturday night. He was stunned and then put in a guillotine choke and after the years of hype, his debut ended in 24 seconds with him about to go to sleep. It was the first, “Whoa!” moment of the show, but in the next two fights, we’d have two more.
Michael Chandler was expected to defend his lightweight title and do so in impressive fashion. No one told his front ankle. His ankle continued to collapse throughout the fight, even after he blasted Brent Primus and tried to follow up on it. It was hard to watch, anticipating the worst for his ankle, but after the fight was stopped and Primus was called the winner, he seemed okay, except when his stool was pulled out from under him and he fell.
Fedor Emelianenko and Matt Mitrione recreated the end of Rocky III where Rocky and Apollo both threw devastating punches at the same time. Who knows who landed and who didn’t. But maybe what happened is exactly what happened on the Fedor/Mitrione fight. Maybe they both connected and both fighters went down.
— Ahmar Khan (@AhmarSKhan) June 25, 2017
How does that even happen? The only bad thing about it is that Fedor couldn’t get back up as soon as Mitrione could and had to take tremendous punishment while on the ground. Down goes the Emperor.
The opener, Douglas Lima vs Lorenz Larkin, was expected to give the show a great start with action on top of action, with a side dish of action. It didn’t happen. Lima played it safe and after Larkin felt his power, he played it safe too. Neither guy pushed each other out of their comfort zone and it turned out to be a decision victory for Lima.
The main event saw Chael Sonnen lay on top of Wanderlei Silva for two rounds after a fairly good first round. But Silva was tired, Sonnen could take him down at will, and when it ended, one guy looked old and the other looked ancient.
The company men analysts
Like I mentioned above, Thomson and Schaub are new at their jobs. I don’t imagine they A) expected Pico to lose and B) expected Chandler to lose in the fashion he did. Because of that, when both of those things happened, they went into panic mode and rode the company line so hard that they chafed themselves.
I started to wonder what the HBO Boxing crew, well, mainly Jim Lampley would’ve done in this situation. And I think he would’ve explained the situation with Pico for what it was; questionable booking. I know that it was hard for Scott Coker and Rich Chou to find an opponent for Pico and that needs to be stated upfront. But Pico’s opponent Zach Freeman was an opponent who could negate his wrestling because of his jiu-jitsu.
That needed to be explained and it also needed to be explained how hard this game is and that Pico is in a new reality where punching, kicking, and submissions are a major part of the game, which is different from his world of amateur wrestling. But instead, they seemed flummoxed by the outcome and spent the next few minutes explaining that Pico is still going to become an all-time great.
I gave them a mulligan for that one. When Chandler’s fight had to be stopped because of his ankle, they went into panic mode again. Rather than put over Primus, who was undefeated, they tried to make sure that no one saw Chandler as the clear loser. They didn’t need to worry. The audience is smart and they saw the flukey finish. They didn’t need to sell Chandler so hard.
In me saying this, my critique isn’t necessarily as harsh as it may sound because I think they’ll get much better, especially Thomson.
Wanderlei Silva’s performance
I know. People are going to say, “What did you expect?” I fully expected Wanderlei to come out for blood considering how upset he was at Chael. I don’t know how you can train for a guy who is only good at takedowns and not be ready for the takedown. Whenever they were on their feet, Chael was getting the worse of the situation, which I know Wanderlei could see. So he should’ve been expecting the takedown. Instead, he didn’t fight the takedown at all (and it’s not like Chael’s takedowns were explosive) and just hoped that he’d get a standup.
At the end of the fight, he was pissed at Chael as if they had a handshake agreement that it was going to be an all-out standup fight.
Rory MacDonald vs Douglas Lima is a good fight. It’s not a box office fight. Chael vs Fedor is interesting, but it would’ve been more interesting had both been more impressive. Tito Ortiz is supposed to be retired, yet he fell for Chael’s charm yet again, unless he was working, which I don’t think he was. I guess there’s Mitrione vs Roy Nelson, which is solid, though again, not really box office.
While I enjoyed the spectacle of this show more so than the show itself, it didn’t really set anything up in the future that I think is must-see, which was partially its job.