Bellator Preview

”Bellator"Bellator Fighting Championships, what many fans consider the United States’ third largest mixed martial arts promotion, announced earlier this month that they are visiting Oklahoma four times in 2011. And they’re bringing MTV2 with them.

“We are happy to be working with Howard Pollack and his team at C3 Fights to bring our MTV2 MMA Tournament events to Oklahoma fans four times in 2011,” said Bellator Chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney. “It’s great to visit locations where fans love MMA, and Oklahoma is one of those places.”

The promotion plans to broadcast live fights from Lucky Star Casino in Concho, OK and First Council Casino in Newkirk, OK: Bellator 37 will be on March 19th at Lucky Star, Bellator 40 will be on April 9th at First Council, Bellator 42 will be on April 23rd at Lucky Star, and Bellator 43 will be on May 7th at First Council.

Unlike Ultimate Fighting Championships, Bellator’s more mainstream contemporary, BFC has stayed mostly under the radar- slowly building a solid roster of marketable fighters while garnering hardcore fans’ affection. Founded in 2008, the fledgling promotion has grown rapidly, earning beneficial television deals from the likes of NBC, ESPN Deportes and Fox Sports Net. Most recently, in December 2010, BFC teamed up with MTV2.

“MTV2 is the perfect home for the intense mixed martial arts action of Bellator,” said Eric Conte, SVP of Programming and Production at MTV2. “MMA is at the top of our audience’s wish list, and partnering with Bellator to bring live events and specials to MTV2 made complete sense since our viewers are so hungry to see more MMA on-air.”

This means more high-level MMA and exposure coming to Oklahoma in the near future. While complete fight cards have yet to be announced for any of the Oklahoma events, one matchup is already on the books. Ben Askren, a former Olympic wrestler and Bellator’s welterweight champion, will meet UFC veteran Nick “The Goat” Thompson in a non-title fight April 9th in Newkirk, OK, which should be promoted as a mega-fight for Bellator.

Details for the year are being announced slowly but events are coming up fast. For sports fans unfamiliar with this promotion, I wanted to causally bring people up to speed and introduce newcomers to the top four fighters that I want to see in these events and tell you why they’re relevant.

4. Hector Lombard (Middleweight Champion)

Lombard has the physique of super hero but looks more like a monster in a fight, breaking down his opponents with what could be considered savage aggression even by MMA standards. He’s 27-2 in his career, and undefeated in Bellator. He’s been so incredibly dominant that 6 of his 9 Bellator fights didn’t even last a round. His quickest two wins in that stretch lasted only 38 seconds and 6 seconds in their entirety.

Lombard’s style should appeal to fans who love violence but loathe the subtlety of grappling and/or cerebral striking strategy. Why do I want to see him? He’s recently started calling out world-class jiu jitsu specialist Jacare’ Souza . Souza is Strikeforce’s middleweight champion, a larger MMA promotion. The meeting of these two fighters would almost be epic if the two companies could ever agree to work together. But until then, I want to see with my own eyes what the hype behind Lombard is about. Is he really among the world’s best? Can Bellator present him with consistent challenges? I wanna see.

3. Ben Askren (Bellator Welterweight Champion)

A sort of rising star, Ben Askren has become a fighter to watch in MMA, which is cool because he’s actually coming to Newkirk, OK, making it easier to see him. A former Olympic wrestler and two-time NCAA Division I champion, Askren came into the sport with a solid base to build on. With a 7-0 record in MMA and Bellator’s welterweight title, his bandwagon is only beginning to fill.

Why do I want to watch him fight? Other than the reasons I mentioned above, his afro is ridiculous and awesome. Also, a fight with Nick “The Goat” Thompson in April should be a solid test of his skill.

2. Eddie Alvarez (Bellator Lightweight Champion)

With a record of 21-2 while fighting some of the world’s best, Alvarez has steadily moved into the top ten picture of his weight class. Respected publication Sherdog.com has him as the sixth best fighter in 155 lb. division.

Why do I want to see him? 12 of his 21 wins were a result of strikes while seven came from submission. Basically, the guy is built to be exciting. Whether it be on his feet or on the ground, he’s going to finish fights. After dismantling former UFC star Roger Huerta, the sky’s the limit for him.

His arrival in Oklahoma is a different story. This is wishful thinking on my part since Alvarez is already slated to fight Pat Curran April 2nd in a yet-to-be named venue. And it’s doubtful Alvarez will be tapped to fight in Oklahoma anytime soon, as such a quick succession of opponents would be brutal for even a tough guy of his caliber.

Here’s some footage of him doing his thing in Japan.

1. Roger Huerta

Okay. It’s true that Huerta is on a two-fight losing streak. And it’s also true that Eddie Alvarez destroyed him when they met. So why is Huerta still number one on my list of fighters I want to see come to Oklahoma?

Because he’s the man.

Always fun to watch, Huerta has proven that he has a lot of grit to go with his flash. In his battle with Alvarez, he never quit, even after suffering two orbital bone fractures that ultimately forced doctors to stop the fight. He competed every moment of the bout, even as he was being outclassed in every aspect. His legs were battered and his face smashed, but he wouldn’t fall.

It’s that fighter’s attitude that still makes him compelling even in defeat. It’s also that attitude that gives him the ability to win any fight.

On a side note, many non-fight fans know Huerta through celebrity gossip publication, TMZ. If you recall, in 2010 the web site and television show broadcasted footage of a former University of Texas linebacker sneaking up behind a woman outside of a bar and punching her in the head, knocking her to the ground. The footage continues, showing a much smaller Huerta appear, who just happened to be around at the time. Huerta rushes into the fray, confronting the man. The scene ends with Huerta knocking the man out. While Huerta appeared embarrassed by what could be considered reckless action in interviews after the altercation, other fighters and fans generally thought it was pretty awesome.

(c) James Nghiem All rights reserved. Contact James by email with any fight-related discussion or questions.

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