Numerous lineup changes and a shattered main event could not stop Bellator 106 from delivering one of the best fights of the year last Saturday. Even as three titles changed hands and Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez put on a fight for the ages, a void made by Tito Ortiz’ injury could be felt throughout the Long Beach Arena. Bellator’s first attempt at a pay-per-view wasn’t a complete flop but lacked that fight that appealed to hardcore and casual MMA fans alike.
Here are five takeaways from Bellator 106:
5. Emanuel Newton finding his stride with Bellator
Newton doesn’t have “King Mo” Lawal’s swagger, but two straight victories over Lawal and a 5-1 Bellator record speak volumes as to his potential. After competing in promotions ranging from Mexico to Canada, including stints in KOTC and the now defunct WEC, Newton reached the peak of his MMA career in winning the Interim Light Heavyweight Championship. He neutralized Lawal’s wrestling and heavily used the spinning back fists that earned him a TKO in their initial bout. Any doubt as to whether Newton is ready for a rematch with Bellator’s light heavyweight champion Attila Vegh will be put to rest when they face off next year.
4. Daniel Straus continues comeback story
Last spring, Straus sat in a Florida jail cell, arrested on charges of driving with a suspended license and possession of illegal substances. Today he is the Bellator Featherweight Champion. His victory over heavy favorite Pat Curran was the apex of a journey that began in 2009; less than two years after fulfilling a three year prison term. While being on the receiving end of an illegal knee was vital in the scoring, Straus’ resilience and aggressiveness in the final two rounds earned him the unanimous decision victory.
3. Ortiz’ injury may cause Bellator to lose fans
“F**k Tito!” chants rose sporadically throughout the half-filled arena, showing the disdain fans still felt for “the Huntington Beach bad boy.” When one purchases tickets to an event they are full aware that the card is subject to change. Unfortunately, Ortiz’ injury came less than a week before the event and fans had to decide on attending the fight or trying to sell the tickets at a marked down price. By the time Newton and Lawal’s fight had ended, the upper bowl of the arena was nearly empty. Ortiz and would-be opponent Jackson are still under contract and expect to compete in the near future, only fans may not be so anxious this time around.
2. Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez II may be fight of the year
Any bad blood between Chandler and Alvarez has dried into the Bellator 106 ring. Five rounds of big takedowns and near submissions left both fighters’ bloody and eager for a third and final bout. Alvarez regained the Lightweight Championship, but more importantly, he and Chandler gave Bellator fans something to look forward to. Lacking the notoriety a Jackson vs. Ortiz fight entailed, Chandler and Alvarez delivered big on a night that their promotion sorely needed it.
1. Bellator is not ready for pay-per-view
The decision to move Bellator 106 to Spike TV was necessary, if not, vital to the promotion’s success. Alvarez and Chandler put up a great fight, but great fights don’t always equal big buy rates. Two of the bigger names on the card, Ortiz and former UFC heavyweight Cheick Kongo, bowed out due to injury; leaving the main card without names casual MMA fans would be familiar with. Placing the show on free TV is a win for fans because they saw great fights without opening their wallets and until Bellator can attain proven fighter’s that aren’t past their prime, they are best suited for basic cable.