Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My newfound appreciation for Bellator

It started with an inverted triangle choke. Then, it was a spinning backfist. I watched the impressive finishes provided by Toby Imada and Yahir Reyes on YouTube, since they were so graciously provided directly from Bellator Fighting Championships. The promotion didn't have any big names (Eddie Alvarez is only big to hardcore fans currently), and was banking on young talent to carry them into the limelight. Even after seeing those impressive finishes, I wasn't sold on Bellator being a serious threat to the UFC. Then, about a week ago I saw Bellator being aired on some 100+ digital cable channel. The commentary was in English (Bellator was also aired on ESPN Deportes in an effort to attract a Latin American audience), so I figured I'd give it a shot. And what I saw...really impressed me.

I know I go back to it all the time, but I have to make the comparison to PRIDE, since I feel that was the best organization of all time. I loved PRIDE because no matter who the fighters were, from the headliners to the no names, from the most technical practitioners to the guys just making the transition, they all brought it. Every fight, no matter what. Bellator gave me a nostalgic feel, reminiscent of the glory days of PRIDE. These guys are young, hungry, and talented, and Bellator is a great vehicle to showcase these fighters. The best examples I saw were from Bellator 10. Seeing Israel Giron come back from one of the worst accidental nut-shots I've ever seen to submit Phil Brown was an awesome display of heart. I was already impressed, but that was nothing compared to Saad Awad vs. Diego Garijo. The first round started with Awad and Garijo swinging for the fences. Awad dropped Garijo numerous times, but was unable to finish him. I wondered how much more Garijo could take. Then, towards the end of the round, Awad looked like he had punched himself out and Garijo capitalized. He took Awad down, got the back, and sunk in a choke. What made it even crazier was all that took place inside one round! It was an amazing display of heart, will, and technique by Garijo. The only thing those two fights had in common was that I had no idea who any of those four fighters were. Still, I walked away thoroughly entertained.

Bellator has continued the trend. Eddie Alvarez vs. Josh Neer is going to be a great match-up, as well as Hector Lombard vs. Paulo Filho. The additions of top prospects like Joe Warren, Dan Hornbuckle, Ben Askren, and veterans like Jeff Curran, Bryan Baker, Ryan McGivern, Bao Quach, and Roger Huerta were excellent steps forward for Bellator. Add that to their roster rising stars like Toby Imada, Hector Lombard, Lyman Good, and Joe Soto, as well as its established veterans like Eddie Alvarez and Wilson Reis, and I'm smelling a recipe for success. I was very, very skeptical of Bellator when it was initially created, but I'm very happy I gave it a chance. With any luck, they'll stick around for a little while longer. As long as they keep on showing great fights, I for one won't be complaining.

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