It’s strange how things work out in the fight game. When Bellator first announced that Tito Ortiz vs. Rampage Jackson would headline their first Pay per View effort on Nov. 2, there were plenty of questions and mostly widespread panning of the announcement. Most couldn’t understand why a couple of UFC cast-offs would be the headlining fight in their first PPV effort. While Ortiz and Jackson were certainly well-known names, their win-loss records were definitely on the decline.
Most wondered why Bellator wouldn’t use one of their exciting champions like a Michael Chandler in the headliner, and many also wondered whether the injury-prone Ortiz would actually make it to fight night. In the end, Ortiz did suffer a serious neck injury that forced him to withdraw from the fight, and Bellator decided to pull the plug on the PPV offering. Fans will now get something they would’ve had to pay for, for free, on Spike TV this weekend from California.
So, in the end, the fight that most MMA fans seemed interested in will be the headliner. The first fight in 2011 between Chandler and Eddie Alvarez was maybe the greatest fight in the history of Bellator. Chandler took the lightweight title away from Alvarez with a fourth round submission in an absolute thriller. Chandler has remained undefeated since that epic contest and has made two successful title defenses. He seems to be getting better each time out. Chandler and Alvarez will get the chance to entertain fans once again this weekend. There is no doubt Alvarez will be looking for revenge as he fights for the first time in over a year; his career was derailed by a contract squabble with Bellator until the two sides finally buried the hatchet.
The card will feature two other title affairs — featherweight champion Pat Curran will battle Daniel Straus. The two met previously in their XFO days, with Curran knocking Straus out in the second round. Both fighters have come a long way since that 2009 fight. Curran captured the Bellator 145 pound crown against Joe Warren and has made a pair of successful title defenses. He’s an impressive 9-and-1 inside the Bellator cage; the lone loss was by decision in a lightweight title fight against Alvarez. Straus is 7-and-1 in Bellator and has won his last four fights with the organization; his lone defeat was at the hands of Patricio Freire.
There’s also a light-heavyweight interim title affair that features a grudge match between Emanuel Newton and Muhammed Lawal. Newton’s first round knockout of “King Mo” with a perfectly executed spinning back fist remains one of this year’s biggest upsets. Since their first meeting, Lawal has won back-to-back fights by stopping both Seth Petruzelli and Jacob Noe. He’s gotten back to his ground and pound persona rather than relying too much on his boxing game, which was his undoing against Newton.
While Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney maintains they aren’t going to abandon their PPV plans in the future, they will again have to decide on whether to headline it with a well-known castoff from another promotion or to elevate one of their home grown fighters who has proven his worth under the Bellator banner. If Chandler-Alvarez 2 provides the type of action that most are anticipating, than fans should be in for a treat on Saturday night even with no Tito vs. Rampage.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports