Fantasy MMA: Bellator & WSOF- ‘When Two Become One’
On Apirl 15th, 2015 a tiny crack appeared in the juggernaut known as the Ultimate Fighting Championships. Not a massive crack, but a big enough one to take notice. UFC fans were not outraged by the loss of Phil Davis and his Bellator debut in September is not setting the MMA world ablaze, but what it represents is significant.
‘Rampage’ Jackson and Tito Ortiz left the UFC on the downward turn of their careers. Gilbert Melendez considered a contract offer from the #2 North American MMA organization, but opted to stay with Zuffa. Phil Davis did not.
Phil ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Davis had yet to get a shot at the UFC title, but he was one of the few top 10 ranked Light Heavyweights that had not. He compiled a 9-3-0 1NC record inside the Octagon, but had lost 2 of his last 3 fights costing him an imminent shot at the champion.
With his contract expired, he opted to make his move to Bellator. He is the first top ranked fighter, still in his prime to walk away from the UFC to sign elsewhere. There have been others that have left the promotion, but none as significant as ‘Mr. Wonderful’.
With the much maligned Reebok deal causing headaches and the UFC’s hard-line attitude with their combat oriented employees it was only a matter of time that this happened. During my 2015 prediction show, I predicted a noteworthy fighter would leave the UFC for Bellator sometime in 2015. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Davis’s forthcoming debut as part of the 4-man Bellator Light Heavyweight tournament got me thinking- what would Bellator need to do to compete with the UFC as soon as possible? I often entertained the idea of looking at what would have happened had Viacom purchased Strikeforce, but instead let’s take a look at a much more current ‘Fantasy’ scenario.
What if Ray Sefo’s World Series of Fighting ceased operation and Bellator purchased the contracts of its fighters? Would this be enough to compete with the UFC? No, but it would expand the #2 promotion and make them a more viable alternative for future ‘Mr. Wonderfuls’ looking for an alternative to Dana White and company.
In an extreme form of Fantasy MMA Match making I combined the two rosters, signed a couple of UFC castoffs, and went to work. I stopped everything after real-life Bellator 140, scrapped the majority of the future plans that Bellator already has in place and went to work. I have devised seven cards, four to be televised on Spike and three Pay-Per-View events to take place over a 4-5 month period. Each card has six main card fights and four preliminary bouts. The main focuses of my matchmaking centered on unifying the Bellator and WSOF titles and creating deep cards that offered competitive and meaningful fights from start to finish. I also decided to create a top 5 ranking list that would be unveiled after the mergers of the promotion’s to help create further structure within each division. Additionally, we’re going to pretend that Rousimar Palhares and Alexander Shlemenko played nice and weren’t recently suspended. Let’s get started.
|10||HW||Vitaly Minakov (C)||vs||Blagoy Ivanov (C)|
|9||WW||Paul Daley (4)||vs||Josh Koscheck|
|8||WW||Brennan Ward||vs||Ryan Ford|
|7||HW||Smealinho Rama||vs||Tony Johnson (3)|
|6||MW||Brian Rogers||vs||Clifford Starks (4)|
|5||BW||Hideo Tokoro||vs||Sheymon Moraes|
|4||MW||Rafael Carvalho||vs||Doug Marshall|
|3||FW||Justin Lawrence||vs||Chris Horodecki|
|2||LW||Brian Cobb||vs||John Alessio|
|1||WW||Jesse Juarez||vs||Phoenix Jones|
Bellator 141: Minakov vs Ivanov
We kick the schedule off with Bellator 141 on Spike featuring a World Heavyweight championship unification bout. Bellator champ Vitaly Minakov returns to action and faces former Bellator competitor and newly crowned WSOF champ Blagoy Ivanov. This doesn’t have the build up of some of the other unification bouts considering Ivanov failed to earn a shot at the gold in Bellator. The co-main event has some history with Daley versus Koscheck and the winner taking a big step towards a title shot. Ward versus Ford should be entertaining, as should Rogers versus Stark. Rama/ Johnson would produce a potential future title challenger. Not a stacked first card but enough to create some interest moving towards the next couple of shows.
Minakov def. Ivanov via Dec.
Daley def. Koscheck via KO
Ward def. Ford via TKO
Johnson def. Rama via TKO
Starks def. Rogers via TKO
Moraes def. Tokoro via Dec.
|10||LW||Michael Chandler (2)||vs||Luis Palomino (5)|
|9||LHW||Francis Carmont||vs||Mike Kyle|
|8||HW||Cheick Kongo (2)||vs||Derrick Mehmen|
|7||LW||Dave Jansen (3)||vs||Nick Newell|
|6||LW||Brandon Girtz||vs||Marcin Held (4)|
|5||BW||Mike Richman (5)||vs||Josh Hill|
|4||WW||Tamdan McCrory||vs||Brian Foster|
|3||FW||Nam Phan||vs||Goiti Yamauchi|
|2||WW||Adam McDonough||vs||Josh Neer|
|1||MW||Tyler Manawaroa||vs||Louis Taylor|
Bellator 142: Chandler vs Palomino
No title fight on this show, but some very interesting bouts as far as title contenders are concerned- especially in the Lightweight division. Chandler and Palomino have both fought for their promotions’ titles and Chandler was a champion. This fight can be promoted as a #1 contender bout and the card also contains two more Lightweight bouts of interest. Newell gets tossed right into the deep end against Jansen with a chance to make an impression and Girtz versus Held also holds major implications. Kongo versus Mehmen could lead the winner to an eventual shot at the title following the last show’s unification bout. Light Heavyweight is one of the deeper division when it comes to recognizable names, Carmont could easily drop back to Middleweight after this fight. Richman/Hill is a battle of fringe top 5 Bantamweights and the prelims have a some decent names with a solid headliner.
Chandler def. Palomino via TKO
Carmont def. Kyle via Dec.
Kongo def. Mehmen via Dec.
Jansen def. Newell via Sub
Held def. Girtz via Sub
Richman def. Hill via Split Dec.
|10||WW||Andrey Koreshkov (C)||vs||Rousimar Palhares (C)|
|9||FW||Patricio Pitbull (C)||vs||Lance Palmer (C)|
|8||MW||David Branch (C)||vs||Brandon Halsey (1)|
|7||LHW||Emanuel Newton (2)||vs||Phil Davis (3)|
|6||WW||Michael Page||vs||Chris Honeycutt|
|5||LHW||Thiago Silva||vs||Stephan Bonnar|
|4||LHW||Mikhail Zayats||vs||Ronny Markes|
|3||WW||Abubakar Nurmagomedov||vs||Fernando Gonzalez|
|2||HW||Justin Wren||vs||Chase Gromley|
|1||BW||Joe Taimanglo||vs||Timur Valiev|
Bellator 143: Koreshkov vs Palhares on PPV
The first of three PPVs in the lineup has a trio of title fights. Palhares’s infamous actions continue to grow his name so he gets the headliner. Pitbull versus Palmer is a good fight in a division with several legit title challengers. The Branch/Halsey fight isn’t an actual title unification bout, but Halsey (if he can make weight) is the best option for this matchup. The next fight features the former LHW champ against the big acquisition from the UFC with a title shot potentially up for grabs. The new depth of the division allows for Welterweight prospects in Page and Honeycutt to square off with the winner getting a step up. Silva/ Bonnar are recognizable names and has the potential for a slugfest to get the show started.
Palhares def. Koreshkov via Sub
Pitbull def. Palmer via TKO
Halsey def. Branch via Sub
Davis def. Newton via Dec.
Page def. Honeycutt via KO
Bonnar def. Silva via Dec
|10||LHW||Liam McGeary (C)||vs||Tito Ortiz (4)|
|9||MW||Alexander Shlemenko (2)||vs||Yushin Okami (3)|
|8||HW||Alexander Volkov (4)||vs||James Thompson|
|7||FW||Georgi Karakhanyan (5)||vs||Daniel Weichel (2)|
|6||LW||Saad Awad||vs||Jorge Patino|
|5||MW||Kendall Grove||vs||Joe Schilling|
|4||BW||Johnny Bedford||vs||LC Davis (4)|
|3||LW||Derek Campos||vs||Ozzy Dugulubgov|
|2||LHW||Matt Hamill||vs||Jake Heun|
|1||WW||Chidi Njokuani||vs||Seth Baczynski|
Bellator 144: McGeary vs Ortiz
We’ll go ahead and keep Ortiz in his title fight against the new champion. He brings a name to headline a Spike show and helps build McGeary’s resume towards future fights. There are a lot of marketable names in the division that the champ hasn’t faced, so he should be very active. The Middleweight division is a little thin, but Shlemenko takes on non-welterweight Okami for a possible shot at the title. Big Heavyweights in Volkov and Thompson could add some entertainment if they don’t gas. Karakhanyan and Weichel pair off with hopes of facing the newly unified champion. Awad versus Patino and Grove versus Schilling provide some decent names to get the card started. Keep an eye on the undercard as it has some potential, including Johnny Bedford debuting against Top 5 ranked LC Davis.
McGeary def. Ortiz via TKO
Okami def. Shlemenko via Dec.
Volkov def. Thompson via TKO
Weichel def. Karakhanyan via Split Dec.
Awad def. Patino via Dec.
Grove def. Schilling via Sub.
|10||BW||Joe Warren (2)||vs||Eduardo Dantas (3)|
|9||WW||Douglas Lima (3)||vs||Jon Fitch (5)|
|8||FW||Pat Curran (3)||vs||Rick Glenn|
|7||LHW||Ryan Jimmo||vs||Robert Drysdale|
|6||WW||Jake Shields (2)||vs||Paul Bradley|
|5||MW||Joey Beltran||vs||Melvin Manhoef|
|4||FW||Fabricio Guerreiro||vs||Hatsu Hioki|
|3||LW||Ryan Couture||vs||Paul Sass|
|2||HW||Josh Copeland||vs||Raphael Butler|
|1||WW||Larue Burley||vs||Derek Anderson|
Bellator 145: Warren vs Dantas 2
A big rematch between top Bantamweights with the victor getting a shot at the winner of the upcoming unification bout. A fight like this creates some linear structure for the division before the title fight. With Palhares unifying the titles it’s time to start creating new challengers, Lima/ Fitch does just that. Shields/Palhares 2 could draw some decent heat after the first fight, so he gets a bit of an easier fight against Paul Bradley. Pat Curran needs to pick up some wins to re-enter the title conversation and former WSOF champ Rick Glenn offers a stiff challenge. Jimmo/ Drysale and Manhoef/ Beltran are all recognizable names to open the event. A pretty respectable quartet of undercard fights also included for this show.
Dantas def. Warren via Dec.
Lima def. Fitch via KO
Curran def. Glenn via Split Dec.
Drysdale def. Jimmo via Sub
Shields def. Bradley via Dec.
Manhoef def. Beltran via KO
|10||LW||Will Brooks (C)||vs||Justin Gathje (C)|
|9||BW||Marcos Galvao (C)||vs||Marlon Moraes (C)|
|8||LHW||Mo Lawal (2)||vs||Tyrone Spong (5)|
|7||LW||Alexander Sarnavskiy||vs||Melvin Guillard|
|6||LW||Patricky Pitbull||vs||David Rickels|
|5||FW||Daniel Straus (4)||vs||Robbie Peralta|
|4||HW||Bobby Lashley (5)||vs||Vinicius Queiroz|
|3||FW||Bubba Jenkins||vs||Mike Corey|
|2||LHW||Linton Vassell||vs||Vinny Magalhaes|
|1||LW||Brent Primus||vs||Islam Mamedov|
Bellator 146: Brooks vs Gathje on PPV
Arguably the most anticipated fight coming out of the merger is between Brooks and Gathje to unify the Lightweight titles. Both guys are young and talented fighters that will probably face off possibly 2-3 more times. The co-main event also features the Bellator debut of Marlon Moraes who adds some big time talent to a top heavy division. Lawal/Spong will draw a lot of interest as well and provide a title challenger at LHW. Sarnavskiy/ Guillard and Pitbull/Rickels are two very good fights in the deepest division in the promotion. Straus is a former champion and will be in line for a shot at a top 3 ranked opponent with a win over Peralta, who is making his debut with the promotion. Prelims are aired live on Spike and headlined by Bobby Lashley with a number of other decent scraps.
Brooks def. Gathje via Dec.
Moraes def. Galvao via TKO
Lawal def. Spong via Dec.
Sarnavskiy def. Guillard via Sub
Rickels def. Pitbull via Split Dec.
Straus def. Peralta via Dec.
|10||LHW||Liam McGeary (C)||vs||Mo Lawal (1)|
|9||BW||Marlon Moraes (C)||vs||Eduardo Dantas (2)|
|8||LW||Douglas Lima (3)||vs||Paul Daley (4)|
|7||WW||Marcin Held (4)||vs||Josh Thomson|
|6||WW||Brennan Ward||vs||Michael Page|
|5||BW||LC Davis (4)||vs||Sheymon Moraes|
|4||MW||Rafael Carvalho||vs||Kendall Grove|
|3||FW||Justin Lawrence||vs||Goiti Yamauchi|
|2||HW||Raphael Butler||vs||Chase Gromley|
|1||LW||Brian Cobb||vs||Paul Sass|
Bellator 147: McGeary vs Lawal on PPV
The final card on our fantasy MMA run features fights that are products of earlier bouts and would probably needs to come after a couple months layoff. The main event is McGeary’s second title defense and easily tougher than his first with Lawal getting another shot at the crown. Moraes/ Dantas in the co-main event probably steals the show for the Bantamweight title. Daely/Lima has fireworks written all over it, could lead the winner to a title shot, and will draw viewers. Held meets the debuting Josh Thomson who has just left the UFC. Thomson adds even more depth to the division and could be a candidate for Brooks’s next title defence if he can get by here. Ward/ Page continues to test prospects head to head and we get another opportunity to see if Page is for real.
Lawal def. McGeary via Split Dec.
Moraes def. Dantas via Dec.
Lima def. Daley via Dec.
Thomson def. Held via Dec.
Page def. Ward via KO
Davis def. Moraes via Dec.
This was just a fun fantasy match making exercise, but it isn’t hard to see that even without a merger between these two promotions- there is potential for Bellator to start gaining some ground on the big boys. With the signing of Phil Davis and the even more recent acquisition of Josh Thomson, Bellator has picked up a couple more marketable names. The Reebok deal creates a scenario where Bellator might offer greater financial opportunities for fighters now that the sponsorship pay scale in the UFC has taken hold. I anticipate that we will see a few veteran fighters with noteworthy names opt to jump ship in order to make a little more money to finish off their careers. Considering that this is a prediction website, let’s finish with a list of fighters that I could see ending up in Bellator before their careers are over- 1 per division.
BW- Iuri Alcantara
FW- Darren Elkins
LW- Nate Diaz and/or Gilbert Melendez
WW- Jake Ellenberger
MW- Tim Boetsch
LHW- Rafael Cavalcante
HW- Roy Nelson