Loser: Bellator MMA
Starring: Vadim Nemkov, Melvin Manhoef, Alessio Sakara, Raphael Carvalho
Bellator has long been seen as the number two promotion in mixed martial arts, although that is now questionable given the rise of ONE Championship. Still, under Scott Coker, they have made some impressive talent acquisitions, and can usually be counted on for an entertaining night of fights.
Where the promotion continues to struggle, however, is in its delivery. Especially with overseas cards. Bellator hosted a show split into three events on Saturday: Bellator Kickboxing 12, Bellator: Milan, and Bellator 230. If you wanted to watch the full show, well, things were a mess. The kickboxing card, as well as a single MMA preliminary fight, were to air on the Bellator app, and via their official site. But the live stream on the website fizzled, meaning visitors to bellator.com who clicked “watch live” got an error. The app worked, but the prelim fight didn’t air when scheduled. Bellator: Milan, which was also supposed to air on the app for western viewers, didn’t follow the order of the card Bellator had announced. Melvin Manhoef, supposedly the main event, aired first.
Then came Bellator 230 on tape delay, via Paramount and DAZN. A plodding card, even with Bellator having some time to edit and fix the pacing. There was little in the way of positives outside the main event, which saw Vadim Nemkov spoil former middleweight champ Rafael Carvalho’s light heavyweight debut. Nemkov won the bout via submission.
The live atmosphere sounded great, but it’s beyond belief that as we near 2020, Bellator are still subject to broadcast issues like this. DAZN was supposed to fix everything, wasn’t it? Going up against the UFC and ONE (during Bellator 230, all three promotions were airing events simultaneously), Bellator wound up a distant third. The lack of star power didn’t help. The good news is, Bellator 231 and 232 are stacked.
Winner: ONE Championship
Starring: Angela Lee, Xiong Jing Nan, Demetrious Johnson, Aung La N Sang
ONE Championship has certainly come a long way since its inception in 2011. The Asian-based MMA promotion has slowly become a real threat to the UFC, dominating the Asian MMA market. At a time where its American rival is investing heavily in Asia, building a Performance Institute in China as they look to break into that territory, ONE has done a far better job connecting with fans in the region.
This weekend, they marked their 100th major show with ONE: Century. Split into two cards, Part I and Part II, the show hosted multiple title fights, including Angela Lee vs. Xiong Jing Nan, Aung La N Sang vs. Brandon Vera, not to mention the finales of the Flyweight and Lightweight grand prixs. ‘Mighty Mouse’ returned, winning the flyweight grand prix, while lightweight champ Christian Lee, brother of star Angela Lee, won the lightweight grand prix on short notice.
Angela Lee got back on track, defending her atomweight title after failed attempts to move to strawweight. Aung La N Sang continues to be a star, finishing Brandon Vera. And the show, wisely, was booked with the biggest fights airing after the UFC. Meaning ONE had no competition when Mighty Mouse and the like were in action. A successful show in terms of interest, and in-cage action.
Both: RIZIN Fighting Federation
Starring: Jiri Prochazka, Kai Asakura, Rena Kubota, Patricky Pitbull
It’s really, really hard to call RIZIN a loser this weekend. At RIZIN 19 in Osaka, Japan, there was plenty of action, and plenty of finishes. But it’s hard to call them a winner, when they were pretty much upstaged by ONE Championship, on home turf.
RIZIN 19 also lacked in terms of star power. Light heavyweight champ Jiri Prochazka isn’t exactly a household name. He defeated Fabio Maldonado, but the Brazilian is far from a world beater at this point in his career. Kai Asakura built off the momentum of defeating Kyoji Horiguchi, but outside him and RENA, the biggest star on the card was Bellator’s Patricky Pitbull. Not really a show filled with A-listers.
All that said, the opening round of the lightweight grand prix, with four finishes, keep RIZIN from the loser column. It’s just hard to call it a clear win, either.