Commentary

UFC 1, Bellator 0 after Friday

Originally Published: September 8, 2014
By Brett Okamoto | ESPN.com

Before we get to fighter grades (there are a lot of them, by the way), let's talk about Friday's matchup between the UFC 50 and Bellator 123 MMA events.

The two promotions hosted live cards within 10 miles of each other Friday in Connecticut (and this happened by sheer coincidence, if you believe UFC president Dana White).

In a way, the UFC claimed victory before the cards even started. Bellator decided to move its start time ahead one hour, even though it is well established on it Spike TV platform Friday nights -- far more established than the UFC.

At the same time, that the UFC would even challenge Bellator in the first place shows an awareness of what the company is doing -- an acknowledgement that maybe Bellator should be challenged (although, again, if you believe White, this was all coincidence).

The two events showcased differences between the two promotions. Bellator 123 was deep in terms of name recognition, offering guys like Cheick Kongo, Muhammed Lawal and Bobby Lashley. There was a curiosity factor with Tamdan McCrory.

Going in, the Bellator card also had the marquee fight of the night, in my opinion: a featherweight title rematch between Pat Curran and Patricio Freire.

And then it had a tire fire announcement involving Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar.

Listen, maybe this pro wrestling-style gimmick does ultimately draw some attention to the fact Ortiz and Bonnar will fight each other in November. We're talking about it right now, so I guess mission accomplished.

Personally, I thought Scott Coker's addition to Bellator in June was going to kill off some of these Bellator "gimmicks." In other words, a staged brawl featuring two past-their-prime UFC veterans and a masked (not one mask, by the way -- two) Justin McCully wasn't what I expected to see during Coker's first Bellator event.

Not to mention a similar encounter between Quinton Jackson and Lawal that occurred not too long ago.

Bellator, with its current stable of rosters, is not going to challenge UFC dominance in mixed martial arts. If it is to ever do that, it will need to identify, sign and promote its own talent -- guys like Curran and Freire, who are Bellator homegrown.

That's the long-term goal. In the short term, apparently Bellator believes the best way it can draw attention is by being the loudest person in the room and appealing to the pro wrestling fan it thinks is in all of us.

At least for me, that attempt missed its mark this time.

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