Sports

Why Every Fight Fan Should Be Excited For Bellator 149

Bellator 149 is flat-out insane and easily one of the league’s most exciting cards. There’s a lot of attention being paid to the main and co-main event bouts, and for good reason, there’s some significant star power there. However, the undercard also deserves your attention. So, here’s a few reasons to watch more than just four old guys throw hands at each other.

Justin Wren Is For The Children

Justin Wren used to just be a large, blond guy, appropriately nicknamed “The Viking” in his brief MMA career. He showed up on the 10th season of The Ultimate Fighter, but didn’t make much of an impact. He admittedly spiraled into a life of drug and alcohol abuse before realizing his true calling. Wren traveled to the Congo and began helping the impoverished pygmy tribes, who are often highly discriminated against.

Wren began digging water wells and advocating for their emancipation. After a few trips spanning several years in the Congo, Wren returned to MMA, facing Josh Burns at Bellator 141. Donating his fight purse to his Fight for the Forgotten charity, Wren defeated Burns by unanimous decision.

Now, Wren is back in the cage once more, taking on Juan Torres in the final preliminary bout. Let’s hope Justin can win another one for his pygmy family.

Emanuel Newton Is Back!

Former Bellator light heavyweight champion Emanuel “The Hardcore Kid” Newton is an interesting cat. He gets dreams from the universe about how his fights will end, and for the most part, he’s been right. Newton exploded onto the forefront of Bellator with a crazy spinning back fist knockout of “King” Mo Lawal, and he followed that up with a knockout of Joey Beltran and a submission win over Linton Vassell, slam dancing after ever win. Newton did lose his title to Liam McGeary in what I’m still claiming was a close and controversial decision. Newton is back in the cage, facing Vassell again, and who knows what the universe has told him now. All I know is that Emanuel will do something extremely weird and I’ll love every second of it.

Kimbo Versus DADA: The Most Ridiculous Fight

It’s not often that a professional MMA fight is just as likely to take place at a neighborhood cookout, but former backyard brawlers Kimbo Slice and DADA 5000 are not your typical martial artists. They grew up together in Miami, and while Kimbo was usually the star in the fights and DADA was the man behind the scenes, Dhafir Harris is no stranger to fist fights and brawls.

And now the only way to settle it is inside the Bellator cage. The fight has gotten so personal that Kimbo brought up, uh, the size of his cajones during the press conference.

The Love Of Freakshow Fights

Ever since Scott Coker took over for Bellator MMA, out went tournaments and weekly shows, and in came Big Time events with sometimes ridiculous bouts between guys who maybe shouldn’t be fighting. There is no better example of this than the double-main event to Bellator 149. Kevin Ferguson and Dhafir Harris — Punch-Kicking Known As (PKKA) Kimbo Slice and DADA 5000 — settle a decade-long feud born on the docks and backyards of Miami. Headlining things is a match made in a retirement community, as Ken Shamrock and Royce Gracie bring their combined century of existence inside the cage for the third time.

As always, we’ve gathered a crew of MMA fans and bloviating “experts” to chime in on these fights.

Jessica: Part of me isn’t super thrilled with Bellator’s direction of late, because I kind of liked the old weekly tournament set-up and generally more straight-forward match ups. Once they started pulling in old UFC cast-offs and weird double-masked cage confrontations happened, it got super goofy and made me smile. Overall, though, their insistence on giving the marquee spots to broken down UFC fighters over home-grown champs (hey, just like TNA!) is pretty sh*tty. Any time two old guys get booked above a title match is a moment to be ashamed of, Bellator.

That being said, I’m totally going to be hammered while watching Kimbo and DADA and Royce and Ken, yelling my stupid head off. As for an unofficial prediction, I’m taking DADA to beat Kimbo, because while Slice claims it’s his “inner me,” his true enemy is his inner knee. He doesn’t have cartilage, and DADA will exploit that and knock him out. My brain can’t even process the idea of Royce and Ken fighting in TWO THOUSAND FRIGGIN’ SIXTEEN, so I’ll say that while Royce wins the fight via TKO (Petey, my heart!), it will be rendered a no contest after both dudes fail a million drug tests.

Justin: I like Bellator. Yeah, I said it. I started out tuning in every once and awhile like an old lady peeping through the blinds to spy on the neighbors. The hit and miss booking had me frustrated, but fights like Daniel Strauss and Patricio Freire kept me coming back. Eventually, I became a regular viewer. I felt like a voyeur cheating on my old mistress. Bellator is still inconsistent, though, almost like it doesn’t know what it is yet, or it’s just trying to do whatever it can with whatever it has to pull people in. I mean, we went from having a Bellator/Glory mashup in Dynamite to two backyard brawlers in a co-main event.

On the other hand, maybe some part of MMA needs this. In a world where MMA is becoming a legit mainstream sport, maybe we still need absolute weird sh*t and freak show fights from the days of yore, or at least to have the option to watch them. Not only that, but the Rizin partnership is an exciting turn of events and did wonders for King Mo. Now we have a slew of people lining up to fight Fedor that keyboard warriors may not scream “can” at, and not to mention Benson Henderson. Folks… dare I say it that Bellator’s best days may be in front of us?

As for Big Homie Slice and DADA 5000? Kimbo knocks DADA out and the result will be shrouded in controversy saying that DADA was paid to take a dive and make Slice look good. Even if that doesn’t come out, I’ll still believe it happened. Controversy will also infect the Shamrock and Royce Gracie fight when it looks like sh*t. And, yes… when both probably test positive for a cocktail of performance enhancing drugs. But hey, Emanuel Newton and Melvin Guillard are also on the card so that’s cool.

Jared: The more I think about it, the more I’m starting to realize that the booking of Kimbo Slice vs. DADA 5000 actually signals a rather brilliant shift in ideology by Bellator. Do you guys see it? Bellator knows that this fight is sh*t, and in fact, that’s why they booked it in the first place.

We are living in the era of nostalgia-driven, “ironic” entertainment — an era where more so-bad-it’s-good films, television shows, comics, and whathaveyou are being churned out than ever before, with the lone goal of gaining a “cult following” through pure, intentional ineptitude. Knowing that they may never top the UFC in terms of actually talent, Bellator isn’t simply lowering its standards, it’s adapting its business model to cash in on a proven trend among millennials that is already being exploited by every other entertainment industry. It’s as if Scott Coker wandered into one of the monthly screenings of The Room held at the Regent Theater, saw how people were reacting to it, and thought, “Hey, maybe I can do this with MMA.”

So, as someone who views Dream’s Super Hulk Grand Prix as the pinnacle of modern mixed martial arts, I was all in on the idea of Kimbo vs. DADA from the day one. Mind you, I had no idea who Mr. 5000 was until about 15 minutes before writing this post, but after seeing the man’s DEVASTATING striking skills on full display, I have no doubt that this fight will be the one that earns Bellator that cult status they are clearly going after — the “purity” of the sport be damned. As for my prediction? Pain (and a quick Kimbo Slice KO).

With Gracie vs. Shamrock, on the other hand, Bellator is putting itself at the risk of overplaying its hand early. Whereas Slice vs. DADA represents a clear freakshow fight that can only end in hilarity, Shamrock vs. Gracie almost seems like Bellator’s way of showing that it’s in on the joke, and worse yet, attempting to legitimize it. Cult comedy works best before it becomes self-aware, and Gracie vs. Shamrock is the closest thing Bellator can get to taking off its sunglasses and winking at the camera. To put it in movie terms, Slice vs. DADA is Birdemic, and Gracie vs. Shamrock is Birdemic 2.

Basically, if you’re going to book a sh*tty fight, at least book a sh*tty fight that has the potential to be entertaining, and I just don’t see how Gracie vs. Shamrock will be anything close to that. Neither guy can throw a punch to save their lives, so you can cross off “devastating KO” from the list of potential scenarios, and Ken Shamrock couldn’t even submit Kimbo Slice with full back mount and both hooks in. That leaves us with two possible scenarios: Gracie either catches Ken early with a submission like he did in their first encounter, or we’ll be treated to a slogging, tepid walk through the mud like in their second encounter. In either case, the fight won’t result in the unintentional comedy that Bellator thinks it will.

But hey, comedic sensibilities take time to develop, and at least Bellator is off to a good start.

Burnsy: There have been plenty of times in recent months and even years that I’ve watched a UFC fight and commented, “I wish this fighter would hang it up already before he’s terribly injured or dies.” But then Ken Shamrock said something that actually made sense in a weird sort of way. He told Jason that this fight isn’t about him or Royce Gracie chasing some dumb, over-the-hill title dream. Instead, it’s about giving the fans what they want. Is he being honest? Did he neglect to mention that he also very much appreciates the paycheck for an easy evening’s work? Maybe. Probably. But you know what? F*ck it, I’ll be the naive fan and bite on that dumb bait.

Simple logic tells us that these fights won’t actually be good, at least from a technical fighting perspective, but if we prepare ourselves with that in mind, we can all laugh together at how sloppy and pointless they are. Unless you’re the type of fight “fan” who watches and complains about the violence, this nostalgic booking routine serves the purpose of letting us watch and laugh and maybe even cheer when something ridiculous happens, because there are no implications. There’s no belt on the line, no rankings to be updated. Just Kimbo Slice yelling about DADA-5000’s tiny balls before they get winded in the first minute and spend the next five minutes swinging wildly at each other’s heads. God, just typing that description makes me laugh, in a great way!

As for predictions, I’m honestly so strangely geeked by the Shamrock/Gracie fight. There’s seriously no point to this fight at all, as these guys don’t even seem to dislike each other at this point in their lives, but whatever. I’m going with Gracie to close this rivalry out with a late submission, because I cannot think of any advantage that Shamrock has going into this fight. As for Kimbo and DADA, I’m hoping it’s a big, dumb brawl that ends quickly, with Kimbo scoring the KO over his adversary, who may or may not have tiny balls.

Jamie: Jesus, this is happening. I can only pray this is a big enough success to fund more sh*tshow fights like this in the future. Call me a terrible person (most of my exes do, and that’s before the breakup), but I LOVE ME SOME TRAINWRECKS. I want more Super Hulks! I want Shinya Aoki against Steve Aoki! I want Bob Sapp and Jose Canseco to get simultaneously heel-hooked by Minowaman! I want Sensei Steven to take on Ameri-do-te guy! As much as I love all the art and craft and beauty of high-level MMA, sometimes I just wanna see Eric Prindle axe kick a tubby Brazilian right in the boxersausage.

Now all that being said, I refuse to believe that the Shammy-Royce fight is going to happen. I honestly just refuse to believe that this fight can avoid some sort of Deus ex Machina of terribad fights stopping it at the last second. Like, I don’t know. A forehead cut in sparring the day of the fight. Or Royce deciding that he’ll only fight under GRACIE RULES, which are kinda like the Unified Rules of Stockton, just with less middle fingers, and in a gi. If the fight actually happens, it’ll probably be a work. So, I guess Gracie wins by lapel choke, right? But seriously, guys, we’re more likely to see the ghost of Helio Gracie against the Shamwow guy.

As for Misters Slice and Thousand, after the pants-sh*ttingly virtuoso-esque performance of D. Five Thousand at the workouts (seriously, if you haven’t seen it, go check out Jared’s link above), I can only pray that the reason DADA has his hair and beard sculpted into a helmet shape is so that he can sneak a suitably fuzzy helmet into the cage for when Kimbo picks him up and DROPS HIM ON HIS HEAD. This is gonna end in a piledriver. There’s no two ways about it. DADA looks the part of a fearsome street fighter, absolutely, but the only way he’s a threat to anything besides a talented barber’s sense of dignity is if he actually gets to bring the sledgehammer from the poster into the cage. Kimbo and his normal-sized balls got this by however he damn well pleases. DADA goes back to refereeing barge fights.

Jason: It’s telling when the fight below these words has 50 million hits, while the next closest single “free fight” offered by the UFC on YouTube is Ronda Rousey getting knocked out by Holly Holm at 1.5 million views. Granted, the Holm/Rousey fight was only uploaded a few days ago as of this article, but there’s no doubt that it will eventually taper off, while the freak show will live on forever. “Normal” people simply don’t care about the sport of MMA — they care about the spectacle. What enraptured early fans of no holds barred fighting was the open weight classes, the clash of styles, and the giant fat dudes fighting tiny guys. David versus Goliath equals money and eyeballs. It’s as simple as that. It’s interesting, and more importantly, it’s not as esoteric as the homogenized sport we enjoy today.

Bring a casual fan into a room to watch some fights, and you’ll likely have to explain the hell out of why this fight matters, the story of the two fighters leading up to the match, and what they are capable of. When you match up a 600-pound guy versus a little Japanese dude, the viewer has no work to do. They’re engaged immediately.

So, the winning formula basically is: stars, and/or freakshow fights equal ratings. Thus, Bellator is on the right track. If they go the Pride/Strikeforce route, and mix in fan/casual friendly fights (freak fights or name fights like Kimbo/Shamrock/Gracie) with highly-competitive bouts, then they are going to do well. Especially with the introduction of their Bellator Kickboxing league. It’s a damn shame that kickboxing never enjoyed the level of popularity in the States that it should’ve had. I hope Overeem comes over on a hybrid kickboxing/MMA contract. Then put him against Minowaman or something.

The UFC can be the PGA Tour. If I had to watch golf, I’d rather be watching some f*cked up putt putt. That’s what Bellator could be — a f*cked up game of putt putt.

Bellator 149 starts with prelims on Spike.com at 6:30 p.m. ET and the main card begins on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET.

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