In the space of five short days, Bellator has secured the signatures of two top five fighters from the UFC’s roster.
With Lorenz Larkin the first to make the move on Thursday night, Larkin ended a near seven-month stint in free agency after putting on a masterclass performance against Neil Magny in his last UFC outing. Following hot on the heels of ‘Da Monsoon’, Ryan Bader put pen to paper on his own Bellator contract with two stoppage victories over UFC top ten fighters in his rear-view mirror. Both fighters are unquestionably top tier talent and in subsequent interviews, both men cited great respect and admiration for their talents as the cause for a change in scenery. It’s a testament to Bellator president Scott Coker’s determination and while he may not always get the recognition he deserves for his recruitment, Coker has quietly gone about assembling a roster of hungry and underappreciated talent.
With pre-existing Bellator veterans like Michael Chandler, the Pitbull brothers and Douglas Lima buoyed by the likes of previous UFC standouts Rory MacDonald, Benson Henderson and Phil Davis, parallels can be drawn between the roster of Coker’s previous promotion Strikeforce and those comparisons are more than favorable.
As the proving ground for some of today’s biggest stars, Strikeforce was a much-needed alternative to the UFC prior to their Zuffa buyout. Strikeforce possessed all of the ingredients needed to be viable competition to the UFC and to their credit, they regularly perfected the recipe. In the present day, however, Coker’s second chance to take on the promotional giant known as the UFC have been stunted by promotional missteps.
Take the case of Bellator 173 for example.
Making the decision to head into Northern Ireland, Bellator entered the Ulster Isle with a trusty ace up their sleeve.
While the top card billing for Englishman Liam McGeary had been chopped and changed three times on the week of the event, hot prospect James Gallagher was sitting pretty in a co-main event spot and, as expected, put on a commanding performance to extend his record to 6-0.
What followed in the aftermath of Gallagher’s fourth rear-naked choke victory was a braggadocious post-fight interview with the Conor McGregor stablemate and his entertaining call-out of AJ McKee ensured his position as one of the promotion’s future stars. Yet the most glaring fall-out of James Gallagher’s performance took place outside of the cage.
Fans in their droves left the arena before the main event had even begun. And it wasn’t all that surprising.
Just two months earlier, the same exact situation had played out at Bellator 169. Gallagher entered the cage as the co-main event, but the Irish fans had already decided that Gallagher was the one fighter they had paid to see and left ‘King Mo’ Lawal and Satoshi Ishii to duke it out in an emptying arena. Bellator had failed to identify their trump card and history was left to embarrassingly repeating itself.
It’s a motif that has continually reared its head and plagued Bellator ever since Scott Coker stepped into the presidential role and yet the Santa Monica-based promotion has failed at teething out the good from the bad. Those err’s in judgement are made all the more surprising considering Coker’s handling of Strikeforce just four years removed from the promotions untimely end.
A roster which was based around fighters that had slipped through the cracks was supplemented by the UFC’s tried and tested method of ‘numbered events’ and ‘fight night’ cards and the results were unadulterated excitement. The likes of Luke Rockhold, Nick Diaz, Fedor Emelianenko and Ronda Rousey were the promotions big event draws while a younger Lorenz Larkin, Tyron Woodley, and Tarec Saffiedine developed on ‘Strikeforce: Challengers’ cards. That distinction paid dividends in raising the notoriety of ‘tentpole’ events yet Bellator relies on labeling they’re own through the mouthpiece of the media.
It’s a strange divergence of the established promotional schedule and while the goal is to provide the sense that every event is ‘can not miss television’, it takes away the shine and anticipation of the marquee events. If the recent Jimi Manuwa vs Corey Anderson event was titled UFC 210, would the next event headlined by Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson have the same sense of buzz? Most likely it wouldn’t in the same way that Bellator’s 179 – headlined by Rory MacDonald and Paul Daley – is indistinguishable to the casual fan from Bellator 171 which was headlined by Chidi Njokuani versus a massively undersized Melvin Guillard.
Bellator also has to take heed of the mistakes that extinct promotions like Elite XC and Affliction faced in their short tenures. With cards headlined by either the vastly overpaid or nostalgic acts of the past, once those fighters’ worth had been eradicated by the unpredictable nature of mixed martial arts, those promotions were left with little to show without the fine balancing act needed to attract both the casual viewer and the hardcore MMA aficionado. Now with Bellator set for their second PPV event at Bellator 180, the Santa Monica-based promotion will need their Madison Square Garden undercard to be balanced to perfection for a sustainable model.
If Bellator is to become a true competitor to the market leader, it needs to capitalize as the UFC’s new owners begin to stray from their past successes themselves. With the aggression already shown to pick up the cash that the UFC have increasingly left on the table, Bellator needs to fire on all cylinders in 2017 and follow the blueprints that Strikeforce left behind.
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Exclusive: Jalin Turner vs Noah Tillis set for Bellator LA in January
Bellator LA: Douglas Lima vs Rory MacDonald, has just had another entertaining fight added as two talented prospects Jalin Turner and Noah Tillis are set to meet in a lightweight bout. Sources close to the fight confirmed the news to MMA Latest earlier this morning.
Jalin “The Tarantula” Turner makes his return to the Bellator cage for the first time since January 2017, where he defeated Gabriel Green by knockout, in an exciting fight that only lasted 36 seconds. Since the fight, Turner has gone 2-1 where he defeated Paradise Vaovasa by KO, at Tachi PF 31, before dropping his next fight to Richard LeRoy by TKO, at CFX 8. Turner bounced back from the loss by beating Vytautas Sadauskas by submission, at KOTC: Never Quit, back in September.
Noah Tillis is currently coming off of a 9-second submission victory against Jeff Carson, at Gladiator Challenge: American Pride, back in July. The “Submission Magician” has amassed a professional record of 3-2 with three victories coming by submission, DQ, and a TKO due to injury. His two losses coming by way of TKO and decision.
It is unclear where the fight will be featured, but it is assumed it will take place on the undercard. The potential brawl represents a stiff challenge for either man, as well as an opportunity to make some noise in an always deep lightweight division.
The only other fight currently announced on the card is the main event between current Bellator welterweight champion Douglas Lima and former UFC title challenger, Rory MacDonald. Bellator LA: Lima vs MacDonald is set to take place on Saturday, January 20th, in Los Angeles, Calfornia, at the Forum.
Anthony “PrettyBoy” Taylor wants to knockout Trey Branch then fight Brian Moore in Bellator on St. Patricks Day
Going from postlim fights in Bellator to a co-main event and then a main card fight after with such little professional experience isn’t something you’d hear of very often in the slightest. In this case Anthony “PrettyBoy” Taylor is the exception, who in only his third professional fight went to Ireland as part of the co-main event for a fight with James Gallagher. Taylor became well known to many in the build-up to that fight for being so outspoken and quite an entertainer, something he carries with him to the cage.
Anthony Taylor now has himself a fight lined up in a regional show near his home in California at California Fighting Championships. This will be his first time fighting back in America since May 2016. His last two bouts were in Europe as part of Bellator’s expansion into Europe. Following two losses he now hopes to get back in the win column in front of a home crowd. Taking this fight as a tune off fight Anthony is confident he won’t be touched by his opponent Trey Branch.
“Well, I’m taking this fight because Bellator said I’ll be fighting next year for overseas and it will be a good tune off fight for me. I think of trey like any other fighter. Just a guy who’s not going to touch me nor beat me.”
His opponent Trey Branch is jumping up from flyweight for this fight, Anthony believes he’s going to dominate his opponent and knock him out with ease. Now having 3 career losses coming via submission, he is not worried about his ground game, guaranteeing it was improved from training with some of the top fighters in Bellator.
“I believe I’m going to overpower him and KO him. He’s coming up from 125lb to fight me which I stated to the world on Bellator that I’m the strongest 45er in the world!! And as far as my ground game, it’d be covered and it’s great. Thanks to AJ McKee, Baby Slice, Joey Davis and Aaron Pico. My ground game is great and up there to the level, as there’s”
Looking ahead to next year when he competes in Bellator again, Taylor has his eyes set on a big fight in a return to Irish soil.
“Well Bellator loves me and I proved them that I belong there. I haven’t been told when I was fighting but I hope it’s back in Ireland, and maybe on St. Patricks day and hopefully I’ll fight Brian Moore because me and him been wanting to fight the longest.”
As a training partner for AJ McKee, Taylor was very pleased with how the fight went down, claiming it was a simple enough fight for his teammate that apparently didn’t train much for the fight. Suffering a loss on the initial trip to the emerald isle, “PrettyBoy” wants to come back and take home a win next time around.
“Oh man it was an easy fight for AJ, he only trained 2 weeks for that Brian Moore fight” he laughs “but absolutely it would be a great show if I was also on the show me and James alone still holds the record of views internationally and I’m looking to come back and taking what’s mines which is that W”
The win against Brian Moore could now potentially line up a fight between McKee and James Gallagher, fight fans have long sought after. Having fought against James and training with McKee on the regular Taylor isn’t convinced that Gallagher is ready for the AJ just yet. He also had some words about SBG fighters who were calling out Baby Slice.
“James is not ready for AJ. And people calling out slice since he’s new in the game. Why are sbg guys not calling out Joey Davis?? They are all talk and think that they’re better than everyone.”
With a win on Saturday, Anthony Taylor thinks it will kick him off to a series of consecutive wins that could ultimately land him in a fight with Emmanuel Sanchez.
“Yes it will start off (Saturday) and I believe it will set me up tremendously. I’m only getting better and I plan on winning fights in Bellator and then taking out Emanuel Sanchez. I do not like him, I hate him”
“I don’t like his style and he’s always hating on my teammates so I want his head” he added
Away from the fight scene, Anthony is pleased with the life that he’s got set up for himself with his newfound love since joining Bellator as he now aims to break into the movie industry too.
“Man it’s been great I now have a wonderful woman in my life so I’m happy. I’m acting too, trying to get into the movies industry and God has blessed me which so much love”
You can follow Anthony Taylor on all his social media accounts to keep an eye out for all his upcoming fight information and results.
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