First things first. The Bellator show in Newcastle last night was an entertaining night of action. Despite some technical glitches, the Bellator app streamed the preliminary fights really well. Sound problems seemed to be an early issue.
The preliminaries had a great sprinkling of early finishes which made it exciting for the fans but there were a couple of fights that looked to me like complete mis-matches which is not desirable in such a dangerous working environment.
This was Bellator’s first show since the announcement of the Sky Sports deal. Overall I think Sky executives watching will be pleased that they have invested in a product that has a market.
There were some obvious problems but nothing insurmountable. Gareth A. Davies verbosity and pomp is an addition to the commentary and analysis team. His depth and breadth of knowledge of the fighters is impressive. It will be interesting to see if Sky utilize him given his history with BT sport.
The best that can be said about the rest of the commentary and analysis team is that they are nothing to write home about. The questioning of fighters was cringe-worthy and clearly aimed at a Geordie Shore viewing public.
I give Aaron Chalmers more stick than most and I would point to last night as to why.
As a large card unfolds at a professional event you expect the standard of skills on view to rise. Unfortunately, this was not the case in last nights main event bout between Aaron Chalmers and Corey Browning. It was god awful.
The Newcastle crowd seemed to enjoy it and I suppose to a degree I did too, in the way I might savour a brawl outside my local kebab shop at 3 in the morning. If a bag of garlic cheese fries had been chucked into the cage last night it would have had a certain symmetry to it.
Chalmers brings eyes to a sport that might not otherwise look at MMA so I understand that part of the equation. However you leave yourself open to ridicule as a sport if Celebrity is the only thing you are offering at the top of the bill.
Corey Browning was a little bit of a step up from the cannon fodder Chalmers has fought up to now and in the end that is all it took to topple him. This was the Tennessee fighters second outing in the Bellator colours, having previously beaten Kevin Ferguson Jr at Bellator 207.
Bellator should be relieved that this wasn’t their first Sky Sports offering.
Matching fights is going to be key for the organisation moving forward in the UK and Ireland. In fairness they have signed a load of talent in the last 6 months, so they deserve some time to figure out the wheat from the chaff. However I would hope top billing on a card will never be given again to someone who is a novice and brings ONLY celebrity to the table. The short term gain of celebrity ends up being a long term hit to the integrity of the sport.
I was expecting Fabian Edwards to make short work of his opponent Lee Chadwick. It was nothing like that easy. Chadwick has a pro career stretching back over 35 fights winning about two thirds of them. The phrase ‘grizzled veteran’ was invented with him in mind. Edwards won on points but again the Fabian Edwards hype train has now slowed after last night’s performance. That is no bad thing. As I still think he could have a career that surpasses his brother Leon who, lest we forget, is still unbeaten in the UFC.
The biggest surprise of the night for me was the loss of Terry Brazier. I am a big fan of Terry’s and I was certain he would open his Bellator account with a W. Chris Bungard had other ideas on the night and submitted him rather easily in the 1st round via rear naked choke.
Terry has overcome a lot bigger things in his life and I expect him to bounce back in his next outing.
All eyes now move to Dublin in two weeks time where Sky Sports will pitch tent for the first time in Ireland at an MMA event. I expect Bellator, James Gallagher and Co. to deliver something a little bit better.