Mixed martial arts experienced one of its most eventful weeks in recent memory. From fights to press conferences to programming, there was excitement to be found all around. Some of the things that stood out could change the perspective of even the most die-hard fan.
The biggest story, in my opinion, was the return of San Jose’s King Mo Lawal. Ever since his release from Zuffa and subsequent signing to Bellator MMA, there has been anticipation built around his return. Mo made his Bellator debut last Thursday as part of the promotion’s light-heavyweight tournament against Przemyslaw Msyiala.
Mo, who was sidelined for 12 months, did not waste anytime. He put to use all the training he’s done with Jeff Mayweather as well as all the hard-work he’s put in at American Kickboxing Academy. It culminated with a first-round KO less than four minutes into the round. Lawal used a steady stream of jabs and combinations to knockout a lesser opponent.
As great as Mo’s performance was, it was Ben Askren’s performance that stole the show. In his welterweight title defense, Askren showed that he’s a lot more than a wrestler. He not only defeated Karl Amoussou, but dominated the challenger. It was a performance similar to UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre in his return against Carlos Condit.
What was supposed to be a five-round title fight, became a three-round bout that ended due to doctor stoppage. After 15 minutes, Askren left Amoussou a bloody mess. The Bellator welterweight champion is now 11-0 and is on his way to leaving little doubt that he’s a big fish in a small pond.
With so much good news for Bellator coming on their Thursday, the events of Friday weren’t to boast about. Former Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez is one of the most highly sought after free agents and after receiving an offer from the UFC it was clear where he would end up. However, Bellator had other plans.
Bellator believes they matched the offer from the UFC, but Alvarez and his agents believe that that is not true. The case went to litigation and it’s on its way to court. A situation that could’ve been prevented will become very ugly and put one of the brightest careers in the sport on hold.
This past week wasn’t all about Bellator, the UFC had some stellar moments as well. Beginning with the premiere of the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter. The coaches are UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones and number one contender Chael Sonnen. They will fight in April, but for now they will coach middleweights hoping to become the next Ultimate Fighter.
FX’s third installment of the reality competition looks quite different, at least the season premiere was. The production value was on a much higher level and telling the backstory of the fighters makes them more relatable. Audiences got to see the family and friends that these men are fighting for and who have been there to support them. If this trend continues, The Ultimate Fighter could see a surge in ratings and popularity.
It was the middleweights that got all the attention on TUF, but UFC on FOX 6 showcased how dangerous and entertaining the flyweights could be. Flyweight Champion Demetrius Johnson defeated John Dodson via unanimous decision after a five-round battle. The two went at it nonstop for 25 minutes and showed that no matter how small they might be, flyweights put on a great show.
The division is still in its infancy, but with nearly every fight bringing this type of intensity and excitement. Johnson and Dodson are just two fighters that are helping make the division one of the promotion’s most popular.
With so much to look forward too in the weeks to come, MMA rarely has a slow week. It tends to be the case with a sport that has no offseason.
Notable fights this week:
Thursday, January, 31: Bellator MMA Lightweight Tournament Quarterfinals
-Patricky Freire vs Guillaume Delorenzi
Saturday, February 2: UFC 156
-UFC Featherweight Title Fight: Jose Aldo (c) vs Frankie Edgar
-Antonio Silva vs Alilstair Overeem
Nitesh Dutt is a Production Assistant at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @NiteshDutt.