Michael Chandler Shines, Curran Wins Split Decision in Bellator’s Debut on Spike | MMAWeekly.com
Bellator’s debut show on Spike TV ended up as an almost flawless performance with both Michael Chandler and Pat Curran retaining their titles, while Renato “Babalu” Sobral went down in defeat.
There is little doubt after Thursday night that Michael Chandler has secured his spot as one of the best lightweights in the world as he capped off Bellator’s debut show on Spike TV with a one-sided pounding of former Olympian Rick Hawn.
“If you ain’t moving forward, you’re moving backwards, that’s me,” Chandler said after the fight about his progression.
Pat Curran vs. Patricio Pitbull – Bellator featherweight title fight
The first fight to air on Spike TV Thursday night featured featherweight champion Pat Curran facing off with Patricio “Pitbull” Freire in a bout many months in the making. Both Curran and Pitbull were forced to sit out for extended periods of time due to injury, but you’d hardly know either of them missed any action with the performances showcased in the cage.
The fighters started out tentatively, which was somewhat surprising given both fighter’s tendency to attack early and often. Once they settled into a rhythm, Pitbull started to become the aggressor while Curran was content in his counter punching style.
Through the first three rounds neither fighter put together much in the way of serious combinations outside of a few quick strikes from Pitbull that probably stole him a round or two. As the fight wore on however, Curran’s fortune changed because the 4th and 5th rounds will often separate champion from challenger.
Curran’s power started to show as he established a quick double jab that snapped Pitbull’s head back, and followed that up with a jaw-rattling uppercut. Pitbull tried his best to unleash a flurry with seconds left to go in the fight, but couldn’t catch Curran with anything to put him away.
When the judges came back the scores resulted in a split decision, but Pat Curran received two scorecards in his favor as he retained his Bellator featherweight title. Curran stood proud after the victory, and now he’ll look to the future where he will likely face Daniel Straus later this year. With the new Bellator championship rematch clause in place, Patricio Pitbull could also quickly jump back in the title picture after coming within one round on a scorecard from taking home the gold.
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This past year, Bellator announced a new championship-rematch clause that went into affect with the organization's move from MTV2 to Spike TV. When "called for," Rebney has the option to book immediate rematched rather than waiting for a defeated fighter to win another tournament to get a second title shot.
However, Freire won't get to benefit from the clause. Rebney told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com) he simply doesn't want to hold up the division.
After all, Season 6 tournament winner Daniel Straus (21-4 MMA, 7-1 BFC) is already queued up for the next shot at Curran. Additionally, after a delay, finalists Rad Martinez (14-2 MMA, 4-0 BFC) and Shahbulat Shamhalaev (11-1-1 MMA, 2-0 BFC) are set to conclude their Season 7 tournament on Feb. 21 at Bellator 90, and the winner also will be in line for a title shot.
"At the end of the day, I think Daniel deserves his shot now without any type of delay," Rebney said. "Straus is that unknown commodity. Not that many people talk about Straus, but I literally think belongs in most people's Top 7 or 8 in the world. He's a really talented fighter and one of the biggest featherweights I've ever seen."
Then there's either Martinez or Shamhalaev after that, so the title is pretty much tied up through 2013.
But if there weren't a logjam in the division, would Rebney have considered Curran vs. Freire II?
"Absolutely," he said. "(Matchmaker) Sam (Caplan) and I and the team would sit down and consider it. Pat won the fight, but it would be one we'd look at and consider."
Curran also understands that challengers are stacking up, and he doesn't want to leave them waiting.
"I plan on getting back there as soon as possible," Curran said. "I don't want to to take too much time off because 2013 is going to be a busy year for me, and I plan on keeping the belt the whole time."
Rebney, though, said it's simply a good problem to have. After all, just a few years ago, top-level featherweights were few and far between in the organization.
"There was a time when 145 wasn't that strong of a division for us, and now look at it," he said