Last night’s first annual Bellator Dynamite card was a mixed bag. The kickboxing fights didn’t click. The light heavyweight tournament fights, which ran the risk of being boring, went as well as could be expected. Josh Thomson lo0ked impressive in his Bellator debut, but didn’t have an exciting fight. So, where do we go from here?
Liam McGeary and Phil Davis: These two are obviously facing each other next, as it was announced on the show. McGeary submitting Tito Ortiz with his now trademark inverted triangle was a great finish for him, while Davis looked like a new person steamrolling Emanuel Newton and Francis Carmont. All three finishes came in the first round, too, and in Davis’s case, the makeover was much needed, as he’s often perceived as a boring decision machine. These were his first finishes since submitting Wagner Prado in 2012 and his first finishes over any kind of name fighter(s) since 2010 (when he submitted Alexander Gustafsson and Tim Boetsch). On top of that, the Carmont fight was his first ever knockout win and his first win via strikes since his third professional fight in 2009.
You have to give Bellator credit: They can’t be accused of protecting McGeary, who they’re pushing as one of the faces of the brand while eyeing London, England as a regular stop for major shows. Davis is the worst stylistic matchup in the promotion for him, a wrestler with excellent striking defense and a very strong submission game. McGeary can’t just be content to play guard and hunt for submissions against Davis, because it’s not going to work the way it against Newton, Ortiz, and the rank and filed Bellator light heavyweights.
King Mo: One of Bellator’s signature stars was set to face Phil Davis in the finals of the light heavyweight tournament after shellacking Linton Vassell, only to be forced to bow out due to a rib injury. With his wrestling pedigree and superior striking, it was an excellent matchup for him, and now he’s on the outside looking in when it comes to a title shot. That said, he’s clearly next in line. If he waits, he clearly gets the winner of McGeary-Davis. If he doesn’t, it gets a little more tricky. If Bellator just wants to give him a showcase fight, they can feed him just about any of their light heavyweights. Virgil Zwicker is coming off a win and has a cult following, so he might as well get the fight if it happens. It’s not like there’s anyone else.
Josh Thomson: As expected, the former Strikeforce Lightweight Champion dominated Legacy FC champion Mike Bronzoulis en route to sleeping him with an arm triangle. As with King Mo, who he fights next all depends on what Bellator wants to do. He could easily get a title shot against the winner of the Will Brooks (c) vs. Marcin Held fight on November 6th. If they want to wait, they’ve got plenty of options, since this is, after all, the most stacked division in the sport. Michael Chandler is in the process of being rebuilt, so he may not be the best choice. Patricky “Pitbull” Freire is coming off a win and would make for a really entertaining fight and probably makes the most sense in terms of divisional relevance.
Tito Ortiz: What exactly can you do with him? He needs to be in big fights, but he’s in a weak division and he shouldn’t go anywhere near the other name light heavyweights right now like King Mo or Phil Davis (even if he didn’t have the McGeary fight coming up). If Bellator eventually wins the Quinton “Rampage” Jackson lawsuit, then they could always try doing that again. Otherwise? Kimbo Slice would lose to just about everyone they have now that they did the Ken Shamrock fight, so they might as well book him against Tito in either a heavyweight or catchweight fight. It would do a gigantic rating and the only reason not to do it is if they want to save a win over Kimbo for someone they’re trying to build up.
Francis Carmont, Emanuel Newton, and Linton Vassell: Carmont had been settling in nicely since moving up to light heavyweight before becoming the first man even knocked out by Phil Davis. Newton and Vassell in a rematch has some intrigue in a three round fight with how Vassell was dominating their five round title fight until he suddenly wasn’t, but it doesn’t feel like the right fight. Which leaves Carmont against one or the other. Either runs the risk of a boring fight, but Newton-Carmont is the less potentially boring fight on paper. Vassell could fight Mikhail Zayats next. Of course, all of this goes out the window if Bellator wants to rebuild any of them with a showcase fight.
Mike Bronzoulis: If he’s not cut (and it was ominous that they made it clear that he was still Legacy FC’s champion), then he’s just A Guy sitting below t upper echelon of Bellator lightweights. If he returns, it’s not a marquee fight, so he might as well fight fellow recent showcase victim Bruno Campos.
Got any alternate matchmaking ideas? Post them in the comments.