Bellator made its long awaited Broadway debut Saturday, and it couldn’t have gone any worse.
With the backing of Viacom’s billion-dollar bank account, the stage was set for Bellator to make their big mark on the Big Apple. They stacked the lineup with some of MMA’s most recognizable names, their prized free agent signings and an up-and-comer they went out of their way to pump as “the greatest prospect in MMA history.”
And while the pay-per-view numbers for Bellator NYC haven’t been released, the show was a complete flop for Bellator.
The event started off with a bang, as six of the first seven preliminary bouts, including the first four, ended with thrilling finishes. Blonde bombshell boxer Heather Hardy successfully making the transition to MMA by TKO’ing Alice Yauger was the highlight of the early action.
Things then quickly went south for Bellator.
Bellator arranged a rematch between former UFC stars Phil Davis and Ryan Bader to close out the live prelims – yes, for the first time in forever Bellator offered live action on Spike TV for all – and lead into the pay-per-view broadcast.
Instead of electrifying the Madison Square Garden crowd, Davis and Bader sucked all the life out of the historic arena. The most fun fans had during their forgettable 25 minute affair was raining the fighters with boos.
Bader ultimately went up 2-0 on Davis by stealing his light heavyweight belt with a split decision in his Bellator debut.
Douglas Lima defended his welterweight belt against another fresh Bellator signee in Lorenz Larkin to kick off the PPV. While the fight offered some exciting moments, it left viewers unsatisfied as the judges decided a second straight title tilt.
No problem, because Aaron Pico was set to make his heavily-hyped MMA debut. Pico, 20, was touted as “the biggest prospect in MMA history” given his superior wrestling and boxing background. Pico’s story was ESPN.com’s main article well into Saturday afternoon.
With zero MMA fights under his belt, Bellator signed the prospect at 18 and paid Pico for two years just to hone his skills. MSG was the perfect stage for Bellator to raise the curtain on MMA’s next superstar.
Just 24 seconds later and Pico was tapping out to Zach Freeman, who was hired to solely serve as Pico’s stepping stone.
No problem, Michael Chandler will get Bellator back on track. He’s the man they have gone out of their way to push as the face of the promotion for the past several years. Chandler was a heavy 6-1 odds-on favorite to retain his lightweight title against Brent Primus.
Chandler suffered a freak ankle injury in the opening round and lost his gold to the long shot.
No problem, Fedor Emelianenko is about to take center stage. Emelianenko is the biggest free agent signing in the promotion’s history. If anyone can put a smile on Bellator brass’ faces, it’s arguably MMA’s GOAT.
Mitrione put the Russian to sleep in merely 74 seconds.
In step Chael Sonnan and Wanderlei Silva to close out the show. It’s the grudge match that’s been years in the making, but nearly nobody wanted to see at this stage in their respective careers.
The fight went as most expected, with Sonnen using his superior wrestling to plant the Brazilian on his back for much of their ho-hum fight. The only notable thing to happen during the scrap was the New York crowd chanting “F*ck you, Tito” to Tito Ortiz who was heckling Sonnen from the front row.