Twelve straight times, a Bellator champion had their arm raised following a non-title victory. There were some close calls (Joe Warren vs. Marcos Galvao anyone?) but the stat still held up. When champions fought, they didn’t lose.
That changed this past Saturday at Bellator 55 when Light Heavyweight Champion Christian M’Pumbu found that 13 is indeed an unlucky number, breaking the streak in a unanimous decision loss to Travis Wiuff. Bellator now finds itself in the unique position of what to do next with both men.
The easy thing to do would be to simply guarantee Wiuff a slot in the promotion’s next 205-pound tournament. However, that tournament likely wouldn’t take place until next March or April based on past scheduling which means a winner wouldn’t be crowned until May or June. That pushes a potential title match back to early fall — a flaw in the tournament setup.
You would have to think that M’Pumbu isn’t going to want to wait nearly a year before fighting again, but would it make sense to put him in another non-title situation? No, it doesn’t. You run the risk of him losing again and then you have a weak 205-pound champion on your hands.
The right call: give Wiuff a shot at M’Pumbu’s title on the same night the assumed 205-pound tournament concludes next season. He’s beaten the champ in a non-title fight and has earned it. To do otherwise doesn’t make sense from any angle.
Former Bellator Welterweight Champion Lyman Good will return to action on Saturday, November 26 in a Season 6 tournament qualifying bout against Michael Costa.
Good (11-2) was last seen dropping a close split decision to Rick Hawn in April’s welterweight tournament semifinals. He was the first 170-pound champion in company history, but lost the belt in his first title defense against Ben Askren a year ago. Costa (10-5-1) will be making his promotional debut and will seeing his first action in a year when he steps in the Bellator cage.
Bellator 59 will also feature Kurt Pellegrino vs. Patricky Friere, the bantamweight tournament finals and the Bellator debut of former TUF competitor Phillipe Nover.
Bantamweight Finals Set
Speaking of the 135-pounders, Eduardo Dantas and Alexis Vila both advanced last Saturday and will compete in a month’s time for a shot at current champion Zach Makovsky.
Dantas (12-2) won his fifth straight with his split decision over Ed West, while Vila (11-0) remained undefeated with a controversial split decision win over Marcos Galvao — a fight many observers saw in Galvao’s favor. Between this and the Warren defeat, Arizona’s judges have not been kind to him.
Injured Champ Asks For Help
In an unusual story, Bellator 115-pound women’s champion Zoila Gurgel is asking for help from fans and the MMA community to cover medical expenses related to a recent ACL tear.
Gurgel (formerly Frausto) had to pull out of her scheduled November 12 fight with Carina Damm due to the injury and a lapse in medical insurance has put her and husband Jorge Gurgel in a tough spot.
Bellator does not fully cover out-of-competition medical insurance like Zuffa and therefore fighters are on their own in situations like this. Nearly $2000 of the $5000 target has been reached and fans can donate here.
Bellator 56 This Saturday
The aforementioned Askren returns to action Saturday in his first title defense, facing Season 4 tournament winner and MMA veteran Jay Hieron.
Askren (8-0) last defeated Nick Thompson in a non-title fight in April, while Hieron (22-4) earned the shot with wins over Anthony Lapsley, Brent Weedman and Rick Hawn earlier this year. Hieron goes into Saturday on a 10-fight win streak. Both men have significant wrestling backgrounds so expect a lot of ground work in this one.
The heavyweight tournament semifinals will also take place with Eric Prindle vs. Ron Sparks and Neil Grove vs. Thiago Santos.
Prindle (8-1) advanced with a decision win over Abe Wagner while Sparks (8-0) knocked out Mark Holata. Grove (11-4-1) was defeated by Mike Hayes in the quarterfinals but got a second life after Blagoi Ivanov had to bow out due to injury. Santos (9-1) is also an injury replacement, ironically subbing in for Hayes. Santos submitted Josh Burns in an alternate bout to earn the shot.
This past Saturday’s event saw a slight ratings downturn to 168,000 fans on MTV2 — down from the 185,000 viewers the week prior, according to MMA Junkie. The replay did just 45,000 viewers.
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