Starting on Friday with Bellator 96 at 10pm, Bellator’s events will show on the Freeview channel ‘Viva’ (Freeview 21, Sky 357, Virgin 313) in the UK, finally ending a lengthy run of having to watch their shows via potentially dubious online videos. Sort of.
You see, the show is going out on tape delay as the event itself is on Wednesday so I’ll probably end up watching the best reviewed fights online on Thursday. Still, there’s nothing else on on Friday night, and it’ll be nice to (re) watch the fights on a big screen.
As a Freeview channel, Viva is available to virtually every house in the UK, although its usual parade of the same half dozen music videos, reruns of the Fresh Prince and top notch programming like ’16 and Pregnant’ and ‘Audrina’ makes it a strange home for a serious sports broadcast.
Must have been cheap. Still, any kind of terrestrial TV deal is progress, so well done Bjorn and company for realising that you have potential fans outside North America.
– Michael Chandler
The best Lightweight fighter in the world not contracted to Zuffa defends his title against tournament winner David Rickels at Bellator 97 with Dave Jansen waiting in the wings for a crack at the man left standing at some point down the line.
Bellator 97 also features a Welterweight title match between once-boring Ben Askren and challenger, the undefeated Pankration specialist Andrey Koreshkov with a featured bout between the always exciting Patricio Friere and Rob Emerson.
– Possible Debuts for Rob Sinclair and Martin Stapleton
Fresh from beating all comers in the UK, under the BAMMA and OMMAC banners, Rob Sinclair and Martin Stapleton were signed by Bellator earlier this year, and I’d love to see them make their debut over the summer, ideally qualifying for the Season Nine Lightweight tournament.
The lighter weight classes have traditionally provided some of Bellator’s best action, and while only Rodrgo Lima and Anthony Leone are confirmed for the 135lb tournament at this point (semi finals likely to be at the series’ second card, Bellator 97 in July) I’d expect some quality action to balance the more ponderous looking Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight tournaments.
– The Booking Is In No Way Suspect
Not that you’d known from Bellator’s promotional efforts, which have former Strikeforce champion Muhammed Lawal plastered all over them and the man himself in the headline match of the first show (and if things go to plan, then the ME of the third and last show in the series as well.).
That’s fine, seeing as he’s the biggest name that you’ve got but when he was last seen being KO’d in the first round, and the man who beat him for his Strikeforce title back in 2010 (Rafael Cavalcante) just got tooled by Thiago Silva in the UFC, it’s not exactly building up to your idea of level pegging with Zuffa, is it?
Anyways, the decision to drop the traditional eight man tournaments in favour of four man tournaments (that’s earning a title shot with 2 wins, not 3) can be seen as an attempt to reduce congestion and provide more title matches down the road (as opposed to a transparent attempt to get Lawal a title shot) and its not at all suspicious that one of the standouts from the previous season, Mikhail Zayats hasn’t been asked back.
Oh, you never know – we might get a run in from ‘Rampage’ and a shock Dusty finish to one of the matches, an extended advert for ‘Fight Master’ when there should be fights. Gods, I hope not…
Bellator 96 shows on VIVA in the UK at 10pm on Friday night, airing live on Wednesday via SPIKE TV in North America.