Where depth still exists: Bellator’s featherweight division and the great fighters that populate it
The UFC carries the majority of talent in the MMA world. That’s an understatement on par with “Fox news really doesn’t care for President Obama”. We all know that if somebody wants to see the best on planet Earth compete, they watch the UFC. However, there are a few fighters still left out of the Zuffa fold. Bibiano Fernandes spurned Dana White & co.’s advances last year to continue to fight on in Asia. Anthony Johnson continues to rehabilitate his career in the World Series of Fighting. Even Shinya Aoki is still competing at a high level (just with out high level opponents).
Bellator, the current “#2″ MMA promotion behind big brother, has its own share of talent. Ben Askren is an Olympic wrestler with some quality wins in Douglas Lima, Jay Hieron, and Karl Amoussou. Mike Chandler is an absolute monster (my personal #4 LW in the world), and has already taken out Rick Hawn and Eddie Alvarez. Lowkick.com heart throb, Alexander Shlemenko, is a dynamo of a striker who has taken out pretty much every decent middleweight Bellator has to offer. The problem is none of these guys have a steady stream of top tier opponents. Sure all will be taking on tournament winners that have beaten credible competition, but no decently ranked guys are available. That is, except for champion Pat Curran.
Spike TV’s new MMA partner has something most promotions can only Dream of at 145 lbs, depth. Not only is there multiple ranked guys in the aforementioned title holder and Patricio “Pitbull” Friere, but Daniel Straus is right on the edges of that top ten. Here’s a more in depth look at the division:
Pat Curran- The champion of Bellator’s featherweight division, Pat is a top 5 fighter (at fw) in all of mixed martial arts. He’s defeated great fighters like Pitbull, and Marlon Sandro at 145 lbs while also holding a win over Roger Huerta at 155 lbs. Curran is a student of his cousin Jeff Curran, who has made him equally dominant on the ground as he is standing. His speed isn’t anything to write home about for being a lighter weight guy, but his technique is nearly flawless.
Patricio Friere- Coming off a loss to the champ, Friere’s stock is still high. The match is on the short list for fight of the year so far, and it went to a split decision. Patricio is a destructive combination of speed and power. He holds highlight reel KO’s of Georgi Kharakanyan and Wilson Reis, and he’s incredibly well-rounded. If he continues to get better, the number one spot in Bellator could certainly be his.
Daniel Straus- Straus is a monster of a featherweight. He’s physically imposing, continues to improve standing, and wreaks absolute havoc on the mat. His only losses after his first three fights in MMA are to Pat Curran by KO in 2009 and Patricio Friere by close decision.
Daniel is currently facing charges for possession of Marijuana and MDMA (ecstasy) while also driving on a suspended license in the state of Florida on March 2nd. Once these charges clear up he will be able to fight on, but his road ahead is arduous.
The rest of the division is filled with prospects and veterans alike. Shahbalut Shamhalaev’s only loss in MMA thus far is to current UFC lightweight prospect Habib Nurmagomedov, and he has finished every person in Bellator he has gone up against. Marlon Sandro is a great veteran test for young prospects, and still could knock out a horse with his right hand. Rad Martinez is coming off a tough KO loss to Shamhalaev, but is already an outstanding wrestler. There are other prospects like Mike Richman, Alexandre Bezerra, and Magomedrasul Khasbulaev that will make great fights for the top tier guys down the line. Shamhalaev will face off against Curran for his title in April.
A comparison of top 4 guys in each division between the UFC and Bellator shows decent match ups abound. The UFC trots out the murderers row of Jose Aldo, Chad Mendes, Frankie Edgar, and Ricardo Lamas. Bellator’s line up isn’t that far off in Pat Curran, Pitbull, Straus, and Shamhalaev. The UFC‘s division certainly gets more respect rankings wise, and some seem to think they would walk all over the men on the other side of the pool. However, if you would have taken a pole in 2010 of the best lightweight fighters in the world I’m not sure Ben Henderson or Anthony Pettis could even make a dent. In this writer’s humble opinion, we have a similar situation with the Spike boys today.
Let me know your thoughts crew. Am I crazy, or do the guys from Bellator have enough talent to compete with anybody?