Who Has The Better Roster…Bellator or World Series of Fighting

We know that UFC is the premiere organization in MMA.  Their roster is by far superior to any other.  If we start talking about tier two, we have Bellator and World Series of Fighting.  There are other things that factor in to a MMA promotion’s success such as TV deals, sponsorship, ratings, live gate numbers, etc. I want to look strictly from a roster point of view.  Which MMA promotion has the second best roster.  Right off that bat we have been somewhat conditioned to say Bellator.  They are Viacom owned, on Spike TV, pull fairly good numbers from time to time.  However, hos much better, if any is their fighter roster than World Series of Fighting.  Let’s break it down division by division.

 

Female Strawweight

  • World Series of Fighting
  1. Jessica Aguilar
  2. Emi Fujino
  3. Alida Gray
  • Bellator
  1. N/A

Bantamweight:

  • Bellator:
  1. Eduardo Dantas
  2. Joe Warren
  3. Marcos Galvao
  4. Rafael Silva
  5. Mike Richman
  • World Series of Fighting:
  1. Marlon Moraes
  2. Tyson Nam
  3. Sheymon Moraes
  4. Timur Valiev
  5. Josh Hill
  6. Bryson Hansen

Most people would say Bellator over WSOF here, but I disagree.  Dantas lost to Tyson Nam, who is in WSOF.  Plus, WSOF has Marlon Moraes and Sheymon Moraes.  Bellator’s bantamweight division is old.  I take World Series of Fighting’s bantamweight division here.

Featherweight:

  • Bellator
  1. Pat Curran
  2. Patricio Pitbull
  3. Daniel Straus
  4. Frodo Khasbulaev
  5. Darrion Caldwell
  6. Bubba Jenkins
  7. Julio Cesar Neves
  8. Shahbulat Shamalaev
  9. Shannon Slack
  10. Goiti Yamauchi
  • World Series of Fighting
  1. Rick Glenn
  2. George Karakhanyan
  3. Lance Palmer
  4. Fredy Assuncao
  5. Chris Gruetzmacher
  6. Cody Bollinger
  7. Nick Lobosco
  8. Artur Rofi

This is a close head to head, but I give it to Bellator here because of the strong combination of Pitbull, Curran and Straus.  However, I do think Glenn, Karakhanyan and Palmer would be very competitive in Bellator’s featherweight division.  (Note: Karakhanyan fought for Bellator, but I think he is much improved).

Lightweight:

  • Bellator
  1. Eddie Alvarez
  2. Michael Chandler
  3. Will Brooks
  4. Dave Jansen
  5. Marcin Held
  6. Saad Awad
  7. Patricky Pitbull
  8. David Rickels
  9. Alexander Sarnavskiy
  • World Series of Fighting
  1. Justin Gaethje
  2. Nick Newell
  3. Melvin Guillard
  4. JZ Cavalcante
  5. Luiz Firmino
  6. Johnny Nunez
  7. Ozzy Dugulubgov

Really an easy pick here.  I take Bellator’s lightweight division.  WSOF has Gaethje, Newell and Guillard who maybe could beat any in Bellator, but the Bellator trio of Alvarez, Chandler and Brooks are higher ranked.  Where Bellator pulls away for me is with guys like Marcin Held.  They just have more good lightweights.  However, I do consider Gaethje elite.

Welterweight:

  • Bellator
  1. Douglas Lima
  2. Andrey Koreshkov
  3. Rick Hawn
  4. War Machine
  5. Adam McDonough
  6. Michael Page
  • World Series of Fighting
  1. Rousimar Palhares
  2. Jon Fitch
  3. Jake Shields
  4. Josh Burkman
  5. Brian Foster
  6. Steve Carl
  7. Dennis Hallman
  8. Neiman Gracie
  9. Tyler Stinson

I take WSOF by a mile in this division.  Douglas Lima is a standout, but he is really it in Bellator’s 170 division.  WSOF has a veteran heavy group of welterweights who are proven.  Bellator took a hit losing Askren.

Middleweight

  • Bellator
  1. Alexander Shlemenko
  2. Brett Cooper
  3. Brandon Halsey
  4. Doug Marshall
  5. Brian Rogers
  6. Brennan Ward
  7. Ben Reiter
  • World Series of Fighting
  1. Yushin Okami
  2. Dave Branch
  3. Jesse Taylor
  4. Elvis Mutapcic
  5. Krasimir Mladenov

Let’s call this a DRAW.  I think that is fair.  If you forced me to lean one way, I may go WSOF, but it really is close.

Light Heavyweight:

  • Bellator
  1. Emmanuel Newton
  2. Rampage Jackson
  3. King Mo Lawal
  4. Tito Ortiz
  5. Atilla Vegh
  6. Mikhail Zayats
  7. Joey Beltran
  8. Phelipe Lins
  9. Liam McGeary
  10. Ramaeu Sokoudjou
  • World Series of Fighting
  1. Tyrone Spong
  2. Jake Heun
  3. Mike Kyle
  4. Kendrick Miree
  5. Rony Markes
  6. Nick Penner
  7. Angel DeAnda
  8. Dwayne Lewis
  9. D.J. Linderman

While WSOF has a few solid pieces, WSOF has a better division.  Bellator’s division is name heavy more than talent heavy.  I really do not think there are any of these guys that could compete in UFC, Tyrone Spong not withstanding.

Heavyweight

  • Bellator
  1. Vitaly Minakov
  2. Alexander Volkov
  3. Raphael Butler
  4. Blagoi Ivanov
  5. Cheick Kongo
  6. Ryan Martinez
  7. Dmitriy Sosnovskiy
  • World Series of Fighting
  1. Smealinho Rama
  2. Steve Mocco
  3. Tim Hague

I go Bellator here pretty easily.  Rama is a nice piece.  Mocco could be a better prospect than he has shown.  Minakov is just really, really good.  I think he could be one of the best fighters on Bellator’s whole roster.  Don’t forget though, WSOF has the world’s number one female strawweight in Jessica Aguilar.

I would say on paper Bellator has a slight edge.  They have more ranked fighters.  However, WSOF is establishing itself talent wise.  They have a growing roster.  Bellator has struggled to get fresh talent and prospects.  WSOF hasn’t.  Now, that could all change under the new Bellator regime.  But what I am suggesting is that the talent gap is very small.  Bellator has  a larger roster, but WSOF has as many prospects and more solid veterans.

In the end, it is the fighter roster that builds a promotion.  While, I certainly do not know the ins and outs of WSOF”s bank account, I do know they make solid roster additions.  They pay their fighters well (even more than UFC sometimes).  They seem to be a popular landing spot for free agents.  I think they continue to be  a player for a while.

UFC Hall of Fame…Who Should Be In?

It appears that UFC is going to induct former welterweight champion and famed trainer Pat Miletich into the UFC Hall of Fame.  This brings up the question of who else should be in the UFC Hall of Fame.  I think there are some notable omissions, or at least some deserving inductees.

Election to the UFC is pretty subjective.  It really is in other sports, but there is better criteria.  For example, there used to be marks in baseball that all but assured you went to the Hall of Fame. 3,000 career hits.  300 career win.  500 career home runs.  3,000 career strikeouts.  Maybe there could be some set number of career UFC wins or finishes that gets you considered.  However, in baseball, the sports writers have the vote.  I think the UFC should let the media vote for the Hall of Fame.  I think they should select a panel of media members and let them vote for Hall of Fame each year.

Personalities

  • Jeff Blatnic – Gold medal wrestler who worked from UFC 4 to UFC 32 as a commentator.  Is credited with coining the term “MMA”.  In my opinion, he would have been the most logical induction to the UFC Hall of Fame today.
  • Campbell Mclaren – UFC founder who was a part f early decision making for the sport
  • Rorion Gracie – Really the inventor of MMA as we know it, or at least UFC
  • Art Davie – UFC co-founder, who was instrumental in the early days
  • John McCarthy – It might be taboo to induct an active referee into the UFC Hall of Fame, but Big John was prominent in developing the sport of Mixed Martial arts.  He was a fixture at every UFC event for a long, long time.  He is certainly deserving one day.
  • Dana White – I know, I know he is polarizing.  I know people love to hate him.  I know this probably needs to happen after he steps away as UFC president, but no one has had more impact on the sport
  • Frank and Lorenzo Fertita – They were the ones willing to risk millions for the sport to make it.  Their impact is maybe not give the attention is deserves
  • Bruce Buffer – Since day one Buffer has been the voice of the octagon.  He is a lock hall of famer
  • Mike Goldberg – He is not my favorite commentator, but he has been a big part of the UFC for many years
  • Joe Rogan – Rogan has also been with UFC for a long time.  He is more of a lock than Goldberg for the HOF.\

Fighters From the Early Day…

  • Frank Shamrock – Probably the most deserving of the early days guys and the most notable omission in the UFC Hall of Fame.  Personal issues between him and Dana White may hinder this from ever becoming reality.
  • Bas Rutten – He was a big deal when he came into the UFC.  His record is not stellar in UFC, but he really is a legend
  • Evan Tanner – He wasn’t necessarily an all time great, but he was a former champion.

Fighters From PRIDE

Note:  I don’t know how much Zuffa would factor PRIDE careers into the Zuffa Hall of Fame, but they should.  PRIDE was a big part of the sport and while it wasn’t always Zuffa owned, the PRIDE library and fighters were sort of Zuffa adopted.  I hope UFC considers this…

  • Kazushi Sakuraba
  • Igor  Vovchanchyn
  • Wanderlei Silva
  • Mirko Cro Cop
  • Fedor Emelianenko
  • Takanori Gomi

Modern UFC Fighters

  • B.J. Penn
  • Georges St. Pierre
  • Anderson Silva
  • Rich Franklin
  • Jon Jones
  • Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
  • Dan Henderson
  • Vitor Belfort
  • Shogun Rua
  • Lyoto Machida
  • Urijah Faber
  • Ronda Rousey
  • Brock Lesnar
  • Rampage Jackson
  • Rashad Evans

Budding Hall of Famers

  • Cain Velasquez
  • Junior Dos Santos
  • Chris Weidman
  • Anthony Pettis
  • Jose Aldo
  • Renan Barao
  • Demetrious Johnson
  • Ben Henderson
  • Johny Hendricks
  • Gilbert Melendez

Borderline Hall of Fame (Hall of Very Good)

  • Josh Koscheck
  • Jon Fitch
  • Chael Sonnen…do PED’s keep him out?
  • Chris Leben
  • Yushin Okami
  • Diego Sanchez
  • Nick Diaz
  • Antonio Rogerio Nogueira
  • Josh Barnett…see Chael Sonnen
  • Shane Carwin
  • Matt Serra
  • Thiago Alves
  • Yves Edwards
  • Josh Thomson
  • Chad Mendes

 

Figuring Out The UFC Women’s Strawweight Division

There really was not a more talented women’s division that the UFC could add the 115 pound strawweight division.  The talent really is strong.  This Thursday the UFC will unveil the entire cast of the Ultimate Fighter 20, which will feature 16 women vying for the inaugural strawweight belt.  Eight of those names are etched in stone.

  • Carla Esparaza
  • Tecia Torres
  • Joanna Calderwood
  • Rose Namajunas
  • Bec Rawlings
  • Felice Herrig
  • Alex Chambers
  • Emily Kagan

I am not reporting the remainder of the cast, but here are the names I am hearing…take it for what it is worth…

  • Jessica Penne
  • Michelle Ould
  • Justine Kish
  • Aisling Daly
  • Randa Markos Thomas
  • Nina Ansaraoff
  • Jennifer Liou

There are also three women who were originally going to be a part of TUF that were forced out.

  • Paige Van Zant
  • Claudia Gadelha
  • Juliana Lima

Van Zant was pulled due to be under 21 while Lima and Gadelha were pulled due in large part to not speaking English.  The UFC has also signed two other female strawweight fighters

  • Tina Lahdemaki
  • Joana Jedrzejczyk

Lahdemaki will be debuting against Claudia Gadelha while Jedrzejczyk will debut against Lima.  I am hearing Van Zant has a fight as well, which means there is at least one additional signing.

While the TUF 20 tournament will determine the first UFC champion, I think UFC is smartly establishing the first contender.  Perhaps a mini eight woman tournament could determine a contender for the TUF winner.  I would also like to see UFC try to position girls that get eliminated in TUF that really may have promise to do well in the division.

As far as who else the UFC should sign, several names come to mind.  I would love to see Mizuki Inoue signed.  The UFC has sought her out already, but a DEEP contract has slowed that.  I expect that when that deal is finished that she will be in the UFC.  I am told the UFC wants her.  A few other names for consideration…

Katja Kankaanpaa is perhaps the most established available female strawweight.  Undefeated Polish fighter Karolina Kowalkiewicz is another name high on the list.  Kalinda Faria, Ayaka Hamasaki, Ericka Almeida, Herica Tiburico and Livia Souza are solid names that the UFC could and probably will eventually add.  Stephanie Eggink would make a lot of sense as well.  What if UFC signed a girl from the 105 division?  What if UFC booked Michelle Waterson vs. Paige Van Zant?

Regardless, I am excited about what this division will hold.  The Ultimate Fighter gains new life.  The UFC will gain at least one new female star, and I think there is some serious star potential on the TUF cast.  There is also potential talent on the rise.  With the UFC starting this division more talent will start to come up.  Female flyweights will drop down a weight class.  Female atomweights will go up a weight class.  It should be fun…

Why I Am Against the UFC’s Affirmative Action Program…

In the workplace we have Affirmative Action programs that ensure that minorities have opportunities for jobs.  It is required that businesses have a certain number of minority employees.  Perhaps there was a time and still is a place for that in the workplace.  On the other hand, maybe there are times when a more qualified person does not get a job because that position needs to be fulfilled by someone of a different race or ethnicity.  Ok, well my point has nothing to do with the legitimacy or affirmative action in America, but rather to talk about UFC’s Affirmative Action.  No, the technically do not have an in-house policy regarding employees of differing races or nationalities.  However, they do have in mind a certain amount of fighters from different countries.

When asked about the reasoning for not signing fighters like blue chip prospects Gleristone Santos, Thomas de Ameida or Leandro Higo, the answer is “we do not have roster space open for Brazilian bantamweights.”  Now, they might have room for Canadian, English, Japanese or some other nationality.  So, in other words, the UFC has in mind (or on paper) a select number of fighters they can have on roster from different countries.  I get it.  I understand signing fighters from different countries when they enter a new market.  Some complained about UFC signing a guy like Royston Wee for the Singapore card.  Is he UFC level?  Probably not.  However, they signed him because he made sense for that region.  I don’t have a problem with that.  What I do have a problem with is not signing a quality fighter because you already have enough of his nationality on roster.  If the guy is good enough to fight for you, he is good enough whether he is Brazilian, Filipino, Arab, or American.  Based on my understanding, before UFC would sign Almeida or Santos they would need to cut a Brazilian from their roster or have a late replacement on a Brazilian card.

There are numerous guys that are deserving of a UFC offer, but aren’t getting them because the UFC already has enough Brazilians.  Perhaps they do have a bloated roster that has become bloated in large part due to late replacement signings.  If they don’t have roster space, they don’t have roster space.  Period.  However, my understanding that the problem with signing guys like Almeida (and others) is not that UFC does not have available roster space, it is that they do not have available roster space for Brazilians.  Maybe they have reached their cap with English or German fighter too.  I wonder what their cap is for American fighters?

Should UFC look at nationality when signing guys?  Absolutely.  It makes sense to find stars from varying regions.  It makes sense to have fighters from all over the world.  the reality is a fighter from a country UFC is working hard to get into has a much better chance of getting signed than an American (or any other country) with equal talent and experience.  When I look at my prospect list, I realize that foreign fighters have to do less to get UFC offers than domestic fighters.  So, I do not think UFC has a prejudice towards any fighter whatsoever.  I am just saying that capping Brazilian, American or any other nationality on your roster is a bad move.  I am saying sign the best guys regardless of where they come from or how many you have on your roster currently.  Do they have loads of Brazilian talent already?  For sure.  However, when a good fighter is available they should be signed, regardless of where they call home.

How Does The Bellator Regime Change Impact the MMA Landscape?

It was long rumored that Viacom executives wanted Bjorn Rebney out.  It was also rumored that once Scott Coker’s non-compete clause ended that he would be their target.  Those rumors proved to be true.  Now that Rebney is out and Coker is in, what is the impact on the MMA world?  I think first, we will see immediate changes in Bellator.  I think we will see some personnel moves.  Perhaps Coker brings in Rich Chou or a new match maker.  I really would expect current Bellator match maker Sam Caplan to be ousted sooner rather than later.  Also, it is clear that Bellator will step away from the tournament format in favor of traditional match making.  Coker also made clear that after September we will see monthly events in lieu of weekly events in hopes of stacking cards.  All of those are good moves, in my opinion.  But those changes are not exactly what I am thinking about.  How does the change affect the MMA world at-large.

I think one thing it does it make Bellator a player for top free agents and prospects again.  I know that I have been dubbed a “Bellator hater” and for good reason.  However, I was right when I said that fighters did not like Bjorn Rebney.  We are hearing some of this now that he is out.  The truth is that following the Eddie Alvarez situation, Bellator struggled to convince fighters to sign with them.  I am not saying that was or was not based in good reason, but perception means everything.  I heard from managers and fighters alike that they did not want to go to Bellator.  Now that Coker is in, I expect a change.  Eddie Alvarez has already come out and said that he is now not certain he wants to bolt Bellator.  Scott Coker has a great rapport with fighters.  However, who could he sign at this point.  The reality is that options are very limited on the free agent market.  Perhaps the biggest available names are guys like Sergei Kharitonov, Satoshi Ishii or Paul Daley.  I don’t see them pulling Fedor out of retirement.

Maybe we see Bellator become more of a player among prospects.  I heard from several managers right after the Bjorn ouster that they were at least more interested in Bellator.  Sam Caplan is still a worry for some.  I think we could see Bellator sign some top level prospects.  When Bellator began they signed some great talent.  Somewhere along the way they had a shift in mentality.  They started signing UFC cast-offs over prospects.  This hurt them long term.  Coker is smart.  He has experience scouting and signing talent.  Look what he did with the Strikeforce Challengers series.  Fighters like Tarec Saffiedine, Tyron Woodley, Daniel Cormier,  and Ovince St. Preux became legit fighters on the Challengers series.  I think that can be duplicated in Bellator.  I think that would be a wise priority for Coker and crew.  If I was him I would try my best to snatch up the best talent that UFC is waiting on for one reason or another.  I would go after Gleristone Santos, Thomas Almeida and a few other elite blue chip prospects.  Coker knows what he is doing and is good at building rapport.  I expect fighter relations and signing to be the biggest change in the MMA landscape.  As a result, we will see competition for talent.  We may see UFC forced to sign more prospects right now.  We may see increase in fighter pay as well.

Is it possible that we see some UFC fighters leave for Bellator when their contracts end rather than re-signing with UFC?  I think that is possible.  Don’t put the cart before the horse.  Guys like Nick Diaz are not going to be in Bellator tomorrow.  They have UFC contracts.  Even though they have ties to Coker they at least have to fulfill their UFC deals.  Also, UFC is still the premiere place.  Some people forget that even when Strikeforce was in its peak, that those guys still dreamed of being in UFC.

Another question, is what does Bellator do with Eddie Alvarez.  I think Alvarez is interested in staying, but the question is do you match him against Michael Chandler or Will Brooks.  Chandler is the bigger fighter, but it is risky.  I think Chandler is Bellator’s best fighter.  So, do you risk giving him three straight losses by matching him against Eddie.  If I was in Coker’s shoes I would do Eddie vs. Brooks to unify the titles.  Then see what happens with Alvarez.  It is a much safer play.

One other way I think the change affects MMA as a whole is that I think we would see some co-promotion.  I am not sure with who or how, but Coker is willing to co-promote.  He did it with M-1 and DREAM before.  He could do it with M-1 right now.  There is no Fedor-esque star there, but there are loads of prospects in M-1.  Viacom MMA could become huge and worldwide with strong partnerships with M-1 or OneFC.  I would be willing to bet that Bellator is interested in forming a very solid partnership with OneFC.  M-1 would be a nice back up plan.  Could we even see one show where World Series of Fighting vs. Bellator?

Viacom has loads of money.  There switch indicates that they are invested in MMA.  I think they could pour more money into Bellator.  I will be interested to see what happens.  I will be interested to see how new Viacom MMA deals with some of Bjorn’s contracts that are still in place.  Rampage, for example, has a deal in place for a reality show and some other gigs.  I am told Viacom doesn’t like Rampage and may oust him.  Tito has a deal only for Viacom PPV.  Other guys have back room promises and contractual obligations that Coker may not be thrilled with.  Sit back and enjoy the rise.  Things are going to change.  I think they change for the good.

15 Fighters the UFC Should Sign Yesterday

The UFC has been signing tons of guys lately.  So, what’s 15 more?  in my opinion, these 15 fighters are past due.  These fighters could do really well right now in the UFC.

 

1. Thomas Almeida

2. Scott Askham

3. Gleristone Santos

4. Pietro Menga

5. Mansour Barnaoui

6. Yuta Sasaki

7. Leandro Higo

8. Lowen Tynanes

9. Lukasz Sajewski

10. Nicolas Dalby

11. Islam Makhachev

12. Ramazan Emeev

13. Marcin Tybura

14. Ion Cutelaba

15. Tomasz Narkun

Who else: Marif Piraev, Magomed Malikov, Denis Smoldaraev, Matej Batinic, Brandon Ropati, Vlad Popovskiy

 

What Female Strawweights Should UFC Sign Directly?

The UFC has several female strawweights on their roster, most of whom will appear on the 20th season of the Ultimate Fighter. However, the first female strawweight fight is officially booked in a match in Atlantic City between Claudio Gadelha and Tina Lahdemaki. Also getting contracts right into the UFC are Paige Van Zant and Juliana Lima. Eleven fighter contracts were bought from Invicta including, Carla Esparza, Joanne Calderwood, Tecia Torres, Rose Namajunas, Felice Herrig, Alex Chambers, Bec Hyatt and Emily Kagan.

The remained of the TUF 20 cast will be determined soon based on a recent tryout. With 12 members of the new division already known and eight more to be determined via TUF, who else could we expect to sign straight to the UFC? I am fairly confident that our top flyweight prospect, Justine Kish will make TUF as will Irish fighter Aisling Daley. I also have a good idea that Michelle Ould will be a part of the 16 person roster along with Jessica Penne. If I am right that leaves four spots on TUF. There is little possibility of guessing the remaining cast with certainty, but I can tell you 10 women’s strawweights who are worth signing directly to UFC.

1. Mizuki Inoue – The Japanese star is very young and very talented. She could be Japan’s best hope at a UFC title. I am not sure of her current contract with DEEP Jewels, but I have reliable information that prior to her last fight, UFC tried to sign her, but DEEP would not release her from her contract. Regardless, she is the best prospect in this division.
2. Katja Kankaanpaa – Katja may have the best looking resume of the bunch. She will be one of the highest ranked girls in the division not in the UFC, if they do not lock her up. Frankly, I would be surprised if she is not in UFC for her next fight.
3. Karolina Kowalkiewicz – This is another prospect who is 5-0. The Polish based fighter has a good resume throughout Europe and is certainly worth a look.
4. Stephanie Eggink – I am not sure what the situation is with the XFC champion. I am a bit surprised she did not tryout for TUF, but maybe she hopes for a direct offer.
5. Kalinda Faria – She has been on our radar for a while and has some of the best experience on this list, making her a real option to go to UFC.
6. Randa Marko Thomas -Randa showed what she was made of in her loss to Justine Kish. She also tried out for TUF, so she could get to the UFC that way, but with limited space available, I think she is more likely as a late addition some time soon.
7. Herica Tiburico – She is very young and very talented. One of her losses came to UFC signee Claudia Gadelha, so she certainly could make a case for an offer. She may be better served in Invicta for a bit.
8. Livia Souza – at only 23-years old she has a high upside and UFC may want to invest in her as a marquee Brazilian female.
9. Ericka Almeida – She is 5-0 and expected to drop down from 125 pounds. If so, she could be a real one to keep an eye on.
10. Norma Center – She may not quite be ready in terms of experience, but she has loads of potential based on her strong grappling.

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