September 13th’s Bellator 99 card was supposed to feature Vladmir Matyushenko’s promotional debut against former Bellator light-heavyweight champ Christian M’Pumbu, but a hand injury has forced M’Pumbu off the card. Stepping in to replace him against the Janitor is Houston Alexander, the ex-UFC brawler whose brief stint in the Octagon ended in one of the saddest fights of all time.
If this match was booked in 2007, it would be awesome. Back then, Matyushenko was dominating everybody in his path while competing for the IFL, while Alexander was establishing himself as a dangerous force in the UFC, knocking out Keith Jardine and Alessio Sakara in short order, before suffering his first loss to Thiago Silva.
Six years later, they’re both struggling to remain somewhat relevant. Matyushenko recently bounced out of the UFC after suffering back-to-back first-round losses against Alexander Gustafsson and Ryan Bader, while Houston Alexander has been rebuilding himself in the Nebraska-based Victory Fighting Championship, where he won two fights this year and became the promotion’s light-heavyweight champion last month with a knockout of Chuck Grigsby. Alexander’s post-UFC record is 6-4 with one no-contest.
As a short-notice replacement, Bellator could have done worse than Houston Alexander. But BloodyElbow passes along an alarming trend…
Instead of talking about the new fight, let’s have a look at the age of Bellator’s recent lightweight and light heavyweight signings:
Quinton Jackson – 35 years old
Tito Ortiz – 38 years old
Houston Alexander – 41 years old
Vladimir Matyushenko – 42 years old
Marcus Davis – 39 years old (will be 40 this week)
John Alessio – 34 years old
By the end of this week Bellator will have recently signed 3 fighters aged at least 40, as well as Rampage and Tito who are headlining their November PPV. John Alessio is the youngest of that group at 34, but he’s been competing since 1998, is winless in his last 3, and is the only fighter in UFC history to sport an 0-5 record with the promotion.
So instead of developing new talent, Bellator is squeezing the last drops of juice out of aging UFC washouts. It’s a new direction for the company, likely spurred by the new corporate overlords at Viacom, who want recognizable names on their broadcasts by any means necessary.
That’s not a bad strategy in theory. I’ve always felt that one of the things holding Bellator back is that so many of its events lack big-name headliners; good luck drawing casual fans when M’Pumbu vs. Vegh is your marquee fight. The problem isn’t that Bellator is picking up the UFC’s leftovers, it’s that the ex-UFC fighters they’re picking up are all carrying the stench of failure. John Alessio is arguably the worst UFC fighter of all time. Houston Alexander couldn’t handle Kimbo Slice. Tito Ortiz should be retired now, not gearing up for a comeback. But now they’ll all be bangin’ on Spike TV, making viewers wonder if they’ve stumbled upon an old episode of UFC Unleashed.
The results will speak for themselves, one way or the other. If Bellator can boost its TV ratings with a bunch of UFC refugees on the roster, then it will all be worth it. Luckily, Bellator 99 will be headlined by a featherweight battle featuring at least one home-grown star in Patricio Freire. His opponent will be Diego Nunes, who was released by the UFC earlier this year. It is what it is.