Last night, Bjorn Rebney announced that Bellator 112 will feature the opening rounds of the welterweight tournament and be headlined by a trilogy-completing featherweight title fight between Daniel Straus and Pat Curran. If this fight booking comes as a surprise to you, well, it should. But allow Bjorn to clear up the confusion:
Daniel Straus and Pat Curran are two of the best featherweights on the planet and deserve every ounce and praise and recognition they receive.
Hard to argue with that. Now if we can just wrap things up without saying something ridiculous…
Our featherweight division continues to be the deepest and strongest featherweight division in MMA, and I’m very excited to have this title fight headline a huge night of fights on March 14 from The Horseshoe Hammond.
Well, at least he tried.
Let me see if I can follow Bjorn’s line of logic here: Straus just defeated Curran by clear-cut unanimous decision last November. Meanwhile, there are two, count ‘em, TWO, featherweight tournament winners waiting in the wings for a shot at Straus. One is Magomedrasul Khasbulaev, who has been unable to secure a fight license in America since winning the season 8 tournament (which, let’s be honest, Bellator probably has a hand in). The other is Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, who just won his second featherweight tournament at Bellator 108 and is the only man to defeat Straus under the Bellator banner.
Yet despite all this, Bellator is granting Curran an immediate rematch against a guy who dominated him just two months ago. And that somehow validates the depth of the Bellator featherweight roster? You gotta hand it to Bjorn, he is second to none in the fight game in his ability to keep a straight face while making immediately contradictory and insanely unaware statements.
Look, it’s not that we’re upset by the idea of Straus/Curran III, it’s just that we’re disappointed by it. Bellator is essentially creating a logjam at 145 lbs to what, cash in on a rematch that fans aren’t really asking for?
Not every trilogy can be Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler, and this fight isn’t even in the same ballpark as that one from an entertainment (or logical) standpoint. Alvarez vs. Chandler II was a FOTY contender that ended in a controversial decision (and THAT fight was only booked to settle Alvarez’s lawsuit with Bellator, BTW). Straus vs. Curran II was a largely forgettable fight in which the champion was dominated by a contender who hadn’t fought in over a year. If they are truly destined to fight a third time, why not let Curran work his way up like everyone else?
Booking another immediate rematch not only betrays the basic principles of Bellator’s tournament structure, but effectively kills the momentum of the previous tournament winners and ices the fight that fans should be seeing. By the time “Frodo” or “Pitbull” get their shots, most fans will be too caught up in the season 10 tournament to remember that either of them won their respective seasons in the first place. Imagine if Frank Dux, fresh off impressive wins over guy #1 and guy#2, was forced to ride the pine for a year until Chong Li and Ray Jackson could finally settle things. Tension gone. Movie over. Boner killed.
While rematching “Pitbull” and Straus wouldn’t exactly promote the idea that Bellator’s featherweight division is “the deepest in MMA,” it would at least clear up some space before another featherweight tournament winner is crowned. Seems simple enough, right? Well not in Bellator, where title shots are earned, not given (unless you’re a familiar face, in which case we will give you whatever you want).