COMMENTARY | Bellator's move to Spike TV got underway with a bang when Pat Curran defended his featherweight title with a razor-thin split decision victory over Patricio Freire (47-48, 48-47, 48-47). Fortunately, the fireworks didn't end there as Michael Chandler submitted Rick Hawn to retain the lightweight title, and Mikhail Zayats upset Renalto Sobral via technical knockout.
Here are three thoughts on the Bellator 85 main card:
Curran earns a close victory
Bellator was probably hoping for the Curran-Freire bout to be a fast-paced brawl, but it got the next best thing. Both men went toe-to-toe for five rounds and put together a memorable fight to open Bellator's tenure on Spike TV. Curran (18-4) stuck with his jabs and straight punches, while Freire (17-2) utilized more combos throughout the fight. It wasn't always pretty, but it gave the fans a close, hard-fought battle that could have gone either way on the judges' scorecards.
Perhaps the most astounding thing about this fight is that both men delivered a solid performance despite missing a combined 30 months of action. Both Freire and Curran fought to their strengths, and in the end, they put together a good opening bout on Spike.
Zayats upsets Sobral,
Renalto Sobral (37-10) has been fighting for a long time, but after watching Mikhail Zayats (20-6) drop him in the first round, I think it's time for him to retire. Sobral has lost three out of his last five fights, and all three of them were by stoppage. There comes a point in every fighter's career when the body says it's time to stop. I think it's that time for Sobral.
Meanwhile, the unheralded Zayats picks up the biggest victory in his career. He's spent most of his time fighting in M-1, so I don't really have a feel for him yet. Zayats's clinch work against the fence was solid, but not great, and he definitely proved that he has knockout power. He'll definitely be someone to keep an eye on throughout the rest of the light heavyweight tournament.
Chandler is one of the best lightweights in the world
Rick Hawn (14-2) entered his lightweight title fight against Michael Chandler (11-0) as the underdog, but I don't think anyone expected him lose in such dominant fashion. Chandler was all over Hawn from the beginning of the bout until he submitted him in the second round. There was never a point when Chandler was in trouble.
There will be some people who choose not to rank Chandler as a top ten lightweight, but after watching him beat Eddie Alvarez, Akihiro Gono, and Hawn in the past year, I think that's exactly where he belongs. I have to wonder who Bellator will put him up against next because he's running out of challengers. Chandler deserves to fight the best lightweights out there, and that's not going to happen unless Bellator finds a way to draw more talent to the organization.
Derek Ciapala has been following MMA for 20 years. He has been published on GatewayMMA.com, UltimateApocalypse.com and multiple other websites. You can check him out on Facebook or on Twitter @dciapala.