After three solid seasons of tournaments and signing mixed martial artists from across the globe, Bellator Fighting Championship (BFC) is building itself a roster of talent filled divisions. The organization is gaining the signatures of not only high level fighters but, in what distinguishes them from other big promotions, is also giving the young guns a shot at a championship belt. There are, however, a slew of prospective Bellator fighters that could help the promotion bulk up its roster with top notch competitors and potentially launch the organization into the big show.
In most major sports, the acquisition of fresh talent is handled in the draft. In this three part series, MMA Gospel will discuss what fighters should be Bellator’s top selections if MMA had such an institution. From the up-and-coming to the experienced gunslingers of MMA, here is a potential draft listing of fan favorites and showstoppers that would prove beneficial for both the fighter and Bellator to be added to the index. Up first are the women, bantamweights and featherweights.
WOMEN’S DIVISION: After signing some of the best female fighters throughout the world, the most notable being “Jag” Jessica Aguilar (10-4), ”Mega Megu” Megumi Fujii (18-1), Lynn Alvarez (5-2), and the reigning champion “The Warrior Princess” Zoila Frausto (8-1), Bellator has planted the seeds of a Women’s MMA (WMMA) takeover against Strikeforce. While Bellator lacks the big names involved with the Strikeforce promotion, they could potentially build a much more solid overall WMMA roster and with the help of exclusive contracts, have the ability to build the names they already have. Here are some names Bellator may want to sign to their newly formed WMMA wing.
AJ McAvoy (1-0): Although she has competed in only one professional MMA bout McAvoy hasn’t had a fight, professional or amateur, last longer than 2:30. Her exceptional stand-up is complimented by the fact that she is a two time Illinois Golden Gloves champion; with those credentials, her boxing is likely some of the best in the female division and her training with the Carlson Gracie camp rounds out her skill set nicely. A chance at the Bellator tournament will give her a shot at more opponents and also make her a viable contender for the gold. With McAvoy in the BFC cage, fans would see stunning knockouts, raw stand-up, and submission victories. AJ always brings her A-Game and makes a spectacle out of every fight.
Amanda Buckner (11-5): Buckner is a Bodog Fight veteran who hones skills in various aspects of mixed martial arts but specializes in Jiu-Jitsu. With eight of her total 11 wins coming by submission, her biggest strength is in her ground game. Buckner’s submission skills and resiliency will afford her several style vs. style match-ups in Bellator with perhaps one of the most intriguing being against fellow submission ace Megumi Fujii. The match surely would result in a submission victory for one of the two women. Buckner has been away from competition since April 2008 when she suffered a Unanimous Decision loss to Takayo Hashi (12-3) at Fatal Femmes Fighting 4: Call of the Wild. She currently runs the Academy of Mixed Martial Arts in Portland, Maine with her husband Jay Jack, also an MMA fighter. A return to the cage may reignite her passion for competition, especially once she sees that she is a formidable opponent in the Bellator Women’s Tournament.
Jennifer Howe (13-2): A very well rounded fighter who can finish fights on the feet or on the mat, her only two losses came in succession by one woman: “Roxy” Roxanne Modafferi (14-5). Howe has not competed since May of 2005 but her first round TKO win over female MMA juggernaut Tara LaRosa (19-2) in the Hook N Shoot promotion makes it difficult to not consider her a shoe-in for a tournament finalist. A return to the MMA stage could still be in her future and with Bellator’s women’s division just getting started, a solid fighter with Howe’s caliber could add some more heat to the fire of the division.
Tara LaRosa: Tara is perhaps the most well known female fighter next to “Conviction” Gina Carano (7-1) and “Cyborg” Cris Santos (10-1). A champion in multiple promotions, she is highly acclaimed for her battle for the Bodog Fight female title against Kelly Kobold Gavin (14-3) in July 2007. With her world class experience and only two losses, LaRosa would be a strong addition to any WMMA roster. LaRosa boasts wins over Roxanne Modafferi, Julie Kedzie (10-8), and Amanda Buckner. A spot in Bellator’s Women’s Tournament will make her one of the most dangerous opponents but also one of the biggest targets. Ultimately, of the potential newcomers, LaRosa poses the biggest threat to current Women’s Champion Zoila Frausto.
BANTAMWEIGHT: The already fast paced Bellator promotion has had particularly exciting fights since the addition of the 135lb. division, perhaps most notably with the title fight between “Fun Size” Zack Makovsky (12-2) and “Wild” Ed West (12-5). The battle was one for the ages and resulted in Makovsky winning the BFC Bantamweight Championship via Unanimous Decision. The following could be a few promising additions to the bantamweight division.
“The Rage” Chase Beebe (15-5): Since losing his WEC belt to former top bantamweight “Angel” Miguel Torres (37-3) Beebe has had a tough time staying on the winning side. Suffering from a four fight losing skid he rebounded with several submission wins only to be knocked back down in a DREAM bout. He currently is riding a three fight win streak and looking to get back on the strong side of the big promotions. Bellator’s tournament style organization would be ideal for the submission expert to try his hand at getting back on the upside of the 135lb. division. Always bringing everything he has into the cage, Beebe is a fan favorite whose aggressive style may bring more to the Bellator fan base.
Rani Yahya (14-5): The WEC veteran is currently on thin ice with the Zuffa family. A two fight slide heading into a UFC fight next month can put a lot on a fighter’s mind. Yahya has won 13 of his 14 victories by submission and even fought for the WEC title against Chase Beebe. He came up short but the fight was a tough one. If he is cut from the UFC after a loss, Bellator should waste no time to sign the Brazilian ground wizard. As an added bonus, if Beebe and Yahya both are signed, a rematch could be a very high profile fight for Bellator fans.
“The Apache Kid” Cole Escovedo (13-5): The first and former WEC Featherweight Champion’s career was questionable after he took three years away to have surgery on his spine after a bad staph infection left him partially paralyzed. After the surgery and recovery time he returned to the world of MMA this time as a bantamweight. “The Apache Kid” has not had much success recently, going 2-4 in his past six fights. Escovedo has been fighting under the Tachi Palace Fights banner since earlier this year, but Bellator likely would serve as the perfect promotion for him to get back on his feet with wins over solid opponents, and maybe event get another shot at championship glory. The majority of Escovedo’s fights have been won via submission, though he also has good hands and several TKO’s to his name.
FEATHERWEIGHT: Bellator’s featherweight division is stacked full of both experienced fighters and unknown faces. The common element between the two? They know how to fight and put on a good show doing it. The current champion Joe Warren (6-1) was the underdog of the season and he battled his way to the top and knocked out then undefeated champion Joe Soto (9-1). Here are a couple of men that could make a solid showing against the champion.
“Maverick” Micah Miller (16-3): A WEC veteran and brother to UFC lightweight Cole Miller (17-4), Micah has gone 6-1 in his past seven fights and is riding a six fight win streak. Since his release by the WEC in 2008, he has fought only in lesser US promotions and the Japanese organization DREAM. Miller brings a world class resume to the cage. Much like his brother he is a submission ace but also has a good number of wins with his striking. A spot in the 145lb. tournament would be not only a good way to gain the view of the public eye again but it would give him solid opponents to add to his win column. With the Miller brother attitude and an arsenal of submissions, Micah could be a serious threat to the Bellator featherweight division.
Anthony Morrison (14-9): Morrison is a WEC veteran with recent consecutive losses to former champion “MTB” Mike Brown (20-6) and undefeated rising star “Money” Chad Mendes (9-0), losing both by submission in the first round. With nine of his 14 wins coming via TKO/KO stoppage and 4 decisions, his submission game seems to be his weakest link with seven of his losses coming by submission. His gameplan is always to keep the fight standing to put on a good performance for the fans, but when it comes to top stars in the 145lb. division his luck seems to run short. A spot in the Bellator tournament could give him some new opponents at a competitive level.