If one word can be ascribed to Bellator MMA’s Madison Square Garden debut, it would be: Unpredictable.
While the bizarre fight finishes and outcomes for touted prospects were among the most surprising and newsworthy items of the night, one would be hard-pressed to have predicted that a pay-per-view headlining fight between Fedor Emelianenko and Matt Mitrione would be followed by an unheralded bout between Neiman Gracie and Dave Marfone.
The Gracie-Marfone fight may have always been a planned “swing bout,” but the general impression given prior to the even was that the fight would occur during the Spike-televised Bellator 180 portion of the card. When it became apparent that the fight would be bumped, several prominent MMA media members vented their confusion via Twitter.
Unlike a typical Bellator event, Bellator 180 did not have the benefit of an overrun, and therefore had to be timed out with precision.
Many pundits have been critical of the pacing of both the UFC’s and Bellator’s televised events. With the unique circumstances of Bellator 180 and Bellator NYC, it is intriguing to examine how Bellator handled their big moment.
Here is a how Bellator 180 was formatted.
- Start-2:48: Introductory promos with Mike Goldberg and Jimmy Smith
- 2:48-5:42: Mauro Ranallo, Brendan Schaub, and Josh Thomson promote the Phil Davis-Ryan Bader main event at the news desk.
- 5:42-6:35: Jen Brown reports on her conversations with Davis and Bader.
- 6:35-10:54: Entrances and introductions for Heather Hardy and Alice Yauger.
- 10:54-29:27: Entirety of Hardy-Yauger fight.
- 29:27-30:58: Post-fight replays
- 30:58-33:30: Commercial break.
- 33:30-34:18: Official decision.
- 34:18-36:24: Interview with Heather Hardy.
- 36:24-38:55: Commercial break.
- 38:55-43:03: Ranallo, Schaub, and Thomson promote pay-per-view title fights at the desk.
- 43:03-45:35: Commercial break.
- 45:35-52:10: Entrances and promotion for James Gallagher and Chinzo Machida.
- 52:10-54:35: Entirety of Gallagher-Machida fight.
- 54:35-56:42: Post-fight replays.
- 56:42-59:14: Commercial break.
- 59:14-1:01:15: Official decision and post-fight interview.
- 1:01:15-1:02:07: Read of future Bellator events.
- 1:02:07-1:03:00: Jen Brown interview with Valérie Létourneau.
- 1:03:00-1:05:53: Promo for Veterans Operation Wellness, with clips from the earlier fight between Bradley Desir and Nate Grebb.
- 1:05:53-1:08:53: Commercial break.
- 1:08:53-1:11:48: Ranallo, Schaub, and Thomson at the desk.
- 1:11:48-1:13:48: Commercial break.
- 1:13:48-1:16:48: Hype package for Davis-Bader.
- 1:16:48-1:24:02: Entrances for Davis/Bader.
- 1:24:02-1:54:18: Entirety pf Davis/Bader fight.
- 1:54:30-1:55:28: Commercial break.
- 1:55:20-Finish: Official decision.
Analysis: Looking back, Bellator did an adequate job of pacing this card. Much of the coverage was relevant to the event. The low points of the broadcast were the desk segments with Ranallo, Schaub, and Thomson. These segments took up nearly ten minutes while offering nothing particularly insightful. It seems unlikely that Gracie-Marfone could have been featured at all on this portion of the card. Unlike other televised MMA events, Bellator 180 was not filled with an endless barrage of promotional videos. Comparatively speaking, Bellator 180 had a flow that was much more enjoyable than its counterpart events. It should be noted that Bellator 180 is more analogous to a UFC Prelim card than a UFC Fight Night card or a typical Bellator event. However, if we go by the premise that this was a standalone event, this was relatively smooth to get through.
Bellator NYC’s Twitter penetration
Unquestionably, Bellator NYC and Bellator 180 had the undivided attention of the MMA world, but how much did the event resonate with the mainstream sports media?
Here is list of how the establishment sports media covered Bellator NYC and Bellator 180 on Twitter in the hours following the event.
@espn: No tweets.
@SportsCenter: No tweets.
@bokamotoESPN: Brett Okamoto covered Bellator NYC as a credentialed media member, thus tweeted throughout the event. Okamoto was also featured on the morning edition of SportsCenter discussing the event.
@FOXSports: No tweets.
@FS1: No tweets.
@DamonMartin: Damon Martin tweeted about the event throughout the night, but did not use any Bellator related hashtags.
@CBSSports: No tweets.
@CBSSportsRadio: Tweeted throughout the event, while also retweeting Outside the Cage’s coverage of the event.
@NBCSports: A single tweet linking to a story on Pro Football Talk, framing Matt Mitrione as an ex-New York Giant.
@SInow: No tweets.
@mikedyce: Mike Dyce tweeted throughout the event, but was not in attendance.
Other thoughts on Bellator’s presentation.
- Bellator’s recent announcing shakeup was one of the most anticipated elements of their seminal event. Ultimately, the night went well from a commentary perspective. Mike Goldberg came across the same way that he did in his last few months in the UFC. Those who despise Goldberg had their opinions validated, while the same can be said for his supporters. If anything, Goldberg appeared to be very relaxed in his role, even being self-deprecating when mistakes were made. Unsurprisingly, Mauro Ranallo was a natural in the booth. Ranallo’s combat sports credibility, along with his future prospects outside of MMA, makes his signing with Bellator a home run for the company
- When you discount the action between the bell, one can argue that Bellator has a much better presentation than the UFC. In particular, the fighter entrances really set the promotion apart from their larger counterpart. Bellator presents its fighters as individual stars instead of replaceable actors within the promotional machine. Bellator’s business model seems to revolve around marketing the fighters above the promotional brand. It’s unfortunate that they do not have a deeper roster to utilize this strategy.