Morning Report: Bellator MMA debuts on Spike; Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort get heated in Brazil

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bellator MMA brought out the big guns for its long-awaited Spike TV debut, and despite some lingering presentation issues and a perplexing bout order -- countless casual fans likely believed Petruzelli vs. Noe to be the main event, instead of the fantastic lightweight title fight that preceded it -- Bellator 85 was still an enjoyable first step for mixed martial art's new No. 2.

The question now is whether Bellator can sustain its new audience well into week five, six, or seven, once the title fights drop off and the starpower becomes lacking. That remains to be seen, but after witnessing Thursday night's fireworks, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney can be sure of one thing. He has a monster on his hands in Michael Chandler.

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5 MUST-READ STORIES

Chandler dominates Hawn. Reigning Bellator lightweight champion dismantled former Olympian Rick Hawn in the main event of Bellator 85, submitting the season six tournament winner via rear-naked choke midway through round two.

Curran retains title. Bellator featherweight champion Pat Curran edged Patricio "Pitbull" Freire, earning a split decision victory to defend his belt in the first ever Bellator MMA bout televised on Spike. For more, check out MMA Fighting's complete photo gallery from the event, courtesy of Esther Lin.

Bisping, Belfort exchange words. Following a heated staredown at Thursday's UFC on FX 7 pre-fight press conference, Michael Bisping ripped into his opponent, Vitor Belfort. Exclaimed Bisping: "Do I need to bring my mouth piece? Can he control himself? Is roid rage going to kick in? Will TRT be an issue? Are his levels elevated? Have his testicles shrunk? Does he have a penis? He is a penis. Just because he is a penis, does that mean he has a penis?"

Barnett still unsigned, added to UFC.com. A fighter profile for Josh Barnett has been added to the official website of the UFC, UFC.com. Regardless, Barnett claims to remain a free agent.

Poirier replaces Siver. Featherweight contender Dustin Poirier has replaced the injured Dennis Siver against Cub Swanson at UFC on FUEL 7.

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MEDIA STEW

My, oh my, what could this be? All 22 TUF Finales? All 22 TUF finales.

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There's video blogs, and there's video blogs. The latest Dana White vlog falls into the latter. Let's rundown a quick top-4 moments, in no particular order: 1.) White's incredulous reaction to the bizarre 30-27 handed to Melvin Guillard, 2.) Lorenzo slickly pulling cheese and grapes out of his pocket like it ain't no thang, 3.) The horror movie blood smears coating the Octagon around Joe Lauzon, and 4.) JDS staring himself down in the mirror pre-fight (he's a scary, scary man), contrasted with the lights dimming on a swollen post-fight JDS en route to the hospital.

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This footage is the first supposed leak from EA Sports' upcoming UFC video game. Note that nothing has been confirmed, so take it for what it is.

(HT: Reddit)

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Now this is what I like to see from my staredowns. Also, Bisping's maroon jacket is utterly brillant.

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Who knew Ronda Rousey and Liz Carmouche were going to be so chummy?

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That's it, folks. Let's shut it down. Yves Edwards wins.

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EDDIE'S THOUGHTS

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UNFORTUNATE

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OF COURSE

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GETTING A LITTLE HEATED

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TRICKERY

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STRONG WORDS

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LIKE MOTHER, LIKE DAUGHTER

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CALLING IT

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FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Announced yesterday (Thursday, January 17, 2013):

  • UFC on FUEL 7: Dennis Siver (21-8) out with injury, Dustin Poirier (13-2) in against Cub Swanson (18-5)

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FANPOST OF THE DAY

Today's Fanpost of the Day comes from Sweet Scientist, who argues: Jon Jones Needs A Rival, To Cement His Greatness

In boxing it's expected that all great champions at some point come across an opponent equally as great. It's as if God himself cleared the board, leaving only two men on deck to shape the moments and events that not only define both combatants, but the sport as a whole for the next decade to come. Just as God given talent, a great personality, a Hollywood movie like narrative, and the right opportunity can land a fighter into the financial and mainstream stratosphere, a rival in one's line of sport is just as important to the broader scope of legacy and greatness; if not more so. Would we likely speak of Manny Pacquiao as the greatest Filipino fighter of all time if it were not for Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, and his chief rival of the three Juan Manuel Marquez? One could ask the same question concerning Barrera and Morales.

Without Thomas Hearns, Marvin Hagler, and the great Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard wouldn't have been anything other than a talent champion who had a really good career. But because of those three legendary rivals, Leonard staked his claim among boxing lore for all eternity.

In this world of combat we so love it takes two to fight, and two to write the story remembered for decades after the fact. A story told by warriors, one written in blood, sweat, and tears. A novel of sorts, involving love, hatred, heartbreak, adulation, and at the end of it all: Respect.

For mixed martial arts the historic timeline of great rivalries is but a decade or so long, unlike boxing which has been in the public sports and mainstream eye for well over a century. Chuck Liddell-Tito Ortiz, Tito Ortiz-Ken Shamrock, Matt Sera-Matt Hughes, and so on. These were the rivalries that defined the legacies of each fighter involved. Today however it seems those great back and forth rivalries of the past have gone quiet. In particular for Jon Jones, the UFC tried to create a Jones-Evans rivalry but it wasn't so. The best rivalries take place when a dominant champion suddenly meets his match against an accomplished challenger who it seems is the only one that can master whatever that dominant champion throws at them.

For all his talent and dominance, Jon Jones doesn't have that one opponent that gives him cause to lose sleep at night. He's Manny Pacquiao without a JMM, Arturo Gatti without a Micky Ward. Some say Jones is simply too good for that scenario to present itself; I say the UFC 205lb division does him no favors by the fact that they essentially sport a "Who's who" of over the hill, faded, 6-1 former champs who are all in their mid 30s.

I would like to see Jon vacate his title and move to heavyweight. I believe the reason he's yet to be challenge in a serious manner is because for one he's but a mere champion of the Klitschko kind in that he's dominating a critically watered down and shallow division where the talent gap is that of the grand canyon. It's Jon Jones and then a bunch of gatekeepers and prospects, with a few fringe contenders sprinkled in here and there. There are no top flight opponents who if given a shot at Jones today could beat him or at least barely loss to him.

Jones also enjoys the advantage of being a heavyweight fighting at light heavyweight. He's 6'4, with a wingspan that rivals Kevin Durant's, and I'm sure he walks around near the 230 or 240 mark. As for the other guys at light heavy with a similar build to Jones: They should be heavyweights too so that's no excuse.

Once he decides to move up which I don't believe he's in a mad rush to do so, that's when we'll see how great Jones is, and how great he can become. Alistair Overeem, Junior Dos Santos, Cain Velasquez, Dan Cormier, and those boys well, Rampge Jackson, Rashad Evans, and Shogun Rua they are not. I don't believe it'll be as difficult for those heavyweights to figure out Jones as it was the light heavyweights.

There's nothing left for you at 205, time to move on Jon.

Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me on Twitter @shaunalshatti and we'll include it in Monday's column.

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