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Scott Coker putting bracketing of featherweight tournament in winners’ hands


SAN JOSE, Calif. — On Saturday night at the SAP Center, Emmanuel Sanchez, Pedro Carvalho, Adam Borics and Derek Campos advanced to the final eight of the Bellator featherweight Grand Prix tournament.

While the tournament lacked the explosiveness hoped for, there were no controversies. The first three fights ended with stoppages and the fourth was a complete ground domination in a one-sided fight.

The winners will be joined by the winners of the other four first-round fights, that take place Sept. 28 at the Forum in Los Angeles, Georgi Karakhanyan vs. A.J. McKee, Saul Rogers vs. Daniel Weichel, Darrion Caldwell vs. Henry Corrales, and a featherweight title fight with Patricio “Pitbull” Freire defending against Juan Archuleta.

And that’s where things will get interesting at the Forum.

Bellator President Scott Coker at first hinted, but then explained how the bracketing will work from there. It will be an idea that Coker saw in Japan when he was working with K-1 years ago, and is bringing it to the U.S.

At the Forum, after the four tournament fights take place, they will run a drawing show.

”It’ll be a little bit different,” Coker said. “It’ll be very much like a game show.”

Coker said that all eight winners, and their coaches will be brought out. There will be four dates set up, a mid-December date in Honolulu, a January date in Los Angeles, as well as a February and March date. All four events will be in the U.S. and will be DAZN exclusives.

Each fighter will then pick balls and open them, and inside will be numbers--one through eight. And that’s where the strategy comes in.

The fighter who drew No. 1 will get to pick which show they want to fight on. It could be based on what city they want to fight in, or based on what day they want to fight on. If they’re healthy, it’s best to pick an earlier date, because you get more rest until the semifinals. If you’re banged up, it’s best to pick the last date, so you have the most rest before the fight.

Next will come the fighter who drew No. 2. It’s the same situation, except, if he wants to fight fighter No. 1 in the quarterfinals, he knows which show to pick and gets to pick his fight. If he wants to avoid him, he knows what show not to pick.

Next comes fighter No. 3 with the same situation. With each fighter, a spot is filled. The early picks will be heavily based on date, but as each fighter is set up with the date, the next person can better choose their opponent. By the latter part, fighters will be picking more based on who they want to face, or don’t want to face. The higher the number, the fighters will be better be able to pick their next round opponents, but have less flexibility in choosing dates.

By the time fighter No. 7 gets to pick, he’ll likely have only two options, both two open dates and likely two open opponents. The fighter who draws No. 8 has no strategy. He’s facing whoever hasn’t gotten an opponent on whatever date is left.

Coker envisions the semifinals of the tournament to take place in May or June, with the finals in September.

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