Bellator MMA is consistently being held under the same light as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). In a landscape as ruthless as mixed martial arts (MMA), promotions are continuously trying to catch up to UFC, its massive stable of fighters, its record-breaking pay-per-view (PPV) numbers, and unmatched stranglehold on the combat sports market.
While Bellator has done a tremendous job in signing top-notch MMA free agents, creating marketing plans for some of the promotion’s most prized prospects, and putting on memorable fights inside of the cage, the organization has yet to make the change to five-round main events.
Bellator title fights currently offer 25 minutes of action, but last night’s (Fri., Oct. 20, 2017) headlining clash between newly signed Gegard Mousasi and established middleweight contender Alexander Shlemenko at Bellator 185 would have benefited from five rounds. Instead, Mousasi eked out a three-round unanimous decision win after it looked like he lost Rounds 2 and 3. An extra 10 minutes of action could have allowed Shlemenko to really hammer down his efforts and escape the controversial decision.
“That’s something we’ve been really debating internally,” Coker said of a potential main event change during Bellator 185’s post-fight press conference. “Because once we do it, we can’t go back. Right now all the main events except for title fights are three rounds. … If this was a five-round fight, it could have ended in a different outcome.
“We’re going to evaluate internally, we’ll talk to our guys and then we’ll talk about it. At some point, we’ll probably do it, but once we do it, we’re not going to be able to come back.”
Bellator 185 isn’t the only time a main event could have used two more rounds. This past June, Chael Sonnen welcomed Wanderlei Silva back to the cage at Bellator NYC and defeated the Brazilian via three-round unanimous decision. With an additional two rounds to get off his back and unload his legendary striking, Silva could have recorded a come-from-behind knockout later in the fight.
You also have Bellator 177, in which bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas narrowly defeated Leandro Higo in a three-round catchweight affair, and Bellator 175, which offered a main event grudge match between Muhammed Lawal and Quinton Jackson that was fairly disappointing over the course of the allotted three rounds.
While Coker offered no specific outline for a potential change from three-round headliners to five-round headliners, it’s only a matter of time. As more controversial decisions like Mousasi’s victory over Shlemenko at Bellator 185 pile in, the promotion will have no choice but to conform with the way UFC handles main events.