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Beyond the Octagon – New Bellator Signings and Match-Ups

Bellator Signings - Justin Lawrence RFA 25 (Credit: D.Mandel/Sherdog)
Photo: Justin Lawrence (by Dave Mandel for Sherdog.com)

Lawrence Signing a Positive Indicator of Bellator’s Recruitment Policy

On Thursday, Bellator MMA announced the signing of current RFA featherweight champion Justin Lawrence. While the acquisition may not have received the same media fanfare given to that of Phil Davis earlier in the week, the move says every bit as much about the company’s recruitment policy.

Despite winning and defending RFA gold since leaving, it is his time with the UFC that most fans will remember him for. Lawrence was a cast member on The Ultimate Fighter: Live, and went on to make three appearances for the company.

Back to back losses, against Max Holloway and Daniel Pineda, saw Lawrence released from the UFC in 2013. He may not have been ready for the big time then, but there are positive signs that he is now.

Lawrence has gone 3-0 since leaving the UFC, winning the RFA 145-pound title, and defending it against Sam Toomer on April 10th. His performance that night, a crushing stoppage of the previously undefeated Toomer, suggested that he is ready for bigger and better things.

In completing the capture, Bellator have added another talented fighter to an already exciting featherweight division. Lawrence is an Alliance MMA product who has a name people will recognize, and years left in the tank to make a run. Sound familiar?

It should, because let’s be honest, for all the attention grabbed by their signing of Davis, another Alliance MMA fighter, he is not a star in the true sense of the word. Davis is a definite top ten light heavyweight with some credible wins on his resume, and has a recognizable name. Recognizable, familiar, rather than one which will draw people in vast numbers to the show.

Essentially, the signing of Lawrence is a smaller version of the same thing. Add a little bit more to the potential column for Lawrence, a little bit more to the name value one for Davis. Combine the two and you have a positive indication that Bellator’s recruitment policy is well balanced.

We all panicked when news broke that Kimbo Slice was on his way to Bellator. That panic turned into something more desperate when we learned that he would make his promotional debut against 51-year-old Ken Shamrock.

The fight will almost certainly be a short term ratings win, but the sport’s more devout fans voiced their concern at what it really signified. An influx of former stars was predicted, fighters years past their best in embarrassing match-ups.

The signings of Davis and Lawrence have disproved that theory, and serve as the perfect compliment to a roster that has a little bit of everything. Scott Coker insisted in their official press release that it is a sign of things to come.

“We remain committed to not just signing proven stars, but also recruiting top prospects from regional promotions, evidenced by our recent signing of RFA Featherweight Champion and top young, up and coming fighter Justin Lawrence. I said it before and I will continue to say it, we will build them from ground up and hit it from the top down.”

If Coker can continue to find the right mix of recognized names, exciting fighters, and prospects with serious top ten potential, then the company will be in good hands.

Addition of Lashley vs Thompson, Why Not a Tournament?

Lashley Bellator (Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

The Bellator 138 card, headlined by Ken Shamrock vs Kimbo Slice, now has another heavyweight attraction. Former WWE superstar, Bobby Lashley will face Pride and EliteXC veteran James Thompson in a rematch of their 2012 Super Fight League bout.

Thompson was victorious that night, winning a unanimous decision. He was also one half of the most watched fight in mixed martial arts history. Thompson’s fight with Kimbo Slice under the EliteXC banner in 2008 had over 7 million people tuning in.

When you add the pro wrestling backgrounds of both Lashley, and Ken Shamrock, the four heavyweights competing at Bellator 138 have plenty of history to connect them. Why then is this not a tournament for a shot at the heavyweight title?

Whether you like what they represent at this point in their respective careers or not, any combination of the four men would pull Bellator a decent rating. Turn their fights into a fan friendly tournament and that final could do another big number for them.

Bellator 137 Card Complete With Addition of Caldwell vs Silva

With WSOF keeping quiet, and OneFC and InvictaFC focusing on shows next weekend, the non-UFC news has been dominated by Bellator this week.

Bellator 137 is set to air on May 15th, and now has a complete four fight main card thanks to the addition of Darrion Caldwell vs Rafael Silva at bantamweight.

Caldwell is an unbeaten 6-0 prospect who holds three wins inside the Bellator cage. Opposing him, Silva is a former Bellator title challenger with 22 professional wins to his name.

The title picture at 135 pounds is wide open following Marcos Galvao’s victory over Joe Warren at Bellator 135. It was the second fight between the two, and in capturing the title to give them one win a piece, Galvao may have set up a rubber match further down the line.

Should Bellator book that third fight, which seems the most logical outcome at this point, it would create time for the rest of the division to stake their claim to be next in line.

L.C. Davis beat Hideo Tokoro in the outstanding co-main event at Bellator 135, and former champion Eduardo Dantas will meet Mike Richman, also at Bellator 137.

Right now it is not just about who wins these fights, but who can put in the most impressive performances. That can only be a good thing for the fans, both at Bellator 137, and beyond.

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