Bellator MMA has had a big 2016 thus far, having bolstered their roster with some exciting new talent.
They picked up former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson, and hard-hitting heavyweights Sergei Kharitonov and Matt Mitrione. They signed Irish up-and-comer James Gallagher, and a handful of talented flyweight prospects in Bruna Vargas, Bruna Ellen and Kenya Miranda. They outduelled the UFC in the battle for Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. And most recently, they picked up former Pride middleweight champion Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva who, despite a recent PED bust, remains one of MMA’s most beloved figures.
Silva joins the Bellator fold at a time when the organization’s middleweight and light heavyweight divisions—the two divisions in which he has competed—are stronger than ever. This, of course, means the Brazilian legend as plenty of exciting and challenging matchup possibilities as a member of the Bellator roster.
As a middleweight, for example, he could look forward to scraps with dangerous strikers like Melvin Manhoef, Hisaki Kato, or Joe Schilling. He might be paired with a beefed up Paul Daley, who has made no secret of his desire for a bout with The Axe Murderer. He might also be matched up with Bellator staples like Doug Marshall and Brandon Halsey, or a fellow UFC outcast in Kendall Grove. And of course, there’s always the possibility of an immediate title shot, which would pit him against the division’s reigning king, Rafael Carvalho.
At light heavyweight, Silva has no fewer options. He could find himself in the cage with a fellow legend like Tito Ortiz, or a long-time rival in Rampage Jackson. He might also mix it up with one of the division’s best in Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal, Linton Vassell, or Phil Davis. He could throw down with the winner of Brian Rogers and Alessio Sakara’s looming light heavyweight bout, in a pairing that would almost guarantee a knockout. And once again, he could find himself in the Bellator cage with the current divisional ruler, Liam McGeary.
The point of this rapid-fire list of matchmaking possibilities is simply to illustrate that Silva has plenty of compelling options as a Bellator fighter; options that seem to guarantee excitement, but would also provide the seasoned vet with a legitimate challenge. Considering Bellator has recently disappointed with ridiculous bookings like Royce Gracie vs. Ken Shamrock and a clash of former street fighters in Kimbo Slice vs. Dada 5000, this is fantastic news.
Unfortunately, it’s already looking like Silva will probably find himself in a freak show fight reminiscent of the aforementioned Gracie/Shamrock/Kimbo/Dada disasters. Yes, despite the plethora of legitimate options that await him under the Bellator umbrella, the Brazilian legend seems to be making a b-line toward a bout with Kimbo Slice.
It began with a strange callout from Silva, who voiced his desire for a bout with Slice on The MMA Hour.
“One guy I would love to fight is Kimbo, and I don't go to the ground,” Silva told Ariel Helwani on the show. “No. I want to fight in his area because the truth is, I want to make a good show, I want to give emotions to my fans.”
While Silva’s urge to please the fans is commendable, a bout with somebody like Melvin Manhoef, Alessio Sakara or Rampage would be no less entertaining, and far more of a legitimate test. Of course, the intention here is not to disparage Kimbo Slice, who has defied the odds to make a real go of his MMA career, but we’re talking about one of the most decorated fighters in MMA history, declining though he may be, throwing down with a 42-year-old with just eight fights to his name. There are simply way better choices out there for both men.
Yet Kimbo has now responded to Silva’s previous callout, telling Germany’s GNP1.de that he’d happily oblige the legend in a slugfest.
“I like Wanderlei, I think he'll give me a good fight. He's gonna want a knockout like I'm gonna want a knockout,” Slice said. “I don't mind getting knocked out by Wanderlei, but I don't mind knocking [his] ass out either, believe that! So it's gonna be like a good fight. If he wants some, come get it.”
Kimbo would be more suitably paired with one of Bellator’s middling heavyweights, and Silva would be better off fighting any number of other prospective opponents, the wheels seem to be in motion for a Kimbo vs. Wandy fight in the Bellator cage. Of course, both are currently dealing with PED-related suspensions, but now that Bellator is testing the waters in Europe, well outside the jurisdiction of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, this strange pairing could well occur on foreign soil before the year is out. Hooray…
Then again, it’s important that we be honest with ourselves. Though Silva and Slice have far more appealing options than one another, and though their sharing the cage would be a perfect example of the ridiculous, circuslike matchmaking for which Bellator has recently caught so much flack, we’ll all tune in. Bizarre as this showdown would be, the curiosity as to which man would still be standing after the fight’s initial exchanges would be too much for any fight fan to resist. Bellator knows this, which is precisely why this absurd possibility could soon become a reality.
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