MMA Column: On Bellator's season opener and light heavyweight tournament

Submitted by John LaRocca

Bellator MMA is going all out for their upcoming Season 10 on Spike TV, with Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in the Light Heavyweight Tournament, five straight Bellator title fights and eventually a Pay Per View featuring Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez defending against Michael Chandler to finish off their classic rivalry.    
Opening Season 10 at Bellator 110 will be a 4-Man Light Heavyweight Tournament featuring Bellator's biggest name star in Rampage Jackson.  The tournament also features King Mo, the former Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Christian M'Pumbu and russian grappler, Mikhail Zayats.  The brackets are drawn up as  Rampage versus M'Pumbu and King Mo versus Zayats.  Obviously, Bellator is hoping that Rampage defeats M'Pumbu and King Mo defeats Zayats to set up a big tournament final to be the semi-main event of Bellator's first PPV.  The thought of the fantastic promo ability of both Rampage and King Mo building up the fight would help draw a lot more interest to the PPV. 
It is a great plan, but I see one problem and that is Mikhail Zayats.  Like most Russian fighters, Zayats strength is his grappling and he is extremely powerful.  King Mo is a great wrestler, but Zayats is no slouch either.  The idea is this fight will remain standing and King Mo would have the edge.  When it comes to the hands, Zayats has one punch knockout power.  There is a strong chance that Zayats will be ruining Bellator's plans for the finals. 
Rampage has a much easier road against Christina M'Pumbu.  Though he is a former Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion, M'Pumbu is a small 205 and probably was one of the Bellator's weakest champions of all time.  Rampage should have no problem defeating M'Pumbu if he comes at the former champion aggressively.   The key for M'Pumbu to score a huge upset is to stay behind his jab and take Rampage into deep waters in which his cardio may catch up with him.  Honestly, this is smart booking move by Bellator in giving Rampage someone he has a strong chance in beating and someone they can hype up as he was a former champion.
Personally, I would have opened up Season 10 with Rampage Jackson versus King Mo. With Rampage on free TV, the Bellator season 10 opener will do a strong rating, but why not go for it all with booking Rampage versus King Mo?   Unlike pro wrestling, it is very hard to build up future fights in MMA by having each fighter win to an eventual clash.  Nine times out of ten one of those two will suffer a loss and a lot of money is thrown out the window.  You have to book now or risk losing all interest in people no longer caring to see that certain fight.  With King Mo losing twice to Season 9 and Bellator Interim Light Heavyweight Champion Emanuel Newton,  the shine on King Mo's crown has rubbed off. A loss to Mikhail Zayats would be devastating to a future Rampage-King Mo fight.
I respect the hell out of Bellator matchmaker Sam Caplan and Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney for rolling the dice with this booking of Rampage and King Mo in the Light Heavyweight Tournament.  For them, I really hope it pays off.  

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