Newton’s Knockout of ‘King Mo’ illustrates the Best — and Worst — of Tournament Format

Posted: February 22, 2013 in Commentary/Opinion

Did you watch Bellator last night? If not, you missed some bedlam. In all the highlight real finishes on the evening, none were more shocking than Emanuel Newton knocking out heavy tourney favorite Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal with a vicious spinning back fist.

While incredible, this knockout spotlights both the good and the bad of Bellator’s tournament model. As all NCAA basketball fans know, a tournament format—especially the single elimination variety—has absolutely no margin for error. That’s the whole intrigue…anything can happen. And that’s how Bellator wants everyone to think going in. Exciting, yes! But now something feels empty.

I was keyed up when Mo signed with Bellator and entered the tournament. I was mainly interested in seeing Mo fight his way through the bracket and eventually capture the light heavyweight title. In my mind, it would legitimatize Bellator and their “world” title. With Mo as champion, I’d feel all warm and fuzzy. Then when he lost, we see the birth of the next big star at the weight class.

But that didn’t happen. Mo lost. That’s what happens in tournaments. And guess who else isn’t happy (besides Mo)? Bellator! I’m waiting for Bjorn Rebney’s “this is why Bellator is the greatest” speech. But make no mistake; he didn’t want this to happen.

And as exhilarating as it was to watch last night, most fans don’t want that either. Most fans wanted to see Babalu vs. Mo in the finals—now both are out. Most fans wanted to see a grudge match between Andreas Spang and Brian Rogers in the finals of the middleweight tourney—but now both is out. The same thing happened when Roger Huerta entered—and exited—the lightweight tournament.

So what will King MO do next for Bellator? Does he have to sit around and enter next season’s tournament to “prove himself” again? Or even worse, will he get to fight Christian M’Pumbu in a meaningless superfight non-title fight?

Are tournaments good for MMA? I suppose in many ways, they’re awesome for the sport. But as far as getting my desired matchups, they’re really putting a damper on my Wish List.

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