Bellator Lightweight Finals Exhibit Its Lack of Depth

By Adam Martin

Tonight in Lewiston, Maine, the latest Bellator lightweight tournament winner will be crowned when former WEC fighter Dave Jansen takes on 21-year-old Polish footlock phenom Marcin Held in the main event of Bellator 93. The winner of the fight will win the tournament title, $100,000 in cash, and a chance to face Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler later this year for the belt. It’s a very solid fight, and both men are deserving of the chance to fight in the finals, but it’s a fight that exhibits Bellator’s lack of depth.

If Jansen wins the fight against Held– and he’s currently a -160 betting favorite to do so – he will be fresh meat for Chandler, one of the top lightweight fighters in the world, to feast on. The two have never fought each other before, and considering Jansen’s wrestling pedigree, his experience fighting in the WEC, and the recent surge he’s made in Bellator, a fight against Chandler would no doubt be intriguing. In fact, the champion has publicly mentioned that he’s rooting for Jansen to win this fight.

But if Held, who is currently a slight +120 underdog, is able to pull off the upset against Jansen, then Chandler’s next opponent will be the same man he submitted with an arm-triangle choke just over two years ago at Bellator 36. Chandler has fought five times since then, fighting increasingly difficult opposition every single time out, so a rematch with Held is pretty much exactly what it seems, and that’s a step back for Chandler.

Sure, Held has improved. He was only 19 when he fought Chandler the first time, and even though he’s still only 21, he’s obviously filling into his frame, developing strength, and he himself been looking better than ever, as he submitted longtime UFC veteran Rich Clementi last November with a toe hold to make it to the finals. That was an impressive win, and if he’s able to latch one of his signature footlock submissions on Jansen, fans will no doubt be intrigued at the possibility of him potentially doing the same thing to Chandler in their rematch, although I think it’s very doubtful that happens.

Regardless, the fact of the matter is that Chandler is one of the top lightweight fighters in the world today and he deserves to keep having his skills tested against some of the game’s greatest. I mean, he already beat Eddie Alvarez, and Alvarez has been a top-10 lightweight for the last five years, if not longer. Jansen and Held, on the other hand? Both are solid fighters, no doubt, but neither are going to set the world on fire.

Bellator’s tournament format has taken them this far in their tenure and it’s been the one big thing that’s separated them for their competitors, but if you ask me, it’s instances like this that show the tournament format isn’t going to work for much longer. Rather, Bellator needs to continue to grow and gain in popularity, and hope that the top free agent fighters choose to sign with them so that fighters like Chandler get to fight the high-level opponents they deserve to be fighting, and not fighters they’ve already beaten decisively and without controversy.

Bellator 93 will take place on March 21, 2013 at the Androscoggin Bank Colisée in Lewiston, Maine.

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