Bellator MMA and GLORY decided to do things big to kick off September with a joint show to make Dynamite. It was billed as a mega-event combining the two great combat sports of kickboxing and MMA.
The night was filled with promotion to the extreme. The main card reverted to a Pride-style showing. It even had the familiar sound of Pride ring announcer Lenne Hardt’s voice returning to announce the fighters on the main card. It was everything we missed about the old Japanese shows and brought a great nostalgic factor to what was a rather ho-hum night in terms of action.
While the MMA side brought a ton of finishes on the main card — four of the five fights ended before the final bell — the kickboxing side brought a slowdown to what was ultimately a great opportunity for GLORY to really bring home the audience. Instead, the fights were rather lackluster. There was a one-sided beatdown from Keri Anne Taylor-Melendez that made her opponent Hadley Griffith look like she had stumbled into the ring from a local cardio kickboxing class. It was a pretty clear mismatch from the opening bell. Even the big kickboxing match of the night, where Saulo Cavalari claimed the vacant light heavyweight title with a win against Zack Mwekassa, fell short.
Outside of the finishes, the MMA side wasn’t perfect, either. Phil Davis was pretty much a foregone conclusion to win the four-man light heavyweight tournament. Davis entered as the heavy favorite and showed just how far and away he was from the rest of the division. “Mr. Wonderful” first took on Emanuel Newton and ended that fight with a relatively easy first-round submission. Newton was Bellator’s light heavyweight champion for a short time, but Davis walked away unscathed from his first foray into the four-man tournament.
The tournament format fell apart after Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal won his first fight, but was hurt and couldn’t face Davis in the final fight of the tournament. Linton Vassell, who lost to Lawal in the first round, subsequently wasn’t cleared to take Lawal’s place. Thankfully, there had been an alternate fight, or else Bellator would have had a serious problem on its hands. Instead, the promotion had Francis Carmont, who defeated Roy Boughton earlier in the evening. He filled in, but the UFC veteran was no match for Davis. Carmont was steamrolled in the first round by knockout.
It’s clear that the tournament was a mismatch for Davis. He was a top-10 light heavyweight for the UFC. You can’t always rely on that to determine how successful a fighter will be in other organizations, but this was one time where you could tell beforehand. That has become sort of Bellator’s calling card for the main portion of its events. Sure, it’s kind of hard to match great fighters outside of the UFC with other great fighters. There are so few options to make competitive matches with somebody like Davis.
Yet, it kind of sucks some of the air out of the room. With a UFC event, sometimes — not all of the time, because there are mismatches there as well from time to time — you kind of feel like you can’t miss a card because anything could happen. In the case of Bellator, that feeling was lacking. Fans knew Davis would win. Fans knew Ortiz probably wouldn’t take the belt from light heavyweight champ Liam McGeary. People knew Taylor-Melendez would beat somebody who lacked any semblance of pro-kickboxing experience.
The night wasn’t a ratings success, either. Numbers have it doing around 800,000 total viewers and peaking at 930,000 viewers. In comparison with Bellator’s last big card, Bellator 138 headlined by Ken Shamrock and Kimbo Slice, it did half the viewers. Bellator 138 did 1.6 million.
The inclusion of Slice by itself does make a huge difference, however, so let’s compare Dynamite to Bellator’s last big card sans-Slice. That would be Bellator 134: The British Invasion. Bellator 134 did 872,000 viewers, but that was also after the card underwent major changes, losing it’s big second title fight and Bobby Lashley. Even Bellator 131, headlined by Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar, broke the one-million viewer mark by pulling in a total of 1.2 million viewers.
Overall, the Dynamite card gets a grade of six out of 10. The nostalgia factor was an excellent play from the brass that pulled this card together. What’s not to love about that? It made the card feel more epic. The MMA fights did deliver on finishes, but the kickboxing portion didn’t really bring it home and push the card to further heights. Maybe next time GLORY will bring out the heavy hitters and the big names to really bolster the card. There’s always next year for both promotions to really iron out the kinks for this event. It’s a great idea on paper, and this was only the first iteration. It’ll only get better from here.