Strikeforce, Bellator Make Solid Roster Additions
Both Strikeforce and Bellator announced significant additions to their rosters today, with Strikeforce seemingly following their new Zuffa business plan – which has them scooping up free agent prospects at a rapid rate – and Bellator venturing a bit out of their normal age bracket to sign a fighter who is one of the best at 125lbs, despite not having a Flyweight division.
Strikeforce announced that Maxi Blanco will be joining their Lightweight division in the near future. When scheduled, the former Pan-American wrestling bronze medallist and King of Pancrase will be making his stateside debut, as all of his previous bouts have taken place under the Sengoku and Pancrase banners.
Blanco has proven himself to be a devastating finisher thus far in his short MMA career, with 7 of his 8 victories coming by way of KO or (T)KO, and one of his losses coming by way of a DQ sustained due to soccer kicking his opponent. Maxi is currently on a six fight winning streak, and should definitely add some more spice to the Strikeforce LW division. He definitely has the wrestling acumen and striking power to make life difficult for almost any foe, so it will be interesting to see how he continues to progress in his career, as well as how his style adapts to fighting in a cage, which is something he’s yet to encounter in MMA.
As a big fan and follower of the lighter weight divisions, I was very excited to read about Bellator’s most recent addition to their upcoming Bantamweight tournament. Although he is naturally a Flyweight (or lower, as his prime wrestling weight was 105lbs), Vila could be a major player in Bellator’s forthcoming season, as an Olympic bronze medalist and two-time World Champion is not someone to be taken lightly. Those accolades were all accomplished in the mid-90’s and Vila is now 40, but he has transitioned well to MMA as evidenced by his 9-0 record with 8 stoppages.
The concern with Vila that I have is in regards to his size in comparison with the other competitors. Whereas Vila competed around the 105lb mark in wrestling, current Bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky competes in grappling tournaments at the 132lb mark, and Featherweight champion Joe Warren competed at the same 132lb mark during his World championship run in wrestling. No matter how talented Vila is, he will struggle with the significant size advantage he will be giving up against other elite fighters.
I had previously written about Vila being one of the names I would have liked to see the WEC pursue to be part of its rumoured Flyweight division, which never materialized, and more recently as a potential addition to Tachi Palace Fights’ 125 division where he would likely be more competitive, but given his advanced age, and the greater exposure and paydays that Bellator can offer, this was the right move for him. In a few years time, very few MMA fans will likely remember the name Alexis Vila, but to me he’ll always remain one of the first real “what if” fighters in the Flyweight division.
Overall, some solid roster additions made by both Strikeforce and Bellator which will give both promotions some increased traction and matchmaking ability. For once, Strikeforce appears to be focused more on the long term and Bellator seems to be looking for more of a quick turnaround, but who knows, Vila may shock us all and have another five years left in him, after all he is still quite young from an MMA perspective. As always, only time will tell.