UFC vs Bellator
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is becoming one of the most eye-catching and exciting combat sports available to watch and to bet on, with furious fighting action and the chance to see fighters of various different martial arts backgrounds taking on one another. Of course, boxing is the traditional combat sport for betting and is vastly more popular in general, but the cult following of MMA is increasing year by year and it is now challenging boxing - and the popularity of boxing betting - with raw action and more exciting fights.
The two most popular divisions of MMA are the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, and Bellator. Both are borne out of America and follow the same basic rules, but the offerings from each vary and both have their own star fighters as well as their own slight nuances which make them equally unique and interesting, both for watching and for betting.
What are UFC and Bellator and What’s the Difference Between Them?
UFC, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is the big brother of the MMA world and is clearly the dominant force at present when it comes to Mixed Martial Arts. Formed in 1993 and having staged more than 400 events worldwide, UFC is a multi-billion dollar corporation that dwarfs Bellator in terms of its global renown and income streams. UFC betting is hugely popular as well.
UFC was originally created with the idea to find the very best martial art with purveyors of each discipline facing off in a tournament, meaning the greatest martial art would come through victorious. With subsequent tournaments, the various disciplines started to combine and morph into the mixed martial arts that we see at both UFC and Bellator today. In the early days of the UFC, rules were limited with the UFC actually taking the motto: ‘There are no rules’. Over time, however, rules have been formed to stop such gamesmanship as hair-pulling and groin strokes, as well as to regain legality, with the UFC having been banned in a number of states due to its brutality - labelled by then-Senator John McCain as ‘human cockfighting’. Despite the increased regulation, the action to this day is much more brutal and mercenary than other sports such as boxing.
The UFC exploded in the new millennium, with pay-per-view numbers soaring and the popularity increasing year by year. It has since only expanded further with audiences watching from around the world and several events being held outside America for the first time.
Bellator came around much later but has been trying hard to catch up with the already well-established UFC. Starting from similar roots, Bellator originally featured a knockout tournament between fighters with the winner getting the chance to fight for the championship in their weight division, as well as a handy cheque for $100k.
Like UFC, Bellator has undergone significant change since then and has transformed from that original tournament format into a monthly pay-per-view promotion featuring a main card and undercard, although for several years the promotion featured action on a seasonal basis with fights stages weekly.
Bellator is aired live in America on Spike TV and regularly achieves audiences in the millions, while it has also followed the path paved by UFC in travelling around the World, hosting fight nights in Canada and the United Kingdom. In fact, in 2017, Bellator staged as many fights in the United Kingdom as UFC, making it a great option if looking to watch some live MMA in the UK. There have been some memorable moments in Bellator unmatched in UFC, such as the amazing Reverse Triangle Choke by Toby Imada all the way back in 2009.
Both Bellator and the UFC operate based on the rules set out in the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, and in both promotions, a fight contains three five-minute rounds. In both Bellator and UFC, a title fight is longer with five rounds instead of three, but in UFC the main fight on a card, even if not for a title, will last five rounds.
A key difference between the two is the shape of the arena, with the UFC being fought in the famous eight-sided ‘Octagon’ while Bellator is held in a circular ring. UFC currently has more weight divisions that Bellator, with 9 as opposed to 7, while both have four divisions for women.
Both Bellator and UFC have also held reality TV programmes with the opportunity for the winner to take part in future MMA events. UFC’s The Ultimate Fighter was the catalyst for the rebirth of the promotion which had struggled after increased legislation against MMA fighting was put in place in the USA at the turn of the 21st century.
UFC Top Fighters vs Bellator Top Fighters
Conor McGregor - McGregor transcended the sport of MMA when he finally got his superfight against Floyd Mayweather, taking the undefeated American through 11 rounds in the boxing ring to fly the flag for the MMA and draw attention to the quality of fighters competing in the UFC. McGregor himself has plenty of top challengers within his division in the UFC, but he is the only fighter to hold championship belts in two different weight divisions. Known for his outrageous personality and showmanship, McGregor is the true face of the UFC at present.
Georges St Pierre - One of the most successful MMA fighters of all time and a three-time former welterweight champion, Georges St Pierre made a long-awaited comeback in 2017 and showed his undying class in winning the title in a new division against Michael Bisping to become UFC champion after a multiple-year absence. He had to give up his title after suffering from colitis but is sure to be back in 2018 for another go at a championship belt.
Francis Ngannou - Although not yet considered anywhere near the top of the pound-for-pound charts and yet to win his own weight division, the young Frenchman is certainly one to watch in 2018. He will get the chance to take the heavyweight division against current champion Stipe Miocic at UFC 220 and holds the record for the highest recorded punching power in UFC history. His power was on show when winning the heavyweight title eliminator against Alistair Overeem at UFC 218 with what was voted the knockout of 2017 by mmafighting.com.
Patricio Freire - Freire is one of the mainstays in Bellator and holds the record for the most fights in the Bellator promotion at 14. That alone makes him one of the biggest names competing in the Bellator brand, while his current status as the two-time featherweight champion makes him one of the stars of Bellator, especially considering the strength of the featherweight division within Bellator with the likes of Daniel Strauss and Pat Curran competing. With several featherweight tournament victories from the earlier days of Bellator in his trophy cabinet as well, he’s ranked as the #1 featherweight in the world fighting outside of the UFC.
Michael Chandler - Another repeat winner of a Bellator championship, Chandler actually beat Patricio Freire’s brother Patricky on the way to winning the Bellator Season 4 Lightweight Tournament. He rose to stardom with his victory in the subsequent title fight against Eddie Alvarez, a future UFC champion, and he is a two-time Bellator championship winner. His victories over UFC stars such as Alvarez and, more recently, Benson Henderson make him a leading star in Bellator.
Rafael Carvalho - The only current champion to have made more than one title defence, Rafael Carvalho is the Middleweight champion and is undefeated since losing his first professional fight in the Samurai FC 6 brand. His initial title defence might have been controversial against Melvin Manhoef, but he has truly proven himself since with a rematch victory at Bellator 176 and a first-round knockout of Alessio Sakara at Bellator 190.
UFC 220 vs Bellator 192
Both of the leading MMA promotions will be hosting events on the same day, with Bellator 192 and UFC 220 coming to us live on 20th January. That means there is a clear choice to be made: Bellator 192 or UFC 220.
For Bellator, one of the biggest coups came when they signed Rory MacDonald over from the UFC, and he made a strong debut performance in winning in the second round against Paul Daley. MacDonald was one of the leading contenders in the welterweight division in UFC, competing for a title in UFC 189 and headlining UFC Fight Night 89. He gets his first shot at a Bellator Championship at Bellator 192 where he’ll face current champion Douglas Lima. The chance to see MacDonald is a big draw for Bellator, with the Canadian having beaten the current UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley at UFC 174. Elsewhere on the card, two top MMA prospects will be fighting, with Bellator hoping that Khonry Gracie and Aaron Pico will become stars of the sport.
While the lineup for Bellator would challenge most UFC fight nights, it faces a tough task to draw fans from a fantastic lineup at UFC 220 and the much-awaited title fight for Francis Ngannou. One of the leading prospects in MMA, Ngannou knocked out Alistair Overeem with the ‘uppercut from hell’ at UFC 218 in his heavyweight eliminator bout, and his power makes him a strong opponent for current champion Stipe Miocic. Ngannou’s story is an inspirational one, coming from a poor background in Cameroon before taking a huge gamble in trying his hand at MMA and rising through the ranks in super-quick time. With another title bout on the UFC 220 card as well, with Daniel Cormier defending his light heavyweight title, it looks like UFC is pulling out all the stops to prevent viewers switching over to see Rory MacDonald in action at Bellator 192.
With both events featuring bouts that are not to be missed, it is an interesting decision as to which fight night to watch, but both should have plenty to offer both from a watching and a betting point of view.
If you can find a way to watch both, that would definitely be the preferred option!