Judd Samuels

It's always been known to the MMA world that the UFC is the gold standard, and is the promotion  all of the best fighters are employed by. Bellator is known to be the unquestionable second best though, and I've been thinking, in actuality, how much better is the UFC than Bellator?

Let's review a list of former UFC fighters that are now in Bellator:

  1. Ryan Bader: Bader is the Bellator heavyweight champion and former light heavyweight champion; he was released by the UFC after a long stint in which he fought and beat very high level competition, including Lil Nog, whom he beat twice. He also beat former UFC champions, Quintin "rampage" Jackson, as well as Rashad Evans, he also beat former title challenger, Ovince St Preux. While he did lose to Jon Jones, which top light heavyweight hasn't? He then went to Bellator and became one of the best fighters ever in their organization, beating the great Fedor Emelianenko and other contenders.
  2. Phil Davis: Davis beat  Lil Nog, Brian Stann, Alexander Gustafsson, Lyoto Machida, and Glover Texeira, almost all of whom were UFC title challengers. After his release, he moved to Bellator, but even though he was and remains a top fighter, he was never able to reach the top of the mountain.
  3. Gegard Mousasi: Gegard beat a big list of premier fighters while in the UFC. Some names are; Dan Henderson, Thiago Santos, Vitor Belfort, Uriah Hall, and Chris Weidman. When he made the jump to Bellator, he dominated their top fighters and is the middleweight champion.

Other notable fighters include: 

Sergio Pettis (beat Joseph Benavidez), 

Myles Jury (beat Michael Johnson, Diego Sanchez and Takanori Gomi), 

Benson Henderson (former UFC champion and beat Donald Cerone, Jorge Masvidal ×2, Frankie Edgar ×2, Nate Diaz)

This list seems to show that the premier UFC fighters who were not able to win the title were able to perform much better in Bellator, making Bellator the decisive 2nd tier promotion, but let's look at a list of ex Bellator fighters and how they did in the UFC.

  1. Eddie Alvarez: “The Underground King,” had an incredible run in Bellator, and was the champion for a long reign, during which he beat Roger Huerta, Pat Curran, Patricky Pitbull, and Michael Chandler. When he made the switch to the UFC, Alvarez lost to Donald Cerrone, but then went on a tear, winning three straight fights against Gilbert Melendez, Anthony Pettis, and Rafael dos Anjos. The RDA fight was the fight where he won the belt, becoming the first ex Bellator Champ to win a UFC belt.
  2. Alexander Volkov: Volkov won a Bellator title in 2012. In 2016 he started fighting for the UFC and beat Roy Nelson, Stefan Struve, and Fabricio Werdum, just to name a few. He has not had a title shot, but is considered a top heavyweight, and with another win or two will fight for the belt.

Bellator fighters have had a much harder time transitioning to the UFC than the other way around, but two recent massive tranfers; Corey Anderson's move from the UFC to Bellator, and Michael Chandler's move from Bellator to the UFC will demonstrate what the talent gap is. 

Corey Anderson was considered a top five light heavyweight in the UFC less than a year ago, when he asked for his release. When that request was granted by Dana White, he signed with Bellator. His first Bellator fight is this week, and it will tell us how good Bellator really is, because he is being offered their top competition.

Michael Chandler on the other hand, went from being the Bellator lightweight champion to signing with the UFC. Chandler is undoubtedly one of the best lightweights in the world but felt he needed to move to the UFC to prove that. It looks like a fight will soon be booked for him against a top 4 fighter, and he will have his chance to prove just how good he is. If he can win a UFC title, it will show how good Bellator is in hindsight, because that will mean that Bellator has had the best lightweight in the world in their organization. 

Obviously, we've shown how the UFC seems light-years ahead of Bellator, but I think that's all in the past. Bellator has stepped up their talent level, and if Chandler does well, it will give more legitimacy to Bellator for the future. It would be even nicer if the two promotions would let their fighters compete in crossover events, but oh well, life goes on.