Originally posted on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 3/8/12

This Saturday, Bellator fighting championships kicks off their latest season with a fight you could legitimately call a "big deal".

No, I'm not talking about Bellator's fight to get on Spike TV, which we can safely say is going the full distance. I'm not talking about Bellator's court battle against the UFC, the only venue where a "judge's decision" and a "dramatic finish" can be the same thing.

No, I'm talking about Joe Warren vs. Pat Curran, for the Bellator 145-pound strap. What makes this fight interesting is that it represents a true clash of "homegrown" Bellator stars.

Ok, so that's not entirely true in Warren's case. The man was an accomplished Greco-Roman wrestler long before venturing into MMA, for one thing. He also cut his teeth in the Japanese DREAM promotion, most famously upsetting "Kid" Yamamoto back when he was considered a possible P4P entrant and not walking metaphor for the collapse of Japanese MMA. So "homegrown" might not be the best choice of words.

That being said, I'd still argue that Warren really established himself as a star while competing in Bellator. He won the promotion's featherweight title, and made a run at the 135 pound crown, as well. That didn't work out so well for him, but regardless of that setback you really can't argue that Warren's had a good run in Bellator for a guy with only nine professional fights.

Pat Curran, on the other hand, is Bellator's biggest homemade talent, a fighter who rose from obscurity to contender status to elite level while competing for the promotion. He won the season two lightweight tournament, only to fall against Eddie Alvarez in a tough fight. Unbowed, Curran dropped a weight class, entered the Bellator summer series featherweight tournament, and became the first guy in Bellator history to win tournaments at two different weight classes (ironically the same goal Warren tried and failed to achieve).

This has all the makings of a fun fight and is the very definition of a "win-win" for Bellator. If Joe Warren wins, you can continue to cultivate a fighter who's akin to a 145-pound Chael Sonnen, both in style, tanacity, and prediliction towards the controversial. Ok, so he's not going to insult Lance Armstrong or quote pro-wrestlers anytime soon, but Warren has had his moments of controversy. He also has that personality - brash, smirking confidence - that you either love, or love to hate. He's the perfect guy for Bellator to build their brand around.

If Pat Curran wins, you get a champion who came up in your promotion, has a long (for Bellator, at least) relationship with the fans, and has a fantastic highlight reel. Seriously, it's not many 145'ers who can turn guys lights out with the style and panache of Curran. He's the opposite of Warren in that he's polite, laid back, and mostly respectful - but this can also be a good thing promotionally. Fans love to cheer, and they love to boo. Pat Curran could set himself up for a long run as someone fans love to cheer for (assuming he hasn't already) with this win.

So who do I see taking it?

Well folks, I'm going to go ahead and out myself as one biased mofo here. That's because I'm a big Pat Curran fan, for all the wrong (or is that right?) reasons. One of my first ever live MMA event coverage gigs was Bellator 21, the season two lightweight tourney final that pitted Pat Curran against Toby Imada. After the event, myself and the photographer somehow managed to tag along with the victorious Curran and his entourage for a fun night of drinking, fight talk, and insanity.

So yeah, I'm a big Pat Curran mark.

Luckily, there's more going for him here than simply having had a beer with me a year and a half ago. Since dropping to featherweight, Curran has looked better and better in every fight. He put away Luis Palomino with a Peruvian necktie (I'm also a sucker for obscure, low-use submissions), took a comfortable decision over Ronnie Mann, and looked like a 145-pound Mirko Cro Cop when he headkick KO'ed Marlon Sandro this past August.

But Warren is extremely dangerous, and underestimating him has been a bad move for past opponents. Despite coming off a loss, Warren has that combination of world-class skillset and plenty of grit that could be a problem for ANY potential opponent. Curran has never faced a grappler on the level of Joe Warren, so this fight will be an excellent test of his takedown defence and ability to scramble from the bottom.

I have a feeling this fight's outcome will be decided by who takes over in the first few minutes. Will the brash wrestler find redemption and climb back atop the Bellator mountain? Or is Friday, March 9 the day when Pat Curran finally pays off two years of promise, and straps a Bellator title around his waist.

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