Bellator 131 offers glimpse of future

What didn't happen at Bellator 131?

Saturday's live event from San Diego was some night. It began with a statistical anomaly: a featherweight bout that somehow produced opposing judges' scores of 30-27 and 26-30. It included several professional wrestlers in attendance, a middleweight on the main card who hadn't fought an MMA bout in more than six years and a main event between two fighters who each had formerly retired at least once.

The results were no less bizarre. Michael Chandler inexplicably stopped fighting in the middle of a title bout. Tito Ortiz answered postfight questions in a form resembling haiku, and Muhammed Lawal had (again) brought up that decision loss to Quinton Jackson in May. His gripe included a request for a show of hands on how media members scored the bout.

Bellator MMA president Scott Coker summed it up best at the postfight news conference: There was something for everyone.

Bellator 131 was not entirely Coker's Bellator yet, but it offered a look at what that will look like. Coker joined Bellator in June, but for all intents and purposes this was his first event. Spike TV executive Jon Slusser referred to it as "an incredible start to the Scott Coker era."

What it showed was Coker's willingness to have fun matchups and an outside-the-box approach to a sport that has grown increasingly geared toward rankings and dead-serious matchmaking. Coker embraces the "gimmicks," for better or worse, and he's willing to rely on bright, shiny lights to draw consumers in -- literally. Bellator 131 featured a walkout stage with multiple 12-by-20-foot video screens that blasted video packages during fighter walkouts. The screens drew nearly as much attention on social media as the main event.

Underneath the shiny lights, though, is a quiet effort to build the company's roster from top to bottom. Speaking on the "Gross Point Blank" podcast earlier this month, Coker said it would be a process that will take "18 months to two years."

When Coker's former promotion, Strikeforce, was bought out in 2011 by Zuffa, the parent company of the UFC, its greatest asset was its roster of talent -- built by Coker and matchmaker Rich Chou (who followed Coker to Bellator).

Three years later, that roster's imprint can be found all over the promotion in nearly every division. Heavyweight interim champion Fabricio Werdum, light heavyweight No. 1 contender Daniel Cormier, middleweight contender Luke Rockhold, welterweight No. 1 contender Robbie Lawler, lightweight No. 1 contender Gilbert Melendez, female bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey -- all members of the Strikeforce roster that Coker built.

Coker has a proven knack for signing talent, something he reminded everyone of during Bellator 131 when he announced the signing of 18-year-old prospect Aaron Pico.

Pico is training to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic wrestling team, and he also is a former Junior Golden Gloves boxing champion. He's not expected to debut for the promotion until after making his run at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and admitted he hadn't intended to sign a fighter contract this early in his career. But manager and trainer Bob Cook said Coker expressed interest in Pico and worked a deal to sign him "long term," despite his unique situation.

"You know, Scott's always got his eyes open for talent," Cook told ESPN.com. "He wants the guys who are going to turn into the next 'the guy' and Aaron has potential to be one of those big stars of the future."

Bellator 131 was definitely a "Scott Coker" event. He pursued and signed professional kickboxer Joe Schilling, who recorded the best knockout of the night. He agreed to bring in Stephan Bonnar, who hadn't been able to lock down the kind of "fun" fights he asked for while still under contract with the UFC two years ago. He gave the MMA world cage entrances on Saturday reminiscent of yesteryear mega shows in Japan.

It was definitely interesting and it begged the question -- once the roster is Coker-ed up two years from now, what will those events look like? With that, here are fighter grades from Bellator 131, UFC 180 and WSOF 15.