Bellator 77 Preview: lightweight tournament quarterfinals

Bellator 77 rolls out the opening round of this season's Lightweight Tournament tonight. Catch the live streaming video of the entire fight card here on Bloody Elbow.

Knockouts, submissions and back-and-forth brawls broke out left and right at last week's Bellator 76 show, which was one of the most action packed events of the year from top to bottom. The undisputed #2 fight league will endeavor for a repeat tonight with Bellator 77 from Reading, Pennsylvania, which will ignite a stacked quarterfinal round of the 2012 Lightweight Tournament. The 155-pound brackets are accented by a blend of experienced gamers and dangerous up and comers.

The preliminary card is worth a watch as well: Muay Thai technician Cosmo Alexander meets Mike Bannon while former UFC fighter Carmelo Marrero, a BJJ black belt, takes on Lew Polley, who sparked controversy on TUF 13 as Junior dos Santos' wrestling coach.

The entire fight card will be streamed live and free tonight on Bloody Elbow starting with the preliminary card at 6:30 p.m. ET and followed by the main card at 8:00 p.m. ET. You will join us this evening to partake in lively fight discussion with our exceedingly passionate community and, of course, to behold the entertaining spectacle of gifs from Zombie Prophet in the Bloody Elbow recap that will post immediately after the show ends.

A quartette of competitive lightweight bouts make up the main card, as calculating UFC veteran Rich "No Love" Clementi (44-21) draws undefeated Russian prospect Alexander "Tiger" Sarnavskiy (20-0). Clementi, now 35-years-old, has been in the trenches since 1999 against exemplary competition.

"No Love" earned his 2nd shot in the Octagon back in 2007 when he accepted a short-notice bout against welterweight Anthony Johnson and submitted him with a rear-naked choke. Clementi went on to peg a highly respectable 3-2 clip, tearing through 3-straight lightweights in Melvin Guillard (submission), Sam Stout (split decision) and Terry Etim (unanimous decision) but was cut after suffering consecutive losses (Gray Maynard, Gleison Tibau). Since then Clementi's gone 11-7 with most of his defeats being dealt by reputable opposition, such as Shinya Aoki, UFC welterweight Chris Clements and a debatable decision loss to UFC lightweight Reza Madadi.

Sarnavskiy is among 3 Russian-based brawlers in the quarterfinal brackets and a student under Bellator middleweight Alexander Shlemenko at the Rusfighters Sport Club. Sarnavskiy's flawless record is highlighted by a vicious finishing percentage, having stopped 17 of his 20 opponents with 11 submissions and 6 TKOs. "Tiger," a good sized lightweight at 5'11", came up on the M-1 circuit and recently strangled former TUF competitor Len Bentley with a 1st-round triangle. Clementi will definitely represent his stiffest test to date but the 23-year-old prospect will certainly have time, size and momentum on his side. The interview that Brian Hemminger of MMAMania did with Sarnavskiy is worth a read.

Ricardo Tirloni (14-2) should be the favorite to clench this tournament. The marauding Brazilian was first introduced via the Bloody Elbow Scouting Report as the #2 lightweight prospect and flaunts a fan-friendly style of ridiculously potent and aggressive offense (7 submissions, 5 TKOs). Though Tirloni fell to Olympic Judoka Rick Hawn by KO in his last turn, that defeat was just the 2nd of his career and UFC lightweight champion Ben Henderson accounts for the other.

Tirloni draws fellow countryman and BJJ black belt Rene Nazare (10-2) from Team Bombsquad. "The Brazilian Bomber" rolled to a 10-0 start in MMA and 3-0 in Bellator but has dropped his last 2 (Jacob Kirwan, Thiago Michel). Nazare has decent wrestling and a balanced finishing ratio with 4 TKOs and submissions apiece; he's more of a methodical tactician and will have his hands quite full in the presence of Tirloni's fiery and remorseless assault.

Polish lightweight Marcin Held (13-2) hates the human leg. He's a submission specialist with a penchant for leg locks who nearly tapped out Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler in his promotional debut. Held's tacked on 3-straight wins since with a pair of heel hooks and a split decision over former UFCer Phillipe Nover. Held faces another undefeated Russian in Murad Machaev (9-0), who makes his Bellator debut with 5 submissions, 2 TKOs and 2 decisions.

Former WEC lightweight Dave Jansen (16-2) battles with the 3rd Russian debutante in Magomed Saadulaev (14-1) in the main card opener. Jansen went 1-2 in the WEC with high-caliber losses (Ricardo Lamas, Kamal Shalorus) and a decision win over Rich Crunkilton. Jansen's put together a trio of straight wins since and boasts 9 wins by submission with a single TKO. Saadulaev is a burly lightweight with excellent submissions (8 wins) and stifling control (6 decisions).

The full card follows below.

Bellator 77

Main Card on MTV2 (8:00 p.m. ET)

Lightweight Tournament Quarterfinals
Rich Clementi vs. Alexander Sarnavskiy
Ricardo Tirloni vs. Rene Nazare
Murad Machaev vs. Marcin Held
Magomed Saadulaev vs. Dave Jansen

Preliminary Card (6:30 p.m. ET)

Matthew Lozano vs. Dave Morgan
Eric Albright vs. Brett Martinez
Cosmo Alexender vs. Mike Bannon
Duane Bastress vs. Lewis Rumsey
Carmelo Marrero vs. Lew Polley
Emanuel Brooks vs. Darrel Horcher


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