Bellator is on a roll with two-straight shows of lively MMA action. On the heels of last week's barn-burning card, tonight's Bellator 77 event was the launchpad for the 2012 Lightweight Tournament. Four quarterfinal bouts framed the show's main card on MTV2, which was headlined by crafty combat veteran Rich Clementi taking on unmarred Russian prospect Alexander Sarnavskiy.
A student of Bellator middleweight Alexander Shlemenko, Sarnavskiy entered the bout with a 20-0 record and a chance to authenticate his rep against Clementi, a former UFC fighter wearing 13 years of battle scars. Sarnavskiy proved his fearlessness by unreeling lightning fast kicks and punches early, persuading Clementi to seek shelter in the clinch just over a minute in. Showing his wily experience, Clementi sneakily slipped around to Sarnavskiy's back in the standing tie-up, hopped on board with both hooks in and dominated from there.
With his right hand from back control, "No Love" alternated between bashing Sarnavskiy and trying to slip in the choke for the last half of the round. With 40 seconds left, he dug his forearm under the chin and caused Sarnavskiy to fall onto his back to defend. Amazingly, despite turning bright blue in the final few seconds and giving up his hand-fight on the choke, Sarnavskiy rolled out just before the bell sounded.
The Russian started electric in the 2nd with blinding speed on his strikes, but Clementi succeeded with Plan B once again by shooting for a double and then taking Sarnavskiy's back. This time Sarnavskiy found himself on the ground in a body triangle with Clementi glued to his back and threatening with choke attempts. Sarnavskiy was able to scramble free and slip out of an armbar attempt during the scramble, then lance down some leather from the top. After a curiously quick intervention from Mario Yamasaki, Sarnavskiy clipped Clementi with a punch and a glancing high kick toward the end of the stanza.
A noticeably weary Clementi had trouble maintaining his previous pace in the 3rd. Not eager to trade on the feet, he shot telegraphed takedowns but wisely pulled guard on Sarnavskiy's sprawl to handle things with his guard. Sarnavskiy stayed on top throwing moderately effective ground-and-pound, but turned it on with punches after they reset on the feet. Sarnavskiy wobbled Clementi with a flurry, waved him to stand back up and then connected with more. Clementi went down but it was hard to tell how much fatigue and his preference for a ground fight weighed against Sarnavskiy's striking effectiveness. Clementi hit a sweep off his back but Sarnavskiy cleverly countered it with a triangle attempt that was too lose.
One judge scored the bout for Sarnavskiy 29-28 but the others saw it the same for Rich Clementi, who hands Alexander Sarnavskiy his first loss with the split decision.
Rich Clementi defeats Alexander
Dave Jansen defeats Magomed
Former WEC fighter Dave Jansen was feisty in a rousing scramble-fest with Russian Magomed
In the 3rd, it was obvious that
Polish lightweight Marcin Held was a madman against Murad Machaev. Attacking wildly on the feet, Held charged Machaev with unkempt kickboxing combinations that were not pretty, but they did attract enough attention to put the Russian in defense mode for the most of the opener whilst combined with clinch forays and relentless takedown attempts.
Machaev started to key in on the holes in the 2nd, forcing Held into a desperate but creative rolling leg lock with clean punching bursts. Machaev defended well and got the better end of the stand up leading into the 3rd. After what could only be described as an onslaught of sloppy haymakers and spinning back kicks throughout the fight, Held sighted in a long, noodle-like jab and firmly controlled the distance by snapping it home with a busy pace. Held's length and activity with the jab once again forced Machaev to defend more than lead and he surrendered the last round on the cards, dropping a unanimous decision to Marcin Held with 29-28 scores across the board.
A pair of Brazilians at the black-belt level in Jiu-Jitsu went at it to begin the evening. Tirloni came out throwing hard, as usual, and Nazare seemed to clinch up out of desperation initially. Tirloni began to read Nazare and circle him against the cage with a smattering of knees from the Thai plum to creep ahead in the 1st.
Later, however, it was Nazare's clean stand up -- particularly his right hand over the top of Tirloni's jab and left hook counters -- that found the mark more freely. Nazare seemed to daze Tirloni with a crunchy left but Tirloni answered with a crippling shovel punch in the pocket that wobbled Nazare badly. Intelligently playing the top game, Tirloni pounced on his wounded opponent with a D'arce choke to seal the finish.
Full preliminary card results with gifs follow.
Duane Bastress defeats Areil Sepulveda by split decision.
Darrell Horcher defeats E.J. Brooks by KO (punch), Round 1.