Friday night, and Bellator is in action. This week it's Bellator 81 and the Lightweight tournament semi-finals. The main card airs live on MTV2 starting at 8:00 p.m. ET, with prelims available as a live stream on Spike.com, and here at Bloody Elbow, starting at 6:00 p.m. ET.
Here's the full Bellator 81 fight card, with the weigh-in results:
Lightweight Tournament Semifinal Fight: Marcin Held (156) vs. Rich Clementi (156)
Lightweight Tournament Semifinals Fight: Dave Jansen (156) vs. Ricardo Tirloni (156)
Featherweight Feature Fight: Dustin Neace (146) vs. Marlon Sandro (145.5)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Perry Filkins (185) vs. Jonas Billstein (185)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Robbie LeRoux (135) vs. Ruben Rey 136()
Lightweight Feature Fight: Paul Barrow (155) vs. Matt Bessette (150)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Sam McCoy (185) vs. Brennan Ward (184.5)
Catchweight Feature Fight(210): Matt Uhde (209.5) vs. Mike Mucitelli (209.5)
Middleweight Feature Fight: Joe Lamoureux (185) vs. Dan Cramer (185.5)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Andrew Calandrelli (156) vs. Eric Brown (155)
Catchweight Feature Fight(165): Murad Machaev(166) vs. Lorawnt-T Nelson(165)
Of course, the big fights here are the two tournament fights. And I have to admit, for whatever reason, I'm just not quite as excited about the Lightweight tournament this season as I am about the other three tournaments. That said, these are still two solid semi-finals.
Marcin Held (14-2) vs. Rich Clementi (45-21-1)
The main event is a definite clash of youthful prospect vs. travelled veteran as the 20 year old Held faces 35 year old 13 year pro Clementi.
Clementi has been around the game since 1999 and has fought literally all over the world, including the UFC (where he holds wins over Melvin Guillard and Anthony Johnson), Dream, and an on again off again career with Bellator. He had his best success in 2007/2008 and has been a bit more inconsistent lately, though he's currently on a 3 fight win streak. His last win was in the quarter finals where he took home a hard fought split decision victory over Alexander Sarnavskiy, handing the Russian fighter his first professional loss and slowing the Russian dominance of Bellator's season.
Marcin Held is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum in his career path. At 20 years old and a 4 year pro, he's only recently started fighting outside of Poland, making his US debut for Bellator last year. He's 3-1 with the company with that 1 loss coming against champion Michael Chandler. His quarter final win was a decision victory over another undefeated Russian - Murad Machaev.
As you would expect from someone with his level of experience, Clementi is the quintessential journeyman: a well rounded fighter who is solid in every area without one particular expertise. That all around game should give him the striking and wrestling advantage over the less experienced Held. Submissions are a different story. Held is a decorated submissions fighter who aggressively goes for a wide variety of submissions, making him unpredictable, dangerous, and able to end a fight in an instant.
That said, he has a lot going against him here. He'll be giving up size and strength to Clementi, will be at a definite striking disadvantage, and may struggle to get Clementi down, as Held's takedowns are not yet quite adapted to MMA. While Held's submissions are excellent, Clementi is a pro with good defense, and in his nearly 70 pro fights, he's seen a lot. I enjoy Held, but I think he has a tough fight here.
Prediction: Rich Clementi by decision
Dave Jansen (18-2) vs. Ricardo Tirloni (15-2)
Up first is Brazilian jiu jitsu specialist Tirloni vs. WEC veteran Jansen. For Jansen, this is a chance to extend his current winning streak to 5. He's won 4 straight, all inside the Bellator cage, all since leaving the WEC (where he went 1-2). He's a tough fighter with solid wrestling who has never been stopped. Before entering the tournament, his biggest win was over Richard Crunkilton in the WEC, and he got here by defeating Magomed Saadulaev by a 3rd round guillotine choke.
Tirloni fought the majority of his early career in Brazil before making his Bellator debut last October. He was in the season 6 lightweight tournament where he was KO'd by eventual winner Rick Hawn. He bounced back with his quarter-final win over Rene Nazare, another accomplished BJJ grappler who Tirloni managed to tap with a D'Arce choke in the 2nd round.
There's a temptation to view this as a wrestler vs. grappler match-up, but that's a bit too pat and easy. Both men have stronger all around games, though Tirloni in particular still relies on that base in jiu jitsu. On the feet, I give the advantage to Jansen, but on the mat, Tirloni is a superior grappler. The question is, can he be the first man to stop Jansen and get the submission? I don't see it happening, though I think he can throw up enough attempts to earn the decision.
Prediction: Ricardo Tirloni by decision
Also on the main card, former Sengoku champion Marlon Sandro (22-4) takes on Dustin Neace (23-18-1). Sandro came to Bellator with a lot of hype last year, and while his 5-2 Bellator run hasn't quite lived up to that promise yet, he still should have no trouble with Neace. Finally, the card opens with Germany's Jonas Billstein (10-2) vs. Perry Filkins (6-1), who makes his Bellator debut here. Neither fighter has yet to make much of an impression, though I'll go with the more experienced Billstein for the win. No particular stand-outs on the prelims outside of UFC veteran Dan Cramer, who has put together a decent 5-1 run in Bellator.
Come back tonight to watch and discuss all the Bellator 81 action live here at Bloody Elbow