Bellator 81 went off last night from The Ryan Center in Kingston, Rhode Island. Atop the main card were two semifinal bouts in the Lightweight Tournament that would determine this season's finalists: Ricardo Tirloni vs. Dave Jansen and Rich Clementi vs. Marcin Held. Also sharing space on the featured broadcast was former top-ranked featherweight and Nova Uniao assassin Marlon Sandro, who met TUF 14 contestant Dustin Neace, and a middleweight scrap between Jonas Billstein and Perry Filkins.
With visual assistance provided by Bloody Elbow's own Zombie Prophet, we'll review the haps from the evening's relevant bouts.
Marcin Held defeats Rich Clementi by submission (toe hold), Round 2
In the show's headliner, crafty MMA veteran and former UFC lightweight Rich Clementi -- who took his first pro-fight when his opponent was just 7-years-old -- met Polish grappling phenom Marcin Held. Both Clementi and Held endured their fair share of adversity in the opening round but, despite his age (36) and high mileage (67 fights), I expected Clementi to be too experienced and diverse.
Diversity played no role in the match, as Held was wise in forcing Clementi to duel in his preferred realm. Early in the 1st round, Held clinched up and dove into a rolling kneebar attempt ala Oleg Taktarov, which was merely the first of many nostalgic treats he provided. Though his initial attempt was unsuccessful, Held brilliantly transitioned from one leglock attempt to another: he went from the original kneebar into a heel hook attempt, then switched to an inverted heel hook when Clementi defended and eventually figure-foured the ankle to wrench a toe hold attempt.
Much of the round took place in with both fighters on their backs in mutual leg lock position, i.e. the cliche "playing footsies" scenario, but the way Held chained his submission attempts together clearly differentiated him as the initiator and aggressor.
Clementi tried to regain the ground he lost by chucking leather and scoring an early takedown to start the 2nd round. He carved quickly into a high half guard, secured a Gable-grip guillotine from a commanding perch and seemed to be in total control. In what I'm now firmly convinced is Marcin Held's default reaction to any roadblock that everyday life throws at him, the tenacious Pole responded with another determined figure-four ankle lock attempt.
Please take a minute to fully envision this combat scenario: Clementi has rock-solid posture and stifling control in high half guard, he's attacking Held's totally unprotected neck with a modified guillotine and on the verge of slipping his one trapped leg free and achieving full mount. Held went from rolling onto his side and trying to create space and shrimp out to devouring Clementi's barely secured leg with a submission attempt. I clearly recall thinking that Held deserved respect for his balls, creativity and for sticking with what he knows best, but was highly skeptical that such a high-risk/low-reward approach would bear fruit.
With a vice-like figure four snaked around Clementi's ankle, Held first used the hold to sweep Clementi out of top position, rolled Clementi onto the ideal side of his body and wrenched the toe hold furiously to elicit the tap. It was truly an unusual and unexpected sequence of events that triggered the atypical toe-hold submission, and one that would've brought a tear to Ken Shamrock's eye.
Dave Jansen defeats Ricardo Tirloni by split decision (28-29, 29-28 x 2)
In the second semifinal match in the Lightweight Tourney, marauding Brazilian Ricardo Tirloni went to war with wrestler Dave Jansen. Both fighters swung for the fences with each punch, which were unfurled at a frenetic pace throughout the entire 1st round. Jansen's heaters landed cleaner and he secured the round with the knockdown shown above and by mixing in takedown attempts, twice slipping around to the rear waistlock and nailing a belly-to-back suplex.
With both men's faces showing wear to start the 2nd, Tirloni got Jansen's timing down and sighted in his left hook with tide-turning results. Tirloni's left hook landed at will and he changed the entire course of the fight with that tool alone. Tirloni stayed on the trigger in the final frame, again planting his left hand all over Jansen in the form of jabs, straights to the breadbox and an outpouring of more left hooks. Jansen was game and returned fire but didn't approach the volume and effectiveness of Tirloni on the feet, and his takedown attempts were horribly telegraphed and easily stuffed.
That's why I was somewhat surprised by the decision going his way, as I thought Tirloni dominated the 2nd and quite clearly won the 3rd. I was one of four media members who penned it for Tirloni but, regardless, Jansen advances to the finals where he'll face Held.
Marlon Sandro defeats Dustin Neace by submission (rear-naked choke), Round 1
In desperate need of a definitive win, Marlon Sandro got it against TUF 14 wrestler Dustin Neace. Neace dropped back for a guillotine in an early collision and then transitioned to a heel hook, but it was too low on the leg. Sandro, a BJJ black belt under Andre Pederneiras, patiently defended the initial barrage and, with a little help from a fence-grab, took Neace's back and put him to sleep with the mata leao.
Perry Filkins defeats Jordan Billstein by unanimous decision (30-27 and 29-28)
Dan Cramer defeats Joseph Lamoreaux by KO (punches), Round 1