Bellator 105 goes down tonight from the Santa Ana Star Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with a focus on the Lightweight Tournament semifinals. The main card airs on Spike TV at 9:00 p.m. ET while the preliminary card will stream live and free on Bloody Elbow at 7:00 p.m. ET.
The show's centerpiece is a rematch from last season's tournament between Saad Awad and Will Brooks -- Awad, a late replacement, came out of nowhere and smashed his way to the finals, where he lost to David Rickels. "Ill" Will Brooks, a consensus favorite last season, was victimized by Awad in the semis via a blistering flurry just 45-seconds deep. Lanky Russian youngster Alexander Sarnavskiy meets mean Brazilian Ricardo Tirloni on the opposite side of the brackets. K-1 veteran Mighty Mo Siliga is set to collide with beefy banger Ron Sparks in a Heavyweight feature fight and Keith Berry meets newcomer and UK prospect Eugene Fadiora.
Bellator 105 (Spike TV at 9:00 p.m. ET)
Awad is out of the renowned Millenia MMA team and has a well-deserved reputation for quick finishes with his thunderous boxing. Since dropping his Strikeforce debut to Joe Duarte in 2011, Awad's only defeat in his eight outings since was to Rickels in last season's tournament finals. Despite the love he gets for his vicious striking, Awad has shown a well-rounded game under the Bellator lights, such as his wrestling prowess in taking Rickels down and the submission grappling he relied on to sweep and submit Martin Stapleton in the quarterfinals.
Brooks is an exceptional athlete with a stifling wrestling acumen, though he too has been breaking that perceived mold with ever-improving and unorthodox striking -- he switched stances continually and led often with a front-leg side kick in a dominant battering of veteran John Alessio in the quarterfinals. Brooks, a 27-year-old now training full-time at ATT, seems to be coming into his own and developing an admirable sense of creativity in the cage, which complements the raw brutality of his takedowns and clinch knees nicely.
This should be a barn-burner. Awad is responsible for Brooks' sole career defeat, which was positively definitive and violent. It will be interesting to see how Brooks adjusts for Awad's skull-splitting power in the rematch, both strategically and mentally.
Alexander Sarnavskiy vs. Ricardo Tirloni (Lightweight Tournament semifinals)
"Tiger" Sarnavskiy is an understudy of Bellator middleweight champ Alexander Shlemenko and a once-beaten 24-year-old. His only defeat -- Rich Clementi by decision in the last tournament -- was somewhat unexpected but seems to have lit a fire under his ass. He's won four-straight since, finishing all but one, and utterly demolished Marcus Davis in the quarterfinals with a big right hand and follow-up choke less than two minutes into the opening frame.
Ricardo Tirloni is one of those naturally frightening tough guys. After debuting successfully with a 2nd-round submission, Tirloni endured hard times by winning just one in his next four outings, the last of which was a decision loss to Brooks in last season's quarterfinals. Though multi-skilled on the mat with an effective combo of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Luta Livre, Tirloni loves to throw hands and is particularly deadly with his left hook and in close quarters. Sarnavskiy is the unanimous favorite here but Tirloni's punching power, experience and general desire for bloodshed should not be overlooked.
Though a tad long in the tooth at age 43, Mighty Mo is a widely respected kickboxer and two-time K-1 Grand Prix champion (Hawaii in 2004, Las Vegas in 2007). In sporadic MMA-rules appearances (despite still pretty much being a kickboxer) from 2003-2010, Mo won his first three by TKO (Mark Smith, Min Soo Kim, Ruben Villareal) but was submitted by Semmy Schilt and Josh Barnett. Taking a few years off to focus strictly on MMA, the brawling Samoan debuted under the Bellator banner late last month and dispatched Dan Charles by 3rd-round TKO.
Ron "The Monster" Sparks has a single K-1 notch on his belt (a 2nd-round KO loss to Alexey Ignashov at K-1 Romania in 2009) but a distinct penchant for 1st-round finishes -- he clobbered all eight of his initial opponents by 1st-round TKO save hard-nosed veteran Johnathan Ivey, who he beat by decision, and Mark Holata, who he tapped with a keylock. Hard times have befallen Sparks, as he's dropped two in a row in Bellator by 1st-round KO (Eric Prindle, Vitaly Minakov).
Keith Berry, who's replacing Andreas Spang, is a Reign MMA rep who just saw his four-fight streak snapped by Jeremy Kimball at Bellator 97. Some might recall Berry from being on the wrong end of Adlan Amagov's linear kick to the knee, which folded Berry immediately.
Eugene "The Sniper" Fadiora is a little known newcomer from England's Team Kaobon. His only loss was dealt by grappling phenom and UFC middleweight Gunnar Nelson -- Fadiora, though lacking big names on his resume, has steam-rolled the rest of his competition with a strong (11 of 12) and balanced (6 subs, 5 TKO's) finishing rate.
Bellator 105 Preliminary Card (Bloody Elbow at 7:00 p.m. ET)
Joseph Bryan vs. Raphael Butler
Volkan Oezdemir vs. Josh Lanier
Luis Nogueira vs. Frank Baca
Jesse Brock vs. Adrian Cruz
Eddie Larrea vs. Rocky Ramirez
Steve Garcia vs. Shawn Bunch
Desmond Green vs. Angelo Sanchez