Some people love it.  Some hate it.  But there is no arguing the fact that the tournament format that Bellator holds each season is a breeding ground for new stars in the sport.  Fighters that were relative unknowns have gone through the tournament and delivered a phenomenal performance, putting themselves on the map.

Within each tournament, there is typically one veteran who is expected to win it all, and a couple of middle-of-the-road fighters who have a chance, and then the rest of the bracket is filled with long-shot guys.

But the season-seven lightweight tournament is sure to be one of Bellator’s best tournaments due to the overall talent involved.

Looking exclusively at the headlining fight at this weekend’s Bellator 77, UFC veteran Rich Clementi takes on 20-0 Alexander Sarnavskiy.  Clementi holds notable wins over Anthony Johnson, Melvin Guillard, Sam Stout and Terry Etim.  While Sarnavskiy is undefeated, he happens to train with Alexander Shlemenko, who won the season-two and season-five middleweight tournaments.  Shlemenko will be able to help the Russian through the tournament grind.

Another fight in the tournament that should be fun is Magomed Saadulaev, who trains at Jackson’s MMA, going head to head with Sport Labs’ Dave Jansen.  As far as the top training camps in the sport, look no further than Jackson’s.  However, Jansen will parlay his Sports Lab training camp with the fact that he has big show experience, spending time with both the WEC and Bellator.

That’s not where it ends, as Murad Machaev will bring his 9-0 record into the cage against Marcin Held. Machaev brings his sambo background into the arena while Held will have his black belt in jiu-jitsu.  Held has fought three times in Bellator, losing only to current lightweight champion Michael Chandler.  Something tells me that Held wants to work his way to a rematch against the champion.

The last fight in the tournament will pit two jiu-jitsu black belts against one another, which always poses an interesting fight.  Rene Nazare will take on Ricardo Tirloni.  Both fighters have put together impressive records, 10-2 and 14-2 respectively, but both fighters have struggled recently. That makes them as hungry and dangerous as ever.  But don’t expect this fight to exclusively be a ground war, as Nazare has four victories by knockout and Tirloni has six.

No matter how this tournament unfolds, there will be plenty of difficult matchups for each combatant. Perhaps more importantly, will whoever comes out on top be able to pose a threat to Chandler?

Bellator’s lightweight tournament is the strongest tournament this season and is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Photo: Rich Clementi (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.