Bellator returned with its 77th installment on Oct. 19 at the Reading Eagle Theater in the Sovereign Center in Reading, Penn. The main card featured four fights, comprising the quarterfinal round of the Season Seven lightweight tournament.
The quarterfinal round began with three Russian fighters, two Brazilians, two Americans, and one Polish fighter. The most anticipated fight on the card pitted the 20-0 Russian youngster, Alexander “Tiger” Sarnavskiy, at 23 years of age, against 13-year MMA veteran and former UFC fighter, Rich Clementi, who held a record of 44-21-1.
The preliminary fights and four-fight main card streamed live on Spike.com, and the main card was also featured on MTV2 and EPIX2.
The most talked-about fight of the night did not unfold as people expected, as UFC veteran Rich Clementi faced off with undefeated Russian Alexander Sarnavskiy.
Early in the first round, Sarnavskiy landed a couple of big spinning shots on the veteran Clementi, a back kick, followed by a backfist. Clementi took him to the cage and immediately worked into standing rear control. Clementi proceeded to work almost the entire round from this position, and finally sunk in a deep rear-naked choke, falling to his back. Sarnavskiy fended off the deep choke and eventually got out right before the bell.
In the second frame Sarnavskiy came out aggressive with striking. The Russian eventually pulled guard in a loose guillotine attempt, and Clementi passed his guard. The American transitioned to rear control with hooks, and went back into rear-naked attempts with softening punches in between. Clementi transitioned to a rear body triangle, but Sarnavskiy sat up and Clementi pulled him back down. The fighters scrambled around until Mario Yamasaki eventually stood them up, somewhat prematurely. Sarnavskiy immediately blasted Clementi with a flurry of punches and kicks before the bell rang.
Sarnavskiy started round three with a flurry of strikes and hurt Clementi. One shot put Clementi on the mat, and Clementi went for a knee bar attempt, unsuccessfully. Sarnavskiy stood up while Clementi was still on his back. Sarnavskiy fell with a punch into Clementi’s guard. Clementi then went for a kimura attempt while Sarnavskiy transitioned to half guard. Sarnavskiy pinned Clementi to the cage and pounded on his face. Clementi then transitioned through positions while both fighters continued to exchange on the ground. Yamasaki stood the fighters up again, prompting Clementi to go for a double-leg takedown, which failed. He then pulled guard. Clementi began a series of falls to his back, but the Russian fighter continued to stand the fight back up. The fighters went down one more time with a triangle choke attempt by Sarnavskiy, but the final bell sounded, sending the fight to decision.
With two rounds of rear control, Clementi was able to pull off a split decision and advance to the semifinals.
The third fight of the quarterfinal round pitted two submission specialists against each other with American Dave Jansen taking on the Russian Magomed Saadulaev, who trains with Greg Jackson in Albuquerque.
Both fighters began the first round with a quick exchange at center cage and Jansen clearly had the reach advantage. Saadulaev shot a double leg takedown on Jansen, and maintained a cross-body position. Jansen, on the way standing up, grabbed for a single leg and got top position. Both fighters continued to scramble up and down for most of the round, and by the time they stood back up, Saadulaev looked winded and kept shooting for takedowns. Eventually he got Jansen down, but fell right into the American’s guard and a guillotine attempt. Both fighters got back up and the bell sounded.
Round two began with Jansen applying more aggressive striking. Saadulaev was noticeably fighting with his hands down, appearing to bait Jansen with his hands on his hips. Saadulaev appeared to land less, but more significant strikes. Jansen took Saadulaev down with a double leg while the Russian had his hands on his hips. Jansen locked in an arm triangle choke from top, but Saadulaev transitioned to full guard and Jansen released the choke. Jansen eventually stood up from top guard and began a flurry of ground-and-pound until the bell sounded.
Round three started with Jansen striking right away. Per Greg Jackson’s instructions between rounds, Saadulaev took Jansen to the cage where Jansen sunk in a standing guillotine choke, pulled guard, and the Russian was forced to tap at 0:41 of Round 3.
Jansen’s fourth straight win in the Bellator cage earner him a spot in the tournament semifinals.
The second fight of the main card featured undefeated Russian fighter Murad Machaev against Polish fighter Marcin Held.
In the first round, Held came out swinging wild, but Machaev got him in a clinch against the cage. Both fighters continued their stand-up exchange, with Held maintaining control of the center of the cage. Held worked a series of clinch moves against the cage, all the while attempting takedowns. The bell sounded with Held attempting a last second leg lock.
The stand-up continued into round two. Held continued to control center cage as Machaev increased his aggression. Held, with his hands low, ate some heavy punches from the Russian. As the round progressed, Held began to slow as Machaev stayed aggressive. Held tried to back roll into a leg lock from standup, but failed. The round ended after multiple exchanges with Machaev having the clear advantage.
In the third and final round, Held came out as the early aggressor, but Machaev got right back to center cage control. Machaev was throwing less strikes, most of which being wild looping hooks. Held fell to his back and called Machaev in, but Machaev made him stand back up. The fighters went back to exchanging in center cage. Held was throwing one and done punches and kicks, not putting together any combinations. Machaev continued to stalk from center of cage, but didn’t throw or land very many strikes. Held threw more strikes in round three, and eventually earned the decision.
Held claimed his place in the semifinals.
The first fight on the main card pitted two BJJ black belts against each other with Ricardo Tirloni facing off against BJJ World Champion Rene Nazare.
The first round began as expected with both fighters pushing the pace on their feet. Nazare took down Tirloni, who got right back up. Nazare then went for a single, causing Tirloni to throw a guillotine attempt. Both fighters then exchanged a flurry of strikes, and Tirloni tried a takedown but missed. The fighters then went through back-and-forth clinch work against the cage. Eventually, Nazare came off the cage at the end of the round, landing a series of significant punches.
Both fighters came out exchanging in round two. Nazare suddenly clipped Tirloni, and he was immediately in trouble. Nazare took advantage and rushed Tirloni, but got clipped himself, and both fighters went to the ground with Nazare now in trouble. Tironi quickly sunk in a d’arce choke, and submitted the BJJ world champion at 1:14 of round 2.
Tiloni earned the first slot in the semifinals of the lightweight tournament.
Dave Jansen def. Magomed Saadulaev by submission (guillotine choke). Round 3, 0:41
Marcin Held def. Murad Machaev by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Ricardo Tirloni def. Rene Nazare by submission (D’Arce choke). Round 2, 1:14
Matthew Lozano def. Dave Morgan by submission (inverted triangle choke). Round 2, 2:28
Lew Polley def. Carmelo Marrero by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Darrell Horcher def. E.J. Brooks by knockout (punch). Round 1, 0:21
Cosmo Alexandre def. Mike Bannon by TKO (doctor’s stoppage). Round 2, 5:00
Duane Bastress def. Ariel Sepulveda by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Brett Martinez def. Eric Albright by submission (guillotine choke). Round 2, 3:28
Photo: Rich Clementi (Keith Mills/Sherdog)