Bellator’s tournaments normally begin with some hype following a few fighters. Whether it be Brett Rogers in this season’s heavyweight tournament, or Alexander Sarnavskiy in the lightweight tourney. But hype is only hype, as both fighters came to find out in their respective quarterfinal losses.
Sarnavskiy didn’t live up to his hype coming into the Bellator tournament. A perfect 20-0, albeit against questionable competition, nonetheless he still had the hype train going in and it was derailed against a battle-tested Rich Clementi.
Still, the tournament is filled with its share of good, high-potential fighters. One to mention is 20-year-old Marcin Held, who already has had a fight with current Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler. Held has shown tremendous upside with his unorthodox grappling skill set that has earned him seven wins by submission including his last two by heel hook.
It’s tough to say that any of these guys impressed me, with someone like Chandler awaiting the winner of this tournament. Clementi took out a favorite to win, but barely. Tirloni spent his fight in an exciting slugfest, but exciting doesn’t translate to great skill, especially good enough to face Chandler. Remember Chandler rocking Eddie Alvarez, then utilizing his wrestling to wear out Alvarez on the ground? The same would happen there.
Held certainly has the potential and didn’t look bad in his fight, but his performance certainly wasn’t “future Bellator champion” worthy. His gas tank emptied by the third, and his striking defense and power weren’t there for this fight. Held has the grappling, but his striking isn’t there just yet.
Then we have Dave Jansen, who lost his first round but was able to rally back and win round two and secure the choke in round three. Much like Held, though, the striking defense would need to improve prior to the title fight.
Right now, these four men are tied heading into the semifinals with no one really having a better chance than the other. The only guy who might stand out would be Rich Clementi, who has not only had a handful of Bellator fights, but also fought in the UFC against some stiff competition. His experience does help him out going forward, having been on the big stage before.
It is tough to say if any of these guys have what it takes to dethrone Chandler. Personally, I wish Alvarez would have stepped in the tournament, as he is the only man outside of Zuffa control that could challenge Chandler in a rematch that could produce some serious fireworks. Unfortunately, though, that wasn’t the case and wasn’t a possibility.
These guys certainly produced exciting fights in the first round, but the talent still has a way to go before the title fight.
Photo: Rich Clementi (R) battles Alexander Sarnavskiy at Bellator 77 (Keith Mills/Sherdog)