In a way, Dave Jansen has grown up alongside Bellator Fighting Championships.
As Jansen—a former high school teammate of UFC welterweight Mike Pierce—prepares to combat Ricardo Tirloni in one of two Bellator season-seven lightweight tournament semifinal match-ups this Friday, he exudes excitement at the relationship he has established with not only Bellator matchmaker Sam Caplan, but also commentators Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith.
“Both Jimmy and Sean have good energy,” Jansen told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview, “and they are able to describe fights well.”
Of course, Caplan’s matchmaking skills have aided greatly in the success of Bellator as a promotion, but Jansen especially applauds Caplan’s matchmaking because of the competition Caplan consistently lines up for him.
“He’s given me tough fights every time,” Jansen said. “I’m not fighting cans, and I’m building with every fight.”
Naturally, Caplan’s job as matchmaker became easier when Jansen submitted Magomed Saadulaev in the third round by guillotine choke, and Tirloni submitted Rene Nazare in the second round.
Saadulaev came out “on fire,” as Jansen anticipated he would, and got him in some threatening positions, but Jansen turned it up after the first round.
“The first round was close,” Jansen said, “but the second round, I found my timing, and at that point I was able to get the takedowns after I landed some stiff jabs, and I started going to work on the body from the open guard.”
After taking the wind out of Saadulaev’s sails, Jansen set up the guillotine in round three, locked up guard and forced the submission, thus punching his ticket to the semis. In watching Tirloni submit Nazare, Jansen noticed a few points of interest in Tirloni’s victory.
“From what I could tell,” Jansen said, “it looked like Nazare was getting the better of the stand-up until he just got a little overaggressive and got clipped. I know Ricardo is able to pull the trigger, and he smells blood in the water, so I have to be on point.”
As one may expect, Jansen knows some holes in Tirloni’s game don’t appear as evident as others, and he intends to exploit that fact come Friday night.
“I know there are some takedowns in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu,” Jansen said, “but they just don’t stack up with traditional American wrestling. I have that edge for sure. I feel very confident with my boxing as well, so I’m going to look to fight in all three dimensions: the striking, the wrestling, and the submissions. And I think I’ll be able to take whatever’s there.”
With a win over Tirloni, Jansen would await the winner of Rich Clementi vs. Marcin Held, which headlines this Friday’s card, in the finals. The winner will face reigning Bellator lightweight champ Michael Chandler, should Chandler beat Rick Hawn, but while Jansen feels he matches up well with both men, he knows who he wants in the finals.
“It’d just be an honor to fight a seasoned vet like Clementi, and just have two Americans in the finals.”
On top of that, he already has his radar fixed firmly on the champion, regardless of who walks out with the belt.
“I definitely think about fighting Michael Chandler—or Rick Hawn, because I think Rick’s got a good shot. I think I’m going to be a better fighter by then, and I think I have the tools to win that fight now, but looking down the road, I’m going to be even more dangerous. I have the determination and drive to take it all the way, and my journey doesn’t stop with this tournament.”
Critics and doubters may have something to say about it, but if Jansen has his way, they will stand in silence. It all starts with his performance against Tirloni on Friday.
Photo: Dave Jansen rains punches from the top (Keith Mills/Sherdog)