It is impressive when any professional mixed martial artist starts out their career 20-0. It is very impressive when said fighter accomplishes that feat fighting in the rough regional system that currently exists in Russia.
Alexander Sarnavskiy did just that to open his career. Training under current Bellator middleweight kingpin Alexander Shlemenko, Sarnavskiy was on the fast track to becoming a world champion. His signing to Bellator was a great start and opportunity for the young man.
However, since entering the Bellator cage, Sarnavskiy has not made the impact many have expected him to make. He lost for the first time as a professional in his Bellator debut, bowed out of this season’s tournament due to injury and is yet to have gold strapped around his waist.
Is this purely a case of bad luck, or has Sarnavskiy’s time with Bellator exposed him as a bust?
If you look at his loss to veteran journeyman Rich Clementi, it is easy to conclude that Sarnavskiy may not be the fighter we thought he would be. Clementi has had his fair share of big wins in his career, but many expected Sarnavskiy to give him hell and then move on to the semifinals of the tournament.
Could this one loss truly be the loss that exposed Sarnavskiy, though?
More likely, he has just run into some bad luck with the promotion. The loss to Clementi was extremely competitive and could have gone either way. Even though I scored the fight 29-28 to Sarnavskiy, you cannot leave fights in the hands of the judges, which is exactly what “Tiger” did.
Furthermore, his decisive victory over a tough opponent in Thiago Michel further stamped that Clementi fight as a possible fluke for the scrappy Russian. Sarnavskiy outstruck one of the best strikers Bellator currently offers. Not only that, but he finished Michel with a nasty rear-naked choke to move on to the semifinals of this season’s lightweight tournament. Unfortunately, the injury bug hit and Sarnavskiy is now on the sideline.
Bellator will likely stand behind its man, because he has proven a valuable commodity and a skilled fighter. You know when the company calls you by your nickname, it has put its eggs in your basket.
When Sarnavskiy heals, expect to see him back in a Bellator tournament. This is because he is one of the promotion’s top lightweights, he won his tournament fight this year and he presents one of the biggest potential challenges to Michael Chandler’s belt.
For now, we should all give Sarnavskiy a mulligan for the Clementi fight. Haven’t you ever had an off day?
Photo: Alexander Sarnavskiy (Keith Mills/Sherdog)