Alexander “Tiger” Sarnavskiy sports 20 finishes among his 24 victories. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Bellator MMA on Friday returns for another round of sanctioned violence live on Spike TV, as Bellator 105 takes place at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, N.M. The main draw is highlighted by the Season 9 lightweight tournament semifinals and immediately follows the preliminary stream on Spike.com.
Here is what to watch for at Bellator 105:
This may seem like an obvious observation, but I think it would be wise for viewers to keep an eye on Alexander Sarnavskiy.
The young Russian’s explosive ability is matched only by his potential to become even better. Sarnavskiy has won four straight fights since suffering his lone career defeat in a split decision to Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Rich Clementi one year ago. Whether or not the 24-year-old thrives will hinge heavily upon whether or not he can stay healthy. “Tiger” has already seen one tournament run cut short due to a broken hand, and I have to wonder if that might turn into a recurring issue for him down the road, as is often the case with hand issues. Regardless, both fists looked sterling in his return to the Bellator cage in September, when the Russian pounded out UFC veteran Marcus Davis in just 100 seconds.
Presently, Sarnavskiy will have those hands full with Ricardo Tirloni, a seasoned Brazilian battler who gutted out a unanimous decision win over Clementi in his quarterfinal outing. Can the “Tiger” overcome Tirloni and earn his first berth in a Bellator tournament final?
Best Served Cold
Will Brooks must want to beat Saad Awad pretty badly.
Once an unbeaten prospect and a solid bet to win the Season 8 lightweight tournament, Brooks found himself unceremoniously placed on ice skates in February, as Awad shocked just about everyone by blasting his favored foe into unconsciousness at Bellator 91. The lessons learned from the knockout defeat were many.
“Mentally, losing that fight [to Awad] helped me step back and look at everything going on around me and eliminate some people in my life who weren’t giving me the best advice,” Brooks told me before his Season 9 quarterfinal in September. “We had to rebuild everything -- the group of people around me, my personal mental [outlook] and my physical [preparation].”
Brooks’ change in mindset, along with a permanent move to Florida in order to live near American Top Team, guided the prospect to a one-sided unanimous decision win over former UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting title contender John Alessio at Bellator 101. Can “Ill Will” perform the same trick against Awad or does the Millennia MMA rep simply have Brooks’ number?
If “Mighty Mo” hits you flush, you are hitting the deck. His deadliest punch is his overhand right, though that shot is riskier to throw in MMA than it is in kickboxing, for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, feel free to ask Francois Botha, Brecht Wallis or Scott Lighty about the technique if you doubt its effectiveness.
Mo is 43 years old, but that did not seem to hamper him in his Bellator debut against the previously undefeated Dan Charles. The former K-1 competitor measured his output while working a nasty body attack and staving off the takedown attempts of the Arizona Combat Sports rep before stopping Charles early in round three.
Will the heavyweight find similar success against Sparks, a heavy hitter who has only been out of the first round one time in his 10-fight career?
Bunch of Ability
With Larue Burley’s technical knockout of an exhausted Bubba Jenkins on Sept. 20, Bellator saw one of its top wrestling prospects suffer his first career defeat.
Question: can Shawn Bunch keep his perfect record intact or will he stumble as Jenkins did? The setback is by no means a death sentence for the athletic Jenkins, but it must nevertheless be disappointing that Bellator can no longer promote him as an undefeated NCAA champion if and when his time comes to enter a lightweight tournament.
Along those lines, it would certainly benefit Bunch to keep that “0” in his record for as long as he can. The former U.S. National and Pan-American champion is unbeaten through two pro outings, though he spent some time on his back in the third round of his July 31 meeting with Russell Wilson before earning a split decision victory. Will the 30-year-old put forth a noteworthy performance against Steve Garcia or could we see another upset?