Marcin Held has secured seven of his 14 wins by submission. | Keith Mills
Bellator Fighting Championships will once again invade your television screens on Friday, as the promotion’s seventh season rolls into the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I. Bellator 81 may take place in the smallest state in the Union, but this card could nonetheless deliver some big thrills, serving to piece together the final for the promotion’s ongoing lightweight tournament.
Here is what to watch for during the MTV2 broadcast:
Marcin Held’s quarterfinal bout with Murad Machaev probably did not go the way the young Pole envisioned.
Though Held was clearly the larger man that night, he still had to fight tooth and nail for every inch against his game opponent, who clawed his way back into the fight during the second round of their Bellator 77 collision by stuffing Held’s takedown attempts and winging wild punches that landed just often enough to put the decision in doubt.
Round three was another competitive stanza, with both fighters looking exhausted during the final five minutes. In the end, Held managed to convince the cageside judges that he won the fight, but this was not the type of performance I was expecting from the prospect.
Fans of the Polish submission specialist should worry about his continual lack of cardio in the cage, as well as his inability to consistently take the fight to the floor without diving on a leg lock, Masakazu Imanari-style. This would be less of a problem if the 20-year-old had shown more improvement in his standup technique, but that was not the case. Held needs to up his game -- and quick -- or I think he is in for a rude awakening against Rich Clementi.
While Held looked tentative during most of his quarterfinal contest, Clementi took charge of his bout from the beginning, likely realizing he would need a hot start in order to stifle highly touted prospect Alexander Sarnavskiy.
“No Love” saw an opening early in the first frame and jumped on it -- literally. The American monkey-climbed his way onto the overaggressive Russian’s back and sucked away much of his wind while threatening with rear-naked choke attempts.
Clementi hit the “replay” button in round two, putting the undefeated youngster on his back before once again sinking his hooks and spending much of the round fishing for another rear-naked choke. Though Sarnavskiy rallied to end the second round and carried his momentum into the third as the American began to fade, the damage had already been done, resulting in Clementi advancing to the semifinals and Sarnavskiy swallowing a bitter first defeat.
Can Clementi repeat the same trick against another promising but raw talent in Held?
Justice for Jansen
What a performance by Dave Jansen.
In round two, Jansen began to turn the tide, pumping a stiff jab into Saadulaev’s mug while sprawling on all of his takedown attempts. As the Dagestan native became wearier, Jansen appeared to grow stronger, finishing the frame with a flurry of jackhammer ground-and-pound to both the dome and the guts.
Running on fumes, Saadulaev had little to offer in round three, diving on a desperation takedown attempt and leaving his neck exposed. Jansen seized the opportunity and locked up that guillotine, squeezing for all he was worth and ending the fight.
I think that performance makes Jansen the favorite to win this whole thing. With that said, “The Fugitive” surely knows his path to a title shot will get no easier in the semis.
Teetering on Tirloni
I still do not quite know how to feel about Ricardo Tirloni, but I think we will all have a good idea of where he actually stands after his meeting with Jansen.
Tirloni’s career on paper is an impressive one thus far, with his only losses coming to future UFC champion Benson Henderson and Rick Hawn, Bellator’s current No. 1 contender. Even so, it is tough to get a feel for exactly how high Tirloni’s ceiling extends, and his quarterfinal appearance against Rene Nazare did little to clear up the issue.
Yes, Tirloni showed great intestinal fortitude in turning a near knockout loss into a sweet brabo choke submission win, but it is not his heart, resilience or even his manhood that I am questioning. When that dude loses, he goes out on his shield. What is more concerning to me are the openings that Tirloni presents when he gets excited, both standing and on the ground. This can certainly work to his advantage, and, indeed, that quality has netted him nearly all of his victories by knockout or submission, but as we have seen against top competition, the approach can also backfire.
If Tirloni could keep his chin tucked a little more and hold his hands a bit higher, I would not worry so much. I think the same is true for his ground game. I would love to see the Brazilian take his time and really set up a strategy that would play to his well-roundedness and aggression, instead of exclusively relying on those aspects of his game to carry him to victory.
Can Tirloni get past Jansen? If he can, I think he will soon find himself next in line for a crack at the lightweight title.