Bellator Fighting Championships will head to "The Keystone State" this Friday night (Oct. 19, 2012) at the Reading Eagle Theater in Reading, Pennsylvania.
The main card will air live on MTV2 and Epix HD on fight night, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
Headlining the main event of Bellator 77 will be a very interesting season seven lightweight tournament quarterifinal bout between unbeaten Russian star Alexander Sarnavskiy and UFC veteran Rich Clementi. Sarnavskiy enters the tournament as a prized prospect from overseas while Clementi is looking for one last big run as he nears the end of his career.
Also on tap, Brazilians Rene Nazare and Ricardo Tirloni are both looking to improve upon their last tournament appearances where they both failed to get past the season six quarterfinals respectively.
Two overseas grapplers will clash as Polish submission specialist Marcin Held takes on Russian choke specialist Murad Machaev and lastly, WEC veteran Dave Jansen takes on yet another Russian in the Greg Jackson-trained Magomed Saadulaev.
Our Bellator 77 preview and predictions are posted below
155 lbs.: Rich Clementi (44-21-1) vs. Alexander Sarnavskiy (20-0)
Clementi at one time was one of the UFC's most dangerous talents at 170 and 155 pounds. He beat the likes of Melvin Guillard, Anthony Johnson and Terry Etim during a solid run in the promotion, handing the latter two the first losses of their careers. Age has started to catch up to him, however, and a rough patch forced him to seek employment elsewhere. "No Love" has had his ups and downs in regional promotions, but has won three of his last four heading into this tournament.
Alexander Sarnavskiy is probably the most talked about lightweight prospect on the planet right now. "Tiger" has ripped through his opposition, whether it be Russian fighters on the way up or M-1 prospects once he'd begun to gain recognition. Sarnavskiy is a finishing machine both on the feet and on the ground and he's been stopping fighters from all different sorts of nationalities along the way.
Clementi's best course of action is to try to exploit Sarnavskiy's biggest weakness which is his takedown defense. He's going to have to close the distance without getting clocked with a knee, elbow or any other significant strike and then put the Russian on his back while avoiding his multitude of submissions and sweeps. He's a veteran so he's got a half decent shot at it, but Sarnavskiy is not going to make it easy for him. I just see too many ways to win for the talented 23-year old Russian fighter.
Final Prediction: Alexander Sarnavskiy via TKO in round one
155 lbs.: Rene Nazare (10-2) vs. Ricardo Tirloni (14-2)
Rene Nazare is a strong Brazilian grappler. He looked to be headed for big things after starting his career 7-0 and then earning three consecutive stoppage victories under the Bellator banner but he had trouble against scrappy wrestler Jacob Kirwan, who stifled his game and neutralized his submissions. Against Thiago Michel earlier this year in his first tournament, Nazare could not score the big takedowns or keep him down and he would lose a close decision.
Ricardo Tirloni met a similar, more violent fate. After losing to current UFC champion Ben Henderson in his fourth professional fight, he strung together 11 straight wins including a dominant performance in his Bellator debut against Steve Gable. He faced Rick Hawn in the quarterfinals of the season six tournament and was caught with a nasty right hand and put out cold. He's seeking redemption on Friday night.
Nazare, while powerful and dangerous, has run into serious trouble when he finds a fighter who can neutralize his strengths. Tirloni is very solid both on the ground with his submissions, in the transitions with wrestling as well as possessing serviceable striking skills. He's likely going to be too much for the reeling Nazare.
Final Prediction: Ricardo Tirloni via decision
155 lbs.: Marcin Held (13-2) vs. Murad Machaev (9-0)
Marcin Held is an extremely talented grappler out of Poland. His submissions are very aggressive and he lives by the motto "no limb left untorqued." At just 19 years old, Held ran into the buzzsaw that was Michael Chandler in the first round of the Bellator season four lightweight tournament and despite nearly finishing him with a leg lock, he was choked unconscious and submitted. Held has since reeled off three straight wins including a pair of his patented heel hooks to earn another shot.
Murad Machaev is a bit of an unknown commodity. A sambo competitor, he tore through the ranks of unknown Russian fighters in his homeland and even earned the nickname "Chokeman" for his multiple rear naked choke victories. He signed with Bellator in August and is ready to step out into the big time.
While Held is extremely aggressive with diving into submissions, he's also been known to leave openings for the opposition. That's how he lost to Chandler. If he's too reckless on the ground, he could leave enough space for Machaev to dive onto a submission of his own. Also, Held's stand-up skills still need a significant amount of work. If he can't get the fight to the ground, he could be in trouble. That being said, I feel he's the most aggressive and dangerous of the two fighters especially if he can dive for submissions.
Final Prediction: Marcin Held via submission in round one
155 lbs.: Dave Jansen (17-2) vs. Magomed Saadulaev (14-1)
Dave Jansen hails from the Pacific northwest. The 33 year old was a standout of the Sportfight promotion, also competing in M-1 along the way and eventually earned an invite to the WEC after winning his first 13 professional fights. Despite winning his first bout in the promotion, consecutive losses to Kamal Shalorus and Ricardo Lamas left him on the outside looking in when the UFC merged the promotions. Since then, Jansen has gone 3-0, all with Bellator including a gritty victory over Jacob Kirwan his last time out to earn a shot in this tournament.
Magomed Saadulaev is the third Russian in this field. He's another fighter who adores the ground game, having never finished a fight via TKO with eight submission and six decisions on his record. After starting his career out 14-1, he switched up his training camp and headed over to Greg Jackson's gym where he joined fighters like Andrei Arlovski and Adlan Amagov.
Saadulaev competed as a welterweight in Russia but he's dropping down to 155 pounds to be able to be more competitive in America. That being said, Saadulaev is a good fighter on the ground, but he's completely untested against top competition. Don't be surprised if Jansen gets the better of him in scrambles. On top of this, Jansen has been putting in significant time with his striking and he's planning on shutting down Saadulaev's game and outworking him on the feet. It may not be the most technical stand-up battle, but Jansen should pull it out.
Final Prediction: Dave Jansen via decision
So what do you think, Maniacs?
While these aren't the most notable names, Bellator has compiled several fighters with intimidating records. Who's your pick to take this whole thing? Will Sarnavskiy make it through this tournament unscathed?