Bellator Fighting Championships will return to "The Ocean State" this Friday night (Nov. 16, 2012) at the Ryan Center in Kingston, Rhode Island.
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 80 will be a lightweight showdown pitting a crafty veteran against a promising young talent as 35-year old Rich Clementi battles 20-year old Marcin Held in the Bellator season seven 155 pound tournament semifinals.
Also on tap, two-time featherweight tournament finalist Marlon Sandro returns to the cage against the well-traveled Dustin Neace while Jonas Billstein and Perry Filkins throwdown in a battle of middleweight prospects.
Our complete Bellator 81 preview and predictions are posted below:
155 lbs.: Rich Clementi (45-21-1) vs. Marcin Held (14-2)
Rich Clementi is a long-time veteran of the sport, having competed 67 times since making his professional debut back in 1999. He showcased his veteran experience in his last bout, outgrappling Russian superstar Alexander Sarnavsky in season seven quarterfinals to hand the talented striker his first career defeat in 21 fights.
Marcin Held has experienced success in the Bellator cage despite being just 20 years old, having won three straight fights for the promotion in the past year. The Polish prospect looked to showcase his all-around game in his last bout, standing up with powerful Russian Murad Machaev and outlasting his opponent to win a close decision and advance to the semis.
Both men are very competent grapplers. While Clementi is more technical, Held is more aggressive. If this fight goes to the ground, there's no telling who would come out on top, but it would sure as hell be entertaining. On the feet, both men are still not that solid, so this fight could simply come down to who has more heart and who's willing to take the big risks. Clementi's wrestling gives him a slight edge, but his endurance is going to be tested by Held's constant attacks.
Final Prediction: Marcin Held via decision
155 lbs.: Dave Jansen (18-2) vs. Ricardo Tirloni (15-2)
What a shame this fight is taking place in the semifinals, as both men are probably the two best remaining lightweights in the tournament field. Dave Jansen was a solid WEC veteran, but he's found a second wind for his career with Bellator, winning four straight fights with the promotion including a third round guillotine choke over Magomed Saadulaev to advance to the semifinals.
Ricardo Tirloni is very well-rounded, capable of hurting his opponents both on the ground and on the feet. That was made evident in his last bout when he hurt Rene Nazare with a heavy right hand and then finished him with a D'Arce choke on the ground, a tremendous accomplishment considering Nazare's qualifications on the canvas.
This should be a terrific test as both men are very evenly matched. Tirloni likely has the edge on the feet with more power and technique in his striking, but Jansen can take a better shot. Jansen is also a bit of a slow starter and that could hurt him against the Brazilian as he could find himself in serious trouble early on. Once Jansen gets into a groove, look for him to work takedowns and try to blast Tirloni with ground and pound. Tirloni could get put out if he eats some big shots and that's something to be concerned about.
Final Prediction: Dave Janson via TKO in round three
145 lbs.: Marlon Sandro (22-4) vs. Dustin Neace (23-18-1)
Marlon Sandro has captivated fans with his aggressive stand-up style for years. He was a knockout machine while competing for Sengoku in Japan and he brought that punching prowess to Bellator, twice advancing to the tournament finals but he came up short both times to the likes of Pat Curran and Daniel Straus. He'll be looking for redemption on Friday night.
Dustin Neace has been a veteran of the sport for just over six years and has built a reputation for being willing to fight anyone at any time, anywhere. He's been extremely active in his career and was most recently a competitor on season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter. He lost to Bryan Caraway on the show's finale and has not competed since.
Sandro is one of the most dangerous one-round fighters in the business. He's extremely aggressive in the opening round and his power is not something to be doubted. If he can work his boxing and in particular, his uppercuts, he's got a good shot of putting Neace out, although it might be wiser for Sandro to try to work his Brazilian jiu-jitsu as Neace has been submitted 12 times in his 18 career losses. For Neace, he's got to play the waiting game. Sandro has a tendency of slowing down after the opening round and if he can outwork the Brazilian, he could play spoiler to his comeback.
Final Prediction: Marlon Sandro via submission in round one
185 lbs.: Jonas Billstein (10-2) vs. Perry Filkins (6-1)
German fighter Jonas Billstein, just 21 years old, has already been fighting professionally for three years. After knockout out the first eight men he faced in his career, he hit a bit of a speed bump, losing via submission to current Bellator light heavyweight number one contender Attila Vegh and getting disqualified against Herbert Goodman after landing a soccer kick to the head. He got back to his winning ways in his last bout, defeating Mike Seal via first round submission.
Perry Filkins got his start in mid 2010. Competing on the local circuit, he's stopped all six of his victories via TKO, although he did lose a three round decision in his third fight. This will be his first fight for Bellator and also his first significant test as he looks to step up to his first televised appearance.
Both Billstein and Filkins are competent strikers and both love to take the fight to the ground and work ground and pound. Whoever is able to impose their will is going to take this one home. Billstein has a much better strength of schedule and from observation of his fight tape, he's also a bit more well-rounded. Look for him to get a TKO or potentially even a submission.
Final Prediction: Jonas Billstein via TKO in round two
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Who are you predicting to make it to the lightweight tournament finals? Will Sandro return to the Bellator cage in spectacular fashion?