Alright, a new Bellator season, a fresh start on life. Carpe diem. YOLO. It’s all good as long as we get to see some lightweight tournament action Bellator style, and tonight didn’t disappoint. Bellator 77 was hyped as an invasion of the Russians, but consider the Reading Theater in Reading, Pennsylvania the Bering Strait – because the Russians weren’t able to get anything going. To explain: the Bering Strait could connect the United States and Mother Russia, but wars, politics, and inclement weather have proved this project to link the countries dreamed by lovers of peace and land connections impossible for a hundred years. So…yeah?
Ricardo Tirloni and Rene Nazare kicked off the night in a big way, both men starting the fight in whatever the fastest gear on a race car is (3rd, 4th I don’t know). Round one is back and fourth with both dudes jockeying for control of their lightweight lives. Round one ends, and the Brazilians head to their corners. After downing some acai, both dudes decide to throw out any semblance of respect and start throwing leather. Nazare nails Tirloni with a looping punch, dazing Tirloni, then Tirloni decks Nazare back, forcing both men to go into zombie mode. After some back and forth punches to the face, both men tumble to the mat and Tirloni sneaks in a beautiful D’arce choke that forces Nazare (a BJJ world champ) to tap. Tirloni moves on in the lightweight tournament and Nazare loses his third fight in a row after starting out as perfect as a potato.
Next up, Polish ground specialist Marcin Held hoped he could pump himself into Polish Power Mode™, the Polish version of going Super Sayan, so he could submit Russian Murad Machaev in the first round. Like an unfortunate screen door installed on a submarine though, he failed. Murad Machaev was able to keep him at a distance and even daze him a few times, but Marcin plodded forward like his perogi was stolen, dodged Machaev’s winging power punches and somehow eeked out a decision that the crowd was not fond of. Regardless, Marcin moves on in the lightweight tournament.
In the third fight of the Bellator lightweight tournament quarterfinals, Dave Jansen would strut out to the cage that held yet another badass Russian in Magomed Saadulaev. Wild shots are thrown to start the fight off in style, then a great grapplefest ensues with both fighters gaining brief advantages. Saadulaev starts to look tired after Jansen reverses a few of his takedowns, then kind of stands there with his hands on his hips for a while. Jansen keeps pushing the pace and Saadulaev continues to put his hands on his hips in some weird form of showmanship then pays for it when Jansen shoots on him, takes him down, then goes into berzerker mode (yes, with a Z) on the Russian’s head with hammerfists. Round three starts, Saadulaev goes in for the takedown then Jansen sinks in a guillotine, screams and closes his eyes and Saadulaev taps out.
In the main event and final quarterfinal bout, old lion Rich Clementi came to spoil the Bellator debut of young lion, Shlemenko protege and undefeated lightweight prospect Alexander Sarnavskiy. Sarnavskiy comes to bang in typical Shlemnko fashion right away, even barking with each punch as his master does. Clementi takes a few shots, then hops on the Russian’s back where he remains in body triangle position against the cage for most of the first round. With about a minute left in the round, Clementi finally gets Sanavskiy to the ground and sinks in a deep as hell rear naked choke to no avail. It was seriously this close. More of the same with Sarnavskiy landing a shot here and there in impressive fashion until Clementi decides to take him down and do what he will with him. Shlemenko is freaking out in the corner, screaming at his student, but the young Russian can’t get anything together and Clementi gets his hand raised after fifteen minutes.