Bellator 101 saw Joe Warren’s return to the cage after almost a year off due to his coaching stint on Fight Master. This was a new and improved Warren entering the Bellator cage to advance to the bantamweight finals against Travis Marx. Marx earned his spot in the finals with his second round TKO win over Brandon Bender just one week ago at Bellator 100. Warren took on Nick Kirk who was looking for the biggest win of his career. The action went down at the Rose Garden, in Portland, Oregon and also featured the start of this season’s lightweight tournament.
The televised part of the card started with Saad Awad taking on Martin Stapleton in the first of the four lightweight bouts. Awad made it to the finals of the last tournament as a last minute replacement. He quickly made his presence felt by KO’ing Guillaume DeLorenzi and Will Brooks in the first rounds of each fight. We almost had a repeat of that as Awad dropped Stapleton in the opening moments of this fight. Stapleton was able to recover and hold on for a little while longer but he could not escape the first round. After getting briefly battered in the standup Stapleton got a takedown. It did not take long for Awad to show off his ground game as he quickly got a reversal. Once he got on top he methodically worked his way to mount and from there quickly got the back. From there he got the hooks in and used some ground and pound to open up the choke and locked it in. Once again it was an easy first round tournament win to advance injury free to the semi-finals.
There he will face Will Brooks who had a tougher time in his three round UD win over the tough veteran John Alessio in one of the bloodier battles of the year. With fifty fights in his fifteen year career, Alessio is a veteran of the sport. His opponent, Brooks, is a rising prospect with his lone loss coming against Awad in the semi-finals of the previous lightweight tournament. Brooks will get his chance to avenge that loss after he put a beating on Alessio. He opened up a cut in the first round which was the closest of the fight and ended with Brooks on top doing damage. This would be the theme of the next two rounds as Alessio with his veteran grittiness was able to survive the fight but he could not mount any offense against Brooks. With a little over a minute and a half left in the fight Brooks opened up a nasty gash underneath Alessio’s left eye that quickly turned that area of the cage into a crime scene from Dexter. It was a wicked cut that was three inches in length and had Alessio smiling as he was admiring it in the big screen as the two fighters awaited the decision. It was a little more work than Awad’s fight, but Brooks suffered very little damage and will be looking to avenge his only loss in the next round.
The other side of the bracket featured a tough workman like UD win for Ricardo Tirloni over the tough and experienced Rich Clementi. Coming into this fight Clementi had sixty-eight fights under his belt. With all of his veteran savviness could not find an answer for left hand of Tirloni which consistently found Clementi’s face. By the end of the fight his was wearing a bloody mask courtesy of Tirloni. It was good solid win for Tirloni who will need to do more in the next round against another rising hot prospect Tiger Sarnavskiy.
In his young career but busy career Sarnavskiy has only suffered one loss. That came against Rich Clementi in a SD almost one year ago. His Rear-Naked-Choke of Marcus Davis in the first round was his fourteenth submission win to go with six TKO/KO wins. He is simply a finisher. He will not get to avenge his controversial loss to Clementi and will have to settle for taking on the tough Tirloni. If he looks anything like he did against Davis then Tirloni is in trouble. Almost before Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith could finish telling us about Davis’ professional boxing career, Sarnavskiy had knocked Davis down and backwards with a wicked straight right. Once they got to the ground Sarnavskiy quickly locked in a body-triangle, used some ground and pound to open up the choke. He quickly locked it in and it was over. Sarnavskiy got the quick easy win to move on to the semi-finals.
The main event featured a new and improved Joe Warren taking on tough and game Nick Kirk. After shooting Fight Master Warren worked with his fellow coaches Randy Couture and Greg Jackson to get ready for this fight. He called it his first true training camp where he spent the time focusing on his specific opponent and how defeat Kirk. In his career Warren has essentially gotten by on guts, heart and his strong wrestling background. his standup his not world-class but it was vastly improved. He showed much better footwork and head movement. He also was able to use his striking to set-up his takedowns. Once it got to the ground he showed that the new skills have not detracted from his grappling. He was able to pound on Kirk and then control the fight. In the second round he got the fight to the ground in the opening fifteen seconds of the round. He again went to work as was able to get the awkward armbar shoulder submission win. He advances to the finals to take on Marx. That will be a tougher test for him as Marx brings a stronger grappling background with him.
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It was another exciting night of fights on Spike TV courtesy of Bellator MMA. Next week is all about the heavyweights as they start their tournament. It will feature two former UFC vets making their debut in Bellator MMA as Cheick Kongo takes on Mark Godbeer and Lavar Johnson faces off against Vinicius Spartan on the other side of the draw. Tune in next Friday for more Bellator MMA action on Spike TV.
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