Bellator just keeps on rolling, and this week (Sept. 27, 2013) it’s Bellator 101, coming to us from Portland, Oregon on Spike TV. This time around we will have the return of former Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren, who will be fighting in the bantamweight tournament, and the start of the Season 9 featherweight tournament. We haven’t seen Joe Warren (8-3) since November of 2012 when he beat Owen Evinger by unanimous decision at Bellator 80. His opponent in the bantamweight tournament is Nick Kirk (10-2) someone who is 0-2 in Bellator, but has picked up wins on the independent circuit between his losses. Kirk is a 30-year old technician, who doesn’t really overwhelm anyone in any one area, and looks to be fodder for the relentless Warren, who, if you don’t already know, is a ridiculously one-dimensional fighter. Although that one skill he’s great at, (wrestling) he’s exceptionally skilled in. It worries me that Warren was pulled out of this fight a few weeks back due to getting knocked out by his training partner. That, coupled with his brutal beating at the hands of Pat Curran and Alexis Vila over the last few years, makes me wonder if this is such a gimme after all. Kirk doesn’t have incredibly strong hands, but when you get knocked out in training, just what is left of a chin? On paper, the fight should be like every Joe Warren fight – knock down, drag out, shoot, shoot, shoot for the takedown. The longer it stays on the feet, the better it will be for Kirk, but that shouldn’t be for long. The Season 9 lightweight tournament begins at Bellator 101, with some familiar names filling the marquee. Former UFC fighter, Marcus Davis (22-9) has gone 5-1-1 with a NC against Waachim Spiritwolf back at Bellator 93 since he was relieved of his duties in the UFC. His opponent, Alexander Sarnavskiy (23-1) is probably the best competition Davis has faced since leaving the UFC. Sarnavskiy is another one of those highly-touted Bellator Russian imports, except he’s disappointed somewhat, losing to Rich Clementi in a great fight in his debut at Bellator 77, but is currently on a 3-fight win streak, two of which came inside the Bellator cage. It’s obvious that Sarnavskiy hasn’t fought the best competition, but you can’t sniff at his sambo background and 13 submission wins. He’s also got decent hands, brandishing 6 knockouts, but Davis has the advantage there, if he can keep distance and stay out of the Russian’s deadly clinch (a big “if”). On the ground Sarnivskiy has the edge, and the all-important conditioning may come into play considering the 16 years of age difference between these two fighters. Davis is 40 years old, and obviously on the tail end of his career, but maybe he has a veteran trick up his sleeve. It’s hard to tell. The most likely scenario is a quick clinch game, followed up by a takedown, then by a submission. The next matchup in the Bellator Season 9 lightweight tournament is once again old-guard vs. new-guard, with John Alessio (34-16-1) of all people coming to Bellator to fight 26-year old Will Brooks (10-1). Let me put it this way: John Alessio’s first UFC fight was when Brooks was still in middle school. Yeah. Now, Alessio is a crafty veteran, and has spent three separate stints in the UFC (going 0-5) as well as having a decent run in the WEC, but this journeyman’s best days are over. He’s coming off a NC in Vancouver, and lost his last two fights in the UFC to Shane Roller and Mark Bocek respectively, so he hasn’t tasted the sweet victory juices in about 18 months. Brooks is an up-and-coming monster. He has 4 knockouts and 4 submissions to his name, and his sole loss was to Saad Awad at Bellator 91. Brooks has good speed and explosiveness, and this could just be a match for him to display his burgeoning skills, but it’s hard to completely count out a vet that has as good of submissions as Alessio. Brooks sometimes gets a little overzealous with his attacks, which could open up Alessio to something. In the next lightweight tournament quarterfinal match, Saad Awad (14-4), fresh off a loss to season 8 tournament winner Dave Rickels, will face English banger Martin Stapleton (11-1). It’s not every day you get an import that isn’t from an eastern European country in Bellator, so we should view this with great interest indeed. Awad has extremely heavy hands, as he showed in his knockout win over Brooks last season, and he has 11 other finishes besides that highlight (6 KO, 6 subs total). He’s a dangerous man with both his hands and feet. Stapleton is a TUF vet who is currently on an eight-fight winning streak. He’ll be looking to take down Awad early, as no one really wants to test their chin against the power of Awad’s fist. This is probably the most competitive fight in the tournament, and the styles could make this quite interesting. Stapleton has good cage IQ, and could drag this into deep waters if he survives Awad’s initial onslaught. Or, if Saad doesn’t blow his Awad in the first round (thanks, I’ll be here all week). He handed Alexander Sarnavskiy his first loss in the season seven lightweight tournament, and after an incredibly exciting loss to Marcin Held, Rich Clementi (45-22-1) is still chasing after that title shot that he’s been searching after for years. Clementi, as they say, is no spring chicken. A theme we are seeing quite a bit in this tournament, but his opponent isn’t a young up-and-coming monster, it’s Ricardo Tirloni (15-4), a man who has lost in the opening round of these Bellator lightweight tournaments in 2 out of 3 tries, and holds a 2-3 BFC record. Tirloni hasn’t looked great against top competition, and his good BJJ skills haven’t really served him too well since coming stateside. This could likely become a sloppy stand-up fight, in which Clementi holds the advantage, or it could be a mad scramble on the ground, where both men could sink in a slick sub. This is a tough fight, with both men trying to prove to themselves that they belong in the tournament. This is almost like the Dark Horse bracket, with both men needing to win. Clementi is six years older, and obviously has much more experience, but neither men are considered really ‘athletic’ so this could be an entertaining ground battle.
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