Bellator 81 Preview

November 14, 2012

Bellator Fighting Championships wraps up the Season 7 semifinals this Friday, as four lightweights fight at Bellator 81 for a spot in the tournament finals. Resurging veteran Rich Clementi battles Polish prospect Marcin Held in the featured bout of the evening. Rounding out the lightweight semis is a pair of ground studs in Ricardo Tirloni and Dave Jansen. Also in main card bouts are two-time tournament finalist Marlon Sandro and German prospect Jonas Billstein. Bellator 81 goes down from the Ryan Center in Rhode Island Friday, November 16 at 8/7c on MTV2.

The gritty vet Clementi pulled off the biggest upset of the quarterfinals, taking out the unbeaten and consensus tournament favorite Alexander "Tiger" Sarnavskiy. "No Love" nearly submitted the Russian, hopping on his back and locking up a rear naked choke that would have forced plenty in the division to tap. While Clementi's lungs seemed to fade in the latter rounds, his chin held up and the 67-fight veteran took everything Sarnavskiy threw at him. While his jaw isn't likely to be tested against Held in the semis, his submission defense is a separate story. At just 20 years of age, Held already has 14 wins, including seven by submission, to his credit. A vicious heel hook is his weapon of choice, as displayed in his bout with Derrick Kennington in May. While his quarterfinal fight showed improvement in his hands, Held remains most confident on the mat.

When Tirloni and Jansen meet in the semifinals, expect an abundance of scrambles and submission attempts. Each grappling enthusiast scored an impressive submission win in the quarterfinals. Jansen found himself in trouble early against Magomed Saadulaev and was once again forced to display his impenetrable rear naked choke defense after his back was taken. The cardio of Jansen proved superior in the later rounds, as "The Fugitive" scored a third-round guillotine and notched his 10th submission win. Tirloni's submission was perhaps more remarkable, given his opponent's grappling accolades. Matched up against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu champ Rene Nazare, Tirloni displayed efficient ground defense and was able to stand up almost immediately after getting taken down. While his striking defense still has its holes, his power was on full display as he rocked Nazare early into the second round. Tirloni instantly pounced with a d'arce choke and scored his 13th finish in 15 wins.

Two-time tournament finalist Sandro returns to the cage and battles Dustin Neace in featherweight action. Neace, perhaps best known for his stint on Season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter, faces a tall order in his Bellator debut. While 18 of the Indian native's 23 career wins are by submission, he's also been submitted in more than half of his defeats. That could spell trouble against Sandro, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt. Following his devastating Sengoku run, the Brazilian's hands were some of the most feared in the game. Though Sandro hasn't registered a knockout win since transitioning to Bellator, his heavy hands have opened up submission opportunities that he's capitalized on, most notably Roberto Vargas in their Season 6 quarterfinal matchup. A win puts the 35-year-old Nova Uniao product in prime position for another tournament run.

Kicking off the main card is a battle of two prospects with a knack for finishing fights, as Billstein meets Bellator newcomer Perry Filkins. A product of the Northeast fight scene in his native New Hampshire, Filkins sports a 6-1 record with six knockouts, including four in the first round. The once-beaten middleweight faces his toughest test to date in Billstein. A heavily touted prospect, the only losses on Billstein's 10-2 record are to 2012 Summer Series tournament champion Attila Vegh and Herbert Goodman, the latter having an asterisk attached to it. The German picked Goodman apart for the better part of two rounds before an illegal soccer kick, a move allowed in his previous outings, got him disqualified. If his last fight, a dominating first-round submission win in June, is any indication, Billstein has adjusted to the rules on this side of the Atlantic and is ready for primetime in the middleweight division.

Before the main card airs, presents Bellator 81 prelims at live at 6e/3p. Dan Cramer returns to the Bellator cage and faces once-beaten Joe Lamoureux at 185 pounds. A pair of unbeaten welterweights battle as Sam McCoy takes on Brennan Ward. Also, lightweights are in the cage as Paul Barrow clashes with Matt Bessette. Check out the full Bellator 81 card.

Bellator 81 main card is live on MTV2 and EPIX2 at 8/7c
Prelims are live at at 6e/3p

Image: Eric Coleman /Eric Coleman Photography /Bellator Fighting Championships