Marlon Sandro lived up to the hype and Pat Curran showed he is as good at featherweight as he was at lightweight as the pair secured semifinal wins in the featherweight tournament Saturday night at Bellator 47 at Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario.
Sandro and Curran will meet for the featherweight Summer Series tournament final on Aug. 20 at Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun. The winner secures $100,000 and a title shot. The featherweight belt is held by Joe Warren, but Warren first will fight injured Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, who earned a shot at the belt by winning the featherweight Season 4 tourney. To further complicate matters, Warren is fighting in the upcoming Season 5 bantamweight tournament, then plans on wrestling in the London 2012 Olympics.
Besides Sandro and Curran, the other winners in matches featured on the MTV2 broadcast of Bellator’s initial foray into Canada were local lightweight hero Chris Horodecki and heavyweight Neil Grove, in addition to Alexandre Bezerra, whose fight was not shown live.
Sandro defeated Nazareno Malegarie via unanimous decision and took every round on all three judges’ scorecards.
The fight displayed each combatant throwing and landing hard leather. Sandro showed excellent evasiveness and came out of the exchanges slightly ahead of Malegarie. Nevertheless, both fighters ate punches that would’ve ended some other featherweight’s night. The fight was action-packed from bell-to-bell, with Sandro attempting flying knees in the final seconds of the fight.
“This fight was a war,” said Sandro, a teammate of UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo. “This was a good fight.”
In the headliner, Curran showed the form that earned him a lightweight tournament championship in Bellator by scoring a unanimous decision win against Ronnie Mann.
Curran fell in love with flying knees for the first two rounds, but laid off in the third as he cruised to the win. Neither competitor was able to execute a lethal plan of attack, which left some fans booing due to the stale fight, but Curran initiated most of the exchanges and never allowed Mann to get into a groove. He dictated from the start and won 30-27 on two judges’ cards, 29-28 on the other as Mann tried a desperation guillotine in the fight’s waning moments.
The match of the night came at the start of the television broadcast, as Grove scored a TKO in two thrilling minutes against former Ultimate Fighter reality show contestant Zak Jensen.
The mammoth pair engaged in a flurry of power punches from the opening bell, and Jensen buckled Grove to the canvas with a left just 10 seconds in. They continued to trade powerful punches from the canvas in a peculiar position, with Grove holding Jensen in an ankle lock and Jensen sitting up.
Jensen pulled guard and nearly secured a triangle, but Grove powered out of it, then went right back into the guard and pounded away until the fight was waved off to secure his spot in the Season 5 heavyweight tournament.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time away from my family to train,” said Grove, who lost in the first Bellator heavyweight tournament finals to champion Cole Konrad. “The loss to Cole Konrad is behind me and I’m training hard to get back into the heavyweight tournament.”
In preliminary action, Bezerra had the crowd in amazement when he defeated Jesse Gross via technical submission on a rear naked choke. It only took Bezerra just over one minute to choke Gross unconscious.
Bellator was forced to make adjustments leading up to the event, which was supposed to be headlined by the Warren-Friere title match. Two additional fights were scrapped because the fighters did not make weight, yet the promotion still managed to put on an exuberant show, judging by fan reaction in the house.
The card got off to a rousing start as Toronto’s own Alex Ricci amped the crowd up with his spectacular finish. Ricci defeated Alka Matewa in the middle of the second round after the Belgium native could not take the punishment the Canadian was dishing out, and tapped from strikes.