Tonight MTV2 hosted the round-of-eight portion of Bellator’s “Summer Series” Featherweight tournament. The stated purpose of the Summer Series is to fill the lull between regular Bellator seasons, and tonight it produced some great fights with great finishes. And with Hatsu Hioki signing with the UFC this week, this tournament also carries a larger significance as well, as the winner should rightly be regarded as easily the best Featherweight outside of Zuffa (the UFC and Strikeforce). I’ll break down all the fights from the tournament here, and reveal the semi final matchups.
Quarter-Final Match: Ronnie Mann vs Adam Schindler
This one didn’t last long, and wasn’t super competitive. While in his previous Bellator fight, Ronnie “Kid Ninja” Mann had showcased his wrestling and solid ground and pound. This time he put on a technical striking exhibition. He had some help from Adam Schindler though, who threw a lot of wide punches which left many opening for Mann to land straight punches with frequency. He also showcased a few very good front-push style kicks and head-high roundhouses before the finish. The combination that ended the fight was a beautiful right uppercut-left overhand combination that was eerily similar to the one that Sam “Hands of Stone” Stout used to splay Yves Edwards out on the canvas at the most recent UFC show. Which made sense when Shawn Tompkins, Stout’s striking coach, was came in to congratulate his student Ronnie Mann. There was a decent attempt to survive but was met with viscous hammer-fists that shut his lights completely out.
Winner and Tournament Semi-Finalist: Ronnie “Kid Ninja” Mann via KO at 4:14 of Round 1.
Quarter-Final Match: Nazareno Malegarie vs Jason DeVree
The story of this fight was the excellent ground attack of Nazareno Malegarie and the resiliency of Jason DeVree. Early in the first round, Malegarie won the striking exchanges with quick hands and good footwork. DeVree sought a takedown, and found himself in a tight arm-in guillotine. Naz caught a leg and worked it from half-guard, although he was able to hook the leg on the same side as of the neck to create even more pressure than if he had full guard. DeVree fought loose but was soon caught in a heel hook, which he narrowly escaped. The round concluded with DeVree getting the better of the standup and stuffing a few takedown attempts from Naz.
The second round saw Naz shoot early and in the scramble that ensued latch on another tight guillotine and this time use it as a sweep to mount. DeVree only escapes after a scramble that finds him in yet another leg lock, and he ends the round by diving into Naz’s guard with a wild and ineffective right hand. The third starts similarly to the second, Malegarie shoots a nice smooth takedown and succeeds this time, and when DeVree schrimps his hips back he is caught in yet another dreadfully tight arm in guillotine. Malegarie pulls guard and sweeps to mount again, and this time the guillotine is too tight and DeVree succumbs and taps.
Winner and Semi-Finalist: Nazareno Malegarie via Submission at 1:25 of Round 3
Quarter-Final Match: Marlon Sandro vs Genair Da Silva Jr.
It is no surprise that Marlon Sandro entered this fight, and well, this whole tournament, as a huge favorite. Genair Da Sliva Jr., however aquitted himself nicely. He is a big featherweight and he showed a diverse striking skill set, throwing some unorthodox kicks like axe and hook kicks. Watching the lanky featherweight move, throwing moving leg kicks flowing out of combinations, as well as straight from-the-hips punches and flying knees, one could not help but be reminded of Chute Boxe Star Jose Pele Landi.
The fight followed a fairly regular pattern, and was almost all striking. In each of the three rounds, Sandro pushed forward and was met with a nice array of kicks and wild punches from the Capoera stylist, while also occasionally finding a home for some stiff punches. The general flow seemed to favor Da Silva, who moved laterally and mixed in effective strikes, while Sandro landed with markedly less frequency but noticeably more effective strikes. It can easily be said that Da Silva was two exchanges away from winning every round. It was Sandro, however, who was able to put a stamp on at least one exchange in every round that either sent Da Silva to the canvas briefly or left him furiously backpedaling, trying to find his wits. The only ground action was a brief exchange in the third, which saw Sandro work from guard and get upkicked illegally (which was somehow missed by Referee Jorge Alonso). The first two rounds were close, but I thought that they were won by Sandro. The third, however, belonged to Da Silva in my opinion. He landed a clean right hand that was the most effective strike of the round, and neutralized Sandro from his back with good heels on hips and effective strikes. It was close too though, and upon re-watching the fight I could see myself reversing the score.
Winner and Semi-Finalist: Marlon Sandro via Split Decision
Quarter Final Match: Pat Curran vs Luis Palomino
If ever there were a case for Bellator’s tournament format bringing an unexpected fighter into talks for being in the top ten of their division, it is Pat Curran. He exploded into Bellator’s season 2 tournament with a decisive KO of Mike Ricci with an overhand right, and it served him well in this fight in tandum with great takedown defense and jiu-jitsu to make proud his cousin, MMA pioneer Jeff “Big Frog” Curran.
Curran started the beginning of the end with a fake-flying knee-to-body kick combo. Soon after, Palomino threw a kick that was countered with a looping overhand right that sent Palomino crashing to the canvas. Luis shot a takedown out of necessity and suceeded briefly before Curran escaped and took a headlock position. After a failed D’Arce Choke attempt, Curran turned a headlock quickly into a hateful Peruvian Neck Tie, interestingly, on his Peruvian opponent. For those unfamiliar, the Peruvian Neck Tie is executed from arm in guillotine position with your legs sprawled. You then throw you legs around your opponents head and lower back on the arm-in side, in a similar fashion to an arm-bar. From there you can crank with the power of your upper body and legs, hips, and core against an opponents neck. Working as both a choke and a crank, your opponent is usually forced to submit, and Palomino did just that.
Winner and Semi-Finalist: Pat Curran vs Submission at 3:49 of Round 1
The semi-final matchups were given last night, and they will be as follows:
Pat Curran vs Ronnie “Kid Ninja” Man
Marlon Sandro vs Nazareno Malegarie
Look for a breakdown of these matchups and an early preview of the finals soon, as well as a breakdown of the coming Featherweight title match between Joe Warren and Patricio “Pitbull” Friere.