Bellator MMA took to the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mount Pleasant, Michigan to kick off their season eight lightweight tournament. The evening’s main event saw David Rickels defeat Lloyd Woodard for a slot in the tournament semifinals, as well as the right to bear facial hair after a gentlemen’s agreement at yesterday’s weigh-ins. Also moving on are Will Brooks, Saad Awad, and Alexander Sarnavskiy.
The lightweight tournament headliner between David Rickels and Llooyd Woodard was expected to bring fireworks after both men agreed to put their facial hair on the line, they rather unsurprisingly obliged. “The Caveman” found himself badly hurt in the opener but was able to survive, much at the expense of Woodard. “Cupcake” has never been known as anything other than a first round fighter, but the Dogpound fighter certainly refused to accept it in the cage. The mustachioed one was clearly winded in the second and his defense became porous. A huge combination from the bearded fighter clearly hurt “Cupcake” late in the second. From there, it was smooth sailing for Rickels. The Kansas native was easily able to outland his exhausted opponent, who had yet to fully recover, in the final stanza, earning a unanimous 29-28 from the judges’ table, advancing to the semifinals, and keeping his beard.
Will Brooks outpointed Ricardo Tirloni in a fifteen-minute battle. While Tirloni was clearly the harder puncher, “Ill Will” was able to consistently chop away at the Brazilian’s legs and take him down seemingly at will. The Ataque Duplo fighter seemed comfortable off his back, but offered little against the offense of Brooks. After three rounds, the Illinois native would have his hand raised with a unanimous 30-27 victory.
Saad Awad made his return to the Bellator cage for the first time since 2009 as a late replacement for Patricky Freire. The Millennia MMA product made his return a successful one as he advanced to the semifinals. It took Awad a mere 31 seconds to announce his presence by blitzing Guillaume Delorenzi. A monstrous left hook sent the Canadian on the run, where his opponent would pounce, finishing him with strikes.
The evening’s opening quarterfinal bout saw Alexander Sarnavskiy put on a clinic against Thiago Michel. It seemed as though “Tiger” was the kickboxing world champion, not the Brazilian. Michel was clipped by the Russian several times, he continually circled into the power hand of Sarnavskiy, who brought a new found fluidity to his striking. The Rusfighter opened the second round by shooting for a leg and taking the brown belt to the ground. “Tiger” would sink a rear-naked choke and force the tap at 3:43 of the middle period with a rear-naked choke.