MT. PLEASANT, MI - David Rickels (12-1) beat Lloyd Woodard (12-3) via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) on Thursday night to move into the semifinals of the Bellator Season 8 lightweight tournament.
Woodard looked good early in the bout. He opened the fight with a couple leg kicks and eventually took Rickels down. Woodard worked hard to hold his opponent on the mat and land some shots, but Rickels kept him on his toes. First, he attempted a triangle choke, which forced Woodard to slam him in order to get free. Then Rickels pounded Woodard with shots from inside his guard. When the round ended, Woodard was the one who was bloodied, even though he won the round on the judges' scorecards.
Rickels came out and took the fight to Woodard in the final two rounds. He repeatedly landed combos while Woodard grew more and more tentative with his stand-up game. Woodard often appeared tired and unable to understand how to attack Rickels. He eventually resorted to taking his opponent down, but that proved fruitless because Rickels maintained an active guard.
Woodard didn't put things together until late in the fight when he started to counter Rickels, but it was too little too late. Woodard suffered his second straight loss in Bellator, and Rickel advanced into the semifinals to face Alexander Sarnavskiy.
Sarnavskiy submits Michel
Sarnavskiy (22-1) proved that he belonged in the tournament by beating Thiago Michel (11-4) via submission in the second round. Michel was supposed to have the advantage in the striking game, but Sarnavskiy's defense was too much to overcome.
Michel tried everything he could against Sarnavskiy. He threw combos, leg kicks, and overhands, but Sarnavskiy blocked almost every single shot. Meanwhile, Sarnavskiy mixed up his attack well and landed much more on Michel. When he finally took the fight to the ground in the second round, Sarnavskiy was clearly in control of Michel. He finished it by taking Michel's back and forcing the submission via rear-naked choke at 3:42 of the second round.
Will Brooks dominates Ricardo Tirloni
Will Brooks (9-0) entered the night as a hot prospect and left as a major threat to win the lightweight tournament. Brooks dominated Ricard Tirloni (15-4) for all three rounds to earn a unanimous decision victory (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Tirloni fought hard, but he didn't have much to offer Brooks. The youngster got the better of the exchanges between the two fighters early, and once Brooks took the fight to the ground, there wasn't much Tirloni could do offensively. Tirloni did attempt multiple submissions throughout the fight, but Brooks simply shrugged them off and continued to control him. It was an impressive performance by Brooks, and he'll definitely be a fighter to watch as the tournament progresses.
Saad Awad stuns Guillaum DeLorenzi
Two weeks ago, Saad Awad (13-4) was preparing to fight on the Bellator undercard. Now he's one victory away from competing for the lightweight tourney championship. Awad attacked Guillaum DeLorenzi (10-2) from the moment the opening bell rang. He landed a hard combo that rocked DeLorenzi, and smelling blood, Awad pounced on his wounded opponent. Seconds later, referee Jason Herzog stepped in to stop the fight. It was a brutal performance by Awad. His semifinal fight with Will Brooks should be a thriller.
Derek Ciapala was cageside at Bellator 87 at Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. He has been published on GatewayMMA.com, UltimateApocalypse.com and multiple other websites. You can check him out on Facebook or on Twitter @dciapala.