The Bellator Season 7 lightweight tournament final was set Friday night at the Ryan Center in Kingston, R.I., where American Dave Jansen and Poland's Marcin Held scored semifinal victories to advance.
Of the two, Held, only 20 years old, was more impressive during a second-round finish of Rich Clementi. Held dictated the terms of the fight, threatening the 36-year-old Clementi with multiple variations of leg locks throughout the first five minutes. That trend lasted into the second until Held (15-2) finally secured a tap as he ratcheted up torque on Clementi's left ankle.
"It is the best feeling in the world," Held said, though he may want to hold onto that thought and save it for the contest with Jansen, which will determine who wins $100,000 and a shot at the Bellator lightweight title.
Unlike Held, Jansen, 33, needed the judges to determine his fate Friday. Jansen (18-2) snuck into the final with a split-decision victory over heavy-fisted Brazilian Ricardo Tirloni.
"I kind of pictured the fight like that," Jansen said. "I was going to use my wrestling as a backup. Tirloni's definitely got heavy hands. He cracked me with a few good ones. But I felt I was able to make him miss and make him pay when he did hit me, so it worked out."
The American dropped Tirloni, 29, early, but the gap closed in Round 1 after the Brazilian connected with a variety of strikes. A late surge and takedown by Jansen sealed the first in his favor. Round 2 belonged to Tirloni, who tuned into straight punches and power shots to the body. The final period was very tight. Tirloni (15-3) continued thudding power shots off Jansen, who responded with strikes of his own and a couple throws near the end.
Judges were split, 29-28 twice for Jansen. ESPN.com scored the bout 29-28 for Tirloni.
"Marcin looked excellent tonight," Jansen said of his opponent in the final. "I'm really looking forward to testing my skills against him, seeing what he has to offer."
Sandro Subs Neace
It wasn't long before they went to the ground and Neace hunted for a heel hook, but Sandro calmly defended, spun out of the hold and circled to his opponent's back.
"I train boxing and Muay Thai, but my school is the biggest school in the world for jiu-jitsu," said Sandro, a principle member of Brazil's Nova Uniao fight camp. "On the ground I will find a submission every time."
Despite not controlling the position with both hooks, Sandro snared Neace's neck and began working on a rear-naked choke. Neace, 26, offered little defense and was quickly rendered unconscious at 2:05 of Round 1.
Kicking off the evening's televised action, Perry Filkins proved too much for young German Jonas Billstein, scoring a unanimous decision victory (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) at the conclusion of an entertaining 15-minute contest.
Each middleweight had his moment.
Filkins (7-1) started strong, basically walking through Billstein (10-3) to land power strikes, most of which were thrown in combination. Billstein responded in Round 2 by increasing and varying his striking output while changing things up with a late takedown.
Action also picked up in the middle period after an exchange of eye pokes, and that energy played out during an exciting final stretch.
The third round went back and forth until Billstein snapped off a front kick to the face. This set Filkins off -- "getting filthy" he said afterward -- and he attacked the German, who finished the bout taking heavy shots.