The winners -- Pat Curran, Marlon Sandro, Nazareno Malegarie and Ronnie Mann -- all looked very good in victory and advanced to the second round of Bellator's eight-man featherweight tournament. No matter how the four are paired in the tournament semifinals, they're virtually guaranteed to be a couple of outstanding fights.
The semifinals will take place at Bellator 47 on July 23, along with a Bellator featherweight title fight between Joe Warren and Patricio "Pitbull" Freire, and that card is shaping up to be a great showcase of Bellator's solid featherweight division.
Curran earned his victory quickly, forcing Luis Palomino to tap out to a Peruvian necktie at 3:49 of the first round. That submission wasn't what anyone was expecting from Curran, who previously won a Bellator lightweight tournament, but he said afterward that the fight played out just how he wanted.
"I rocked him with a right hand, he went to the ground, he felt a little weak, he was just getting his mind back together," Curran said. "I just went for it -- I practice it in the gym all the time."
Sandro took a split decision victory after an entertaining 15 minutes in the cage with Genair da Silva. Sandro appeared poised to finish da Silva in the first round, first by knocking him down with a devastating punch, and then by attempting a guillotine choke. But da Silva managed to pull out of the guillotine, shake off the cobwebs and keep fighting. Sandro never came close to finishing da Silva after the first round, but he did control the fight, and it was surprising that one judge scored it for da Silva, 29-28. The other judges gave the fight to Sandro, 30-27 and 29-28, and he looked solid in his North American debut.
Malegarie displayed some absolutely beautiful Brazilian jiu jitsu in winning a third-round submission against Jacob DeVree. Malegarie had what appeared to be a tight guillotine choke in the opening moments of the first round, but DeVree maintained his poise and broke free. DeVree also broke free of a Malegarie heel hook, and he survived the rest of the first round thanks in part to a questionable stand-up by referee Troy Waugh. But Malegarie was absolutely relentless on the ground, controlling DeVree there for almost the entire second round and then pulling off a textbook-perfect guillotine choke early in the third round, finally forcing DeVree to tap. Malegarie is now 20-1 in his MMA career.
Mann unleashed an explosive assault on Adam Schindler in winning by first-round knockout, knocking Schindler down with a quick right uppercut and a hard left hook and finishing him with a few more unanswered punches to the face on the ground before the referee finally stopped it. It was a brilliant showing by Mann, who improved his professional MMA record to 20-2-1. If Mann, who's known primarily as a submission specialist, can show off that kind of striking consistently, he's going to be a force in this tournament.