The countdown to Spike TV is on for Bellator, which has recently moved its offices to Los Angeles and been aggressive in pursuing free agents in anticipation of the shift. But between now and then, the promotion still has its seventh season and new title challengers to produce.
The lightweights will begin their pursuit of the belt on Oct. 19, when the tournament begins at the Sovereign Center in Reading, Pa. The eight-man field's best-known name is UFC veteran Rich Clementi, while its most intriguing talent might be unbeaten, 20-0 Alexander Sarnavskiy.
Sarnavskiy has compiled the impressive record despite being just 23 years old. To date, he's competed almost exclusively in Russia, with only two of his fights taking place in the U.S. His most notable win came against former UFC fighter Doug Evans. Sarnavskiy won by triangle choke in just 2:40. He also defeated former TUF welterweight Les Bentley by first-round chokeout.
Overall, Sarnavskiy has 17 of his 20 wins by finish.
The 35-year-old Clementi holds a career record of 44-21-1 and comes into the tournament having won three of his last four matches. He had a 2 1/2-year run in the UFC in the mid-to-late 2000s, going 5-4 in nine fights. In his most notable wins, he defeated Anthony Johnson and Melvin Guillard, both by submissions.
Bellator's other first-round lightweight tourney matchups include former WEC fighter Dave Jansen (17-2) vs. Magomed Saadulaev (14-1), Marcin Held (13-2) vs. Murad Machaev (9-0) and Ricardo Tirloni (14-2) vs. Rene Nazare (10-2).
Bellator's season 7 begins on Sept. 28 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.