Pat Curran and Marlon Sandro each cruised to decision victories in the featured contests of Saturday's Bellator 47 event.
The two will now meet on Aug. 20 in the main event of Bellator 48. A future Bellator featherweight title shot hangs in the balance.
Bellator 48 took place at Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario, Canada. The evening's main card aired on MTV2.
In the evening's second semifinal contest, Curran looked to use his length advantage early, firing off front kicks from distance. But Mann moved freely in the early going, darting in and out. Still, Curran landed the firs significant strike with a flying knee that saw Mann back away and reset.
Curran landed a stiff left as the round wore on, immediately moving into a clinch and working the fight to the floor. Curran advanced past Mann's full guard, but the round ended before he was able to capitalize on the position.
In the second, Mann tried to press in early, but Curran was able to stand firm in the pocket and land crisp hooks. A few flying-knee attempts came up short, but Curran maintained his dominance in the striking game.
Mann remained the more active fighter as the round played out, but Curran's power and accuracy as he controlled the center of the cage left him the more effective combatant. Mann nearly ended the fight in the final seconds of the second with a tight guillotine choke attempt, but the bell sounded before he could squeeze tight enough for the tap.
In the final round, it was Mann who needed to press, but he found it impossible to locate the opening he needed to turn the table. Curran landed several stinging low kicks, but more importantly, he avoided taking any serious damage as he cruised to a decision win.
There were a few tense moments in the end, as Curran fought off a pair of choke attempts from Mann, but the submissions weren't too close to ending the fight.
A former Bellator lightweight tournament winner, Curran (15-4 MMA, 5-1 BFC) will now look to become the first fighter to win a Bellator bracket in two divisions. Mann (20-4-1 MMA, 2-1 BFC) sees a four-fight win streak snapped.
Sandro outwrestles, outstrikes Malegarie, books finals slot
In the evening's first tourney semifinal contest, Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts Marlon Sandro and Nazareno Malegarie fought for 15-minutes on the feet, and the hard-hitting Sandro flexed his vaunted striking prowess en route to victory.
Malegarie struck from the outside early, but he was obviously a bit uncomfortable as he looked to avoid Sandro's trademark power. A few jabs found their way early for Sandro, and a right hand wobbled Malegarie two minutes in.
Malegarie tried a few times to dive for a leg, but Sandro was able to scamper away from each attempt. Malegarie looked to return fire as often as possible on the feet, but it was Sandro's stiff straights and wild hooks that were most successful. Sandro stumbled in the final seconds of the first, but Malegarie couldn't capitalize.
In the second, Malegarie seemed intent to move forward more frequently, but Sandro also looked more comfortable as he fired off looping hooks. Malegarie struggled to find a way to bring the fight to the floor, but it just didn't appear to exist. Halfway into the round, the two moved into the clinch, but it was Sandro who brought the fight to the floor with a trip. However both fighters popped right back to their feet.
Sandro got an additional pair of takedowns late in the round, but Malegarie popped up each time. He did eat a flying knee for his troubles, and the momentum was all Sandro's.
The final round saw more of the same. Malegarie's chin held under a Sandro assault, but the pattern of the fight was well established. Malegarie was unable to work the fight to the floor as Sandro's defensive wrestling held firm. To his credit, Malegarie continued to press forward, but Sandro proved himself the better fighter.
With the win, Sandro (19-2 MMA 2-0 BFC) booked himself in the "Summer Series" featherweight tournament final and is now 5-1 in his past six fights. Malegarie (20-2 MMA, 1-2 BFC) falls to just 1-2 since opening his career with 19-straight victories, but his heart was commendable.
Horodecki controls Saunders, cruises to decision win
In a highly anticipated lightweight special feature, WEC and IFL veteran Chris Horodecki made a successful Bellator debut with a convincing victory over Chris Saunders.
Saunders struck early with a crisp spinning backfist. But Horodecki withstood the blow, and the two traded from range until a missed guillotine choke left Saunders fighting from his back. Saunders threatened with flexibility on the bottom, but it was Horodecki who transitioned to the first real submission attempt with a tight guillotine choke.
After the hold failed, the two continued to transition back and forth until Saunders threatened with a kimura in the closing minute of the first round. Horodecki pulled free and landed several punches in the closing moments of the back-and-forth frame.
In the second, the two opened up striking again before Saunders fell back again in a missed guillotine-choke attempt. Horodecki worked from top for most of the remainder of the round as he began to take control of the momentum.
In the third, Horodecki earned a quick trip takedown and went to work with punches from his opponent's guard. Saunders worked back to his feet, but a lively Horodecki kept the pressure tight as he slipped out of another guillotine choke and fought again from top position. Saunders threw up a few desperation submission attempts in the closing minutes, but Horodecki shucked them off and advanced to mount, riding out the top until the final bell.
In the end, Horodecki (18-3 MMA, 1-0 BFC) walked away with a clear-cut decision win and is now 4-1 in his past five overall outings. Saunders (9-1 MMA, 0-1 BFC) sees a seven-win streak snapped.
Grove stops Jensen in rousing two-minute thriller
In the evening's main-card opening bout, heavyweights Neil Grove and Zak Jensen did exactly what they were supposed to do: throw bombs. And while Jensen drew first blood, it was Grove who ultimately proved victorious.
After an initial toe-to-toe firefight saw the pair swing wildly on the feet and eventually hit the deck, Grove shocked everyone by dropping back for a leglock that wouldn't come. With both fighters in a seated position, the heavyweights began launching wild bombs to the gut.
Jensen then backed away and looked for a triangle choke, but Grove shucked off the submission attempt and began firing bombs from the top position. He landed with heavy shots, and Jensen went limp, forcing the stoppage from an accumulation of blows just two minutes into the fight.
Grove (11-3-1 MMA, 3-1 BFC) returns to the win column after falling short against Bellator heavyweight champion Cole Konrad this past October. In his Bellator debut, Jensen (10-7 MMA, 0-1 BFC) falls to just 1-4 in his past five overall contests.
OFFICIAL MAIN CARD RESULTS
* Pat Curran def. Ronnie Mann via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27) - featherweight-tourney semifinals
* Marlon Sandro def. Nazareno Malegarie via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) - featherweight-tourney semifinals
* Chris Horodecki def. Chris Saunders via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
* Neil Grove def. Zak Jensen via TKO (punches) - Round 1, 2:00
OFFICIAL PRELIMINARY CARD RESULTS
* Daron Cruickshank vs. Sergej Juskevic*
* Alexandre Bezerra def. Jesse Gross via technical submission (rear-naked choke) - Round 1, 1:28
* Will Romero def. Dan Langbeen via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
* Alex Ricci def. Alka Matewa via TKO (strikes) - Round 2, 2:40
* - Bout takes place following main event