Sandro, Curran book spots in final

Leaps and bounds: Marlon Sandro's high-flying game proved leagues deeper than Nazareno Malegarie's. Al Quintero/Sherdog.com

Last week we ran a Hot Button debate focused on which fighter would win Bellator's ongoing featherweight tournament. Sherdog.com columnist Jordan Breen smartly tabbed Marlon Sandro, the man most favor to pull it off. I took a bit of a flyer on Pat Curran.

Say this much for us: At least we nailed the final pairing.

Both Sandro and Curran took well-earned decisions Saturday, setting up what should be a competitive fight Aug. 20 at the Mohegan Sun. It can be, if Curran makes it so, much more than that. See, Sandro (19-2) is so slick and experienced he needs a kid with aggression and skill to go to war and bring the most out of him. From what I've seen of Curran (15-4) in his two bouts at 145, he can do just that.

For all the quality depth Zuffa accrued at 145 pounds, the Las Vegas behemoth doesn't have featherweight on lock. Not yet. Sando, ranked No. 5 by ESPN.com, is a consummate pro. He would most certainly be competitive against any featherweight in the UFC, but because Sandro shares the same camp as the organization's young featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, it was decided that he'd take a crack at Bellator's belt instead of campaign under the Zuffa banner. After a spate of quick finishes (three wins in a total of 3 minutes, 20 seconds), Sandro has gone 11 rounds in his past three contests, though he hasn't so much as broken a sweat in his two Bellator bouts.

Curran will make Sandro work to earn the $100,000 payday and title shot versus Joe Warren that comes with winning the tournament. As I wrote in my debate with Breen, Curran's size, wrestling and tight, technical game -- he rarely makes mistakes -- lead me to believe he's going to knock off an excellent fighter next month.

Now, time for grades:

Josh Gross covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at JoshGrossESPN.