Highly touted lightweight Will Brooks had tasted defeat just once in his pro career. But the man who beat him, Saad Awad, was standing on the other side of the cage Friday night during a 155-pound tournament semifinal at Bellator 105 in Rio Rancho, N.M.
Awad had knocked out Brooks in the first round in their previous meeting Feb. 28. Brooks, however, vowed there would not be a repeat. And he stayed true to his word, advancing to the Bellator lightweight tournament final with a unanimous-decision win.
All three judges scored the fight 30-27. ESPN.com also had Brooks winning 30-27.
"I've been through a lot to get to this point -- me, my family, my friends, we've all made extreme sacrifices just so I can chase one dream that every other fighter in here is chasing," said Brooks, who improved to 12-1. "To be here after losing that second fight in that last tournament, I don't know what to say."
Brooks took control from the beginning by registering a takedown. Once he had Awad on his back, Brooks gained side control and delivered two hard knees to the chest. While Awad (15-6) spent much of the round on his back, he was able to keep Brooks from inflicting much damage.
Awad, frustrated by the control Brooks employed on the ground during the opening round, tried taunting to start the second. He screamed at Brooks in an attempt to get him to attack.
But Brooks -- having made that mistake in their first meeting, which led to his getting knocked out in the opening round -- refused to bite. He kept his distance and eventually got a takedown.
Brooks dominated most of the second but got caught in a triangle with 20 seconds remaining in the round. The submission hold was tight; however, Brooks held on to survive.
Breathing heavily to start the third, Awad had little power left in his punches. Brooks' ability to keep him on the ground also left Awad unable to stuff takedowns during the final round.
Sarnavskiy surprises Tirloni with triangle
That Sarnavskiy won this fight wasn't as surprising as how he did it. He submitted Tirloni, a highly skilled submission artist, with a triangle.
Sarvavskiy was expected to have the advantage standing as a solid striker, especially with his hands. And that fact was proved immediately.
He used a spinning right-handed back-fist that found Tirloni's chin. The punch sent Tirloni to the canvas, and Sarnavskiy jumped on his stunned opponent.
Despite delivering several hard right hands, Sarnavskiy was unable to finish off Tirloni. But with his foe still dazed, Sarnavskiy went for the triangle and got it.
Sarnavskiy improves to 25-1. His win streak extends to five.
Tirloni has dropped three of his past four fights. He fell to 16-4.
'Mighty Mo' earns first submission win
During his brief MMA career, Siala-Mou "Mighty Mo" Siliga has developed a reputation as a hard striker. All four of his wins have come by knockout.
That changed against Ron Sparks as Siliga, 43, registered his first submission as a mixed martial artist by cranking Sparks' right arm until he was forced to tap. The end came at 2:52 of the first round.
Seconds into the bout, the fighters were on the ground. But it was Sparks who initiated the ground attack. His takedown attempt was defended nicely by Siliga, who immediately gained top position. Siliga would soon get side control, where he landed right hands to Sparks' face.
Although Sparks didn't suffer any damage from the punches, he did little to prevent them from landing. Siliga eventually maneuvered and got himself in position to apply the submission hold.
The win improved Siliga, who is 2-0 in Bellator, to 5-2. Sparks slipped to 8-3; his losing skid is now at three.
Fadiora stops Berry with elbows
Fadiora (13-1) dominated on the ground, taking Berry down almost at will and landing right elbows that opened a cut over Berry's right eye. It was believed that Berry would have the advantage standing, but that proved not to be the case.
In the final 30 seconds of the first round, Berry was able to get to his feet after spending much of the round on his back. He threw hard overhand rights, but none landed. A confident Fadiora displayed good footwork and landed straight right hands that caught Berry on the chin several times.
After a brief exchange to start the second round, Fadiora got a takedown before his elbows to Berry's damaged right eye resumed. Berry was unable to prevent the strikes, and the damage to his right eye got worse.
Referee Rob Hines warned Berry (14-11) that he needed to improve his situation. When Berry could not defend himself, Hines jumped in and stopped the fight.