Pat Curran KO’s Marlon Sandro to Claim Bellator Featherweight Tournament

Pat Curran (photo courtesy of Bellator)

Earns second tournament win of his career and future title shot in the process

In the last 16 months, Pat Curran has gone from being a virtual unknown to a certified star on the rise.

After knocking out Mike Ricci in the opening round of Bellator’s Season 2 lightweight tournament last April, Curran’s ascension really started with his upset win of former UFC contender Roger Huerta. The cousin of MMA veteran Jeff “Big Frog” Curran went on to earn a split decision win over veteran Toby Imada in the finals, and earned himself a meeting with lightweight champ Eddie Alvarez.

Though he lost a unanimous decision to the highly regarded Fight Factory product, his performance against Alvarez earned Curran some points as well. He’d more than held his own against one of the top lightweights in the world, and positioned himself as someone to watch in the future.

A natural featherweight, Curran jumped at the opportunity to join the 145 pound Summer Series tournament and immediately established himself as one of the favorites with his quick and tidy first round submission of Luis Palomino. The victory was the best performance of the first round and ranked high on the irony scale as well; Curran submitted the Peruvian Palomino with a Peruvian Necktie.

Curran collected a unanimous decision win against Ronnie Mann in the semifinals to set up last night’s meeting with Marlon Sandro.

A former standout in Sengoku – and Pancrase before that – Sandro has been entrenched in the featherweight top 5 for the last couple of years. Many viewed the Nova Uniao teammate of UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo as the best 145 pound competitor outside of the UFC, and he had looked good in picking apart the opposition to advance to the finals.

Sandro earned a 10-9 edge in the opening round of last night’s featherweight final, throwing more, landing more and generally being the aggressor opposite Curran’s tight, measured, counter-striking approach. He was on his way to a second 10-9 and an 20-18 edge heading into the third too, having opened a cut over Curran’s right eye and continuing to land more, but then he bobbed when he should have weaved.

Dipping to his left expecting a jab from Curran, Sandro caught a right head kick instead, and crashed to the mat, starched. Curran swarmed and landed a couple short punches as referee Keith Peterson hurled himself over the unconscious Brazilian.

The victory gave Curran his second Bellator tournament title, pushing his record to 6-1 in the organization and 16-4 overall. In addition to the $100,000 tournament prize, Curran earns a featherweight title shot as well, though he could potentially have to wait a while before he gets his second chance to fight for Bellator gold.

Current champ Joe Warren must first defend against Season Four tournament winner Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, as their bout scheduled for this summer was postponed when Freire was injured in training. Adding to the potential delays is Warren’s inclusion in the Season Five bantamweight tournament, which gets underway September 24; Bellator’s fifth season starts with the welterweight tournament quarterfinals on September 10.

In other action from Saturday night’s event at the Mohegan Sun, Bellator heavyweight champion Cole Konrad remained unbeaten, winning a wholly uneventful unanimous decision victory over Paul Buentello. Former TUF contestant and “Kimbo Killer” Seth Petruzelli collected an impressive first round knockout of former UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez as well. The loss brought his 12-fight winning streak to an end, and established Petruzelli as one to watch in the next light heavyweight tournament Bellator puts together.