Saunders Surprising Himself in Bellator

By Staff Oct 25, 2011
Ben Saunders put on a jiu-jitsu clinic against Luis Santos on Oct. 8 at Bellator 53 that few would have predicted, including himself.

From his back Saunders (Pictured) kept Santos, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, under nearly constant danger before taking the top position in the third round and tapping him with a key lock. The win advanced Saunders to the finals of Bellator’s Season 5 welterweight tournament.

“I can honestly say these past two tournament fights have not really been what I expected them to be,” Saunders told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Savage Dog Show.” “The fact that the jiu-jitsu kind of came out in both of them, I can say that I’ve been able to pretty much come out of each fight uninjured and pretty awesome for the following rounds.”

Saunders stopped Chris Cisneros in their opening round match in September. The quick turnaround that comes with the Bellator tournament format may lead some fighters to a strategy that minimizes damage taken, but that wasn’t Saunders’ game plan. He fully expected to stand and bang with both opponents.

“I’m not going to change my style because I don’t want to think about the next round and I don’t want to change who I am and possibly make a boring fight just because I want to make it through the rounds,” he said. “No, I didn’t care that it was a tournament. If I went out there and I threw a kick to the dude’s head and knocked him out and broke my foot and couldn’t move on to the next round, that’s how I wanted to go out. It just so happened that they would take me down or somehow it ended up on the ground, and we kind of went with it there.”

It worked out well for Saunders. Next up is the tournament final on Nov. 12, where he’ll take on Douglas Lima.

“I’d say we’re dead even,” Saunders answered when asked who should be the favorite in the matchup. “I don’t feel like I have accomplished more than him. He was the MFC welterweight champion. Hell, he even has more fights than me. I think I’ve fought maybe some higher-level guys, so that kind of evens us out.”

Both are also American Top Team representatives, with Lima based in Atlanta and Saunders based in Orlando. They have never trained together, but Saunders is full of praise for his future opponent.

“It’s going to be a war,” Saunders said. “He’s just like me. He’s very passionate about mixed martial arts, and it seems like he’s created a style to be very good at. He’s got good boxing. He’s got really good jiu-jitsu. He’s definitely going to be probably my toughest opponent, and it’s going to be an honor to fight him. May the best man win.”

Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:33:36).


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