Andrey Koreshkov is your first Bellator tournament champion this season, and tonight, we crown champion #2. Bellator 83 features the finals of the Featherweight tournament as Shahbulat Shamhalaev (11-1-1 MMA; 2-0 Bellator) faces Rad Martinez (14-2 MMA; 4-0 Bellator). The main card airs live on MTV2 starting at 7:00 p.m. ET, with prelims available as a live stream on Spike.com, and here at Bloody Elbow, starting at 6:00 p.m. ET.
NOTE: This is an early start time of 7:00 p.m. ET - not the normal 8:00 p.m. start time for Bellator.
Here's the full Bellator 83 fight card, with the weigh-in results, followed by an in-depth preview of the main event and a look at the rest of the card:
Featherweight Tournament Finals: Rad Martinez (145.5) vs. Shahbulat Shamhalaev (146)
Women's Feature Fight: Zoila Gurgel (124.5) vs. Jessica Eye (124.5)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Zach Makovsky (135.5) vs. Anthony Leone (136)
Heavyweight Feature Fight: Mike Wessel (263) vs. Alexei Kudin (237)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Darrell Horcher (156) vs. Chris Liguori (156)
Featherweight Feature Fight: Brylan Van Artsdalen (145) vs. Terrell Hobbs (145.5)
Catchweight Feature Fight (129 lbs.): Tuan Pham (128) vs. Matthew Lozano (125)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Bo Harris (135.5) vs. Claudio Ledesma (135.5)
Bantamweight Feature Fight: Jesse Brock (135.5) vs. Jimmie Rivera (136)
Shahbulat Shamhalaev (11-1-1) vs. Rad Martinez (14-2)
Shamhalaev looks to continue the Russian dominance of Bellator this season, joining Koreshkov in taking home tournament glory. The 29 year old made his Bellator debut in this tournament. He's won with a pair of 1st round TKO/KO stoppages so far, though the two wins were quite different and showed a lot about Shamhalaev.
In the quarter-finals, Shamhalaev met Cody Bollinger. Oddly, the Muay Thai based Shamhalaev chose to fight that one on the mat, taking Bollinger down. There, he had a bit of trouble with the submission game, but was finally able to take control and bring down some incredibly heavy ground and pound for the stoppage. In the semi-finals, he opted to remain standing against Mike Richman. There, he showed off his crisp striking technique, as he waited for his opening, then blasted Richman with a counter punch for the KO win.
The two defining characteristics of these fights are patience and power. Shamhalaev is not a fighter who is desperate, and will chose the right moment to attack. At the same time, he doesn't just wait - he fights to create those openings. Once he has them, he uses his power to capitalize, landing clean KO shots.
Rad Martinez had a tougher road here, winning a pair of decisions. The first was a war with Nazareno Malegarie, the second, a somewhat easier win over Wagnney Fabiano. Martinez brings a wrestling background to MMA, though he has largely set it aside in favor of a stand-up game. In the Fabiano fight in particular, he showed off his striking skills. There, he used nice combinations, along with shots to the body, and some very good feints to throw off his opponent, ultimately outscoring him for the easy decision win.
It's clear that Shamhalaev has the better technical striking, but what makes this fight interesting is Marinez's scrappy-ness. He's a fighter that will keep coming, pushing the pace in order to drag his opponent out of a technical battle and into a war. That's served him well so far, though I think Shamhalaev is too smart of a fighter to get suckered into Martinez's style of fight. If Rad uses his wrestling, he might have something going for him, but I don't see that happening. Look for Shamhalaev to again use his superior technique to counter Martinez's more reckless style and take home the win.
The winner here should move on to a title shot, but there is a serious jam up at 145, as champion Pat Curran needs to face Patricio Pitbull, then the winner needs to face Daniel Straus before a potential Shamhalaev/Martinez shot. So it could be awhile.
Prediction: Shahbulat Shamhalaev by KO, round 1
Zoila Gurgel (12-1) vs. Jessica Eye (8-1)
Gurgel is the Bellator 115 pond women's champion, though she has not defended that belt (or even fought at that weight) since winning it over Megumi Fujii in 2010. Since that win, she's been at Flyweight, where she once again competes for this fight. Gurgel was out for a year and a half due to injury, but made a successful return in October. She's definitely one of the better pound for pound fighters in the women's MMA scene today. Jessica "Evil" Eye fights for the second time in Bellator here, as she defeated Anita Rodriguez earlier this year. Gurgel represents a big step up for her. Honestly, this seems like a pretty easy Gurgel win - my only question is why is she still holding the 115 pound title, but fighting her 3rd straight Flyweight fight? Either give up the belt and stay at 125, or drop back down.
Prediction: Zoila Gurgel by decision
Zach Makovsky (14-3) vs. Anthony Leone (11-5)
Makovsky is the former Bellator Bantamweight champion, having won the inaugural belt in 2010. He's coming off a loss, as he dropped the title to Eduardo Dantas earlier this year. Makovsky is a skilled ground fighter, with both wrestling and submission experience that he blends together nicely. Leone has bounced around in some big organizations, including WEC (where he has a loss to Renan Barao) and Strikeforce, though has found little success at this level. He comes in off a Bellator win last May. This would be the biggest win of his career by far, but I don't think he can pull it off.
Prediction: Zach Makovsky by submission, round 1
On the prelims, I most like Alexei Kudin (14-4). He was the #3 Heavyweight on our Scouting Report last year, thanks largely to some very strong stand-up skills. He's matched up with Mike Wessel, which could definitely provide for a highlight reel stoppage win for Kudin.
Hope to see you here at Bloody Elbow later tonight for Bellator 83.