Bellator 83 goes off tonight an hour earlier than usual, with the preliminary card starting at 6:00 p.m. ET and the main card an hour later at 7:00 p.m. ET. For whatever reason, the main card will consist of 3 matches instead of the typical 4. The show's headliner is the Featherweight Tournament final that pits Rad Martinez vs. Shabulat Shamhalaev, and former bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky returns against past WEC rep Anthony Leone. Women's 115-pound champion Zoila Gurgel draws Jessica Eye in a flyweight feature fight.
Join us on Bloody Elbow to watch the action and, like ... talk about it. Live play-by-play by yours truly will begin with the main card at 7:00 p.m. ET.
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)
Happy Friday Bellator fans! The main card is now live.
A heavy-hearted updated: main-eventer Shahbulat Shamhalaev has apparently contracted food poisoning and will not be cleared by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board. We'll get lightweights Chris Ligouri, the Ring of Combat lightweight champion, and Darrell Horcher.
Chris Ligouri vs. Darrell Horcher
R1: Horcher showing some gameness on the feet in the southpaw position with a prodding jab and streaking overhand left. Ligouri throws a high kick and a Superman punch but Horcher looks solid in defending. Horcher clips Ligouri with a blistering flurry and pounces, ending up hoisting Ligouri up with a guillotine attempt. Ligouri gets free but Horcher drills him with a lightning straight left and lands about 4 unanswered punches from the top. The ref is feeling lenient and surprisingly lets it all go and the last hammer dropped seems to wake Ligouri up.
He's not looking too stable on the feet; he shoots an ugly takedown and pulls guard when it fails. Ligouri looking to gain wrist control and hold Horcher to gather his wits. He scrambles free but falls under another hail of leather from Horcher. The ground battle is brief again and they're back up. Ligouri, showing a big heart, nails a double leg but Horcher quickly counters it and unloads more punishment on the feet. 10-8 Horcher for dominant striking, knockdowns, damage, etc.
R2: Props to Jimmy Smith for finally giving up a 10-8 score. Horcher continues to put a beating on Ligouri with his left hand. Ligouri stays game and responds with a leg kick and a heated flurry of punches. Ligouri attacks with a low outside low kick and right hook but gets countered with a plunging combination. Horcher gives him the business again, and Ligouri drops. He tries to wrap Horcher up but he steps back to restart on the feet.
Ligouri throwing punches but probably not all there upstairs. Horcher pushes him on the fence, lifts him up and body slams him. He gets bored a few seconds later and ejects to work his hands in open space. 1-2 and low kick from Ligouri, who's proving to be one tough S.O.B. Ligouri shoots and Horcher defends momentarily but eventually takes a ride. Ligouri bases down and throws short elbows, then pins the knee to pass to half guard. Ballsy showing from Ligouri; enough to avoid another 10-8. 10-9 Horcher.
R3: Ligouri comes out swinging with punches and follows with a high kick. Now a low kick that's partially checked. Ligouri scores with a nice right hand while Horcher swings out a kick. Horcher dings him with a straight left. Right hook and leaping uppercut from Horcher misses the mark. Ligouri doubles up on right hands and lands the 2nd. Horizontal elbow from Ligouri in open space just misses, but he nails the takedown; he gets caught in a loose guillotine whilst passing to half which only stalls his progress momentarily.
Ligouri throwing sharp elbows from half guard, some land solidly. He gets Horcher thinking about the elbows enough to facilitate a pass to side control. Horcher shrimps out and nearly escapes but Ligouri rides him back down to the floor. Horcher gets full guard and closes it while squeezing with two underhooks to inspire a referee intervention. 10-9 Ligouri in a ballsy performance. I have it 29-27 for Horcher. It will be interesting to see if any Jersey judges cough up a 10-8 for that 1st round.
All 3 have it 29-28 (which is, in my opinion, an unacceptable aversion to a textbook 10-8 round in the 1st) for Darrell Horcher, who defeats Chris Ligouri by unanimous decision.
Zach Makovsky vs. Anthony Leone
R1: It's a tentative start. Makovsky unreels a nice left high kick that Leone blocks. Makovsky goes to the body with the kick now. Leone pawing but not throwing much. Makovsky swoops low for a single and gets it but Leone slips out as Makovsky tries to pass. Makovsky whiffs a spinning back-fist and Leone lands a nice uppercut. This time Leone counters Makovsky's single leg with a guillotine to stave off the attempt. Leone lands a short retreating right hand.
Makovsky clinches up can't do anything before Leone slips out. Now Leone clinches and holds Makovsky on the fence with a series of love taps to the ribs. The break with 1.5 minutes left and Leone flings out more combinations, landing a few with Makovsky on the fence and taking control of the round. Makovsky shoots but it's Leone who goes for the single leg. Makovsky counters with the guillotine as well and they split. Leone charges with a flurry and Makovsky eats it and clinches. 10-9 Leone for the more effective striking.
R2: Nice straight left by Makovsky to open the 2nd. Another swift left sneaks through Leone's guard. Leone powers Makovsky into the fence with a body lock and just holds him there. Makovsky goes 50/50 and circles off the fence but Leone heaves him back around. Makovsky responds with a slick inside trip but Leone is immediately on his feet once again. He holds the underhooks and puts Makovsky back on the cage but attempts no effective offense. Makovsky circles off the fence and they both break the clinch with punches.
Superman punch lands by Makovsky, then a right jab. Another left by Makovsky, who is moving into the driver's seat. Leone gets a quick double and Makovsky sprawls out late but spins onto his back, then grabs the guillotine when Makovsky rotates out. Leone elevates a leg to relieve the pressure and goes into Makovsky's guard, but finds himself fighting out of a triangle, then a leg lock attempt. Makovsky pings another left and closes the frame with a partially blocked high kick. Clear 10-9 for Makovsky the better striking and grappling.
R3: Makovsky cracks off a flurry and shoots but Leone clamps on a heavy modified guillotine from the front headlock. It's powerful enough to cause Makovsky to fall back to defend and Leone wrenches it with a high half guard. Makovsky gets free and goes right to a leg lock attempt but nothing's doing. A scramble ensues and Leone ends up on top and back in half guard. Leone bases down to control but once again pursues little in the way of meaningful offense. Now he passes smoothly to side control; then north-south.
Makovsky squirts free and Leone has a single that's countered again by the guillotine. Leone escapes easily and stays on top. Scarf hold position from Leone, then to side control. Makovsky tries to shrimp out but Leone locks his hands around his waist to keep him in place. Makovsky gets a hook in for half guard but loses it again. All control with no threatening offense from Leone until the bell. The judges will give that round to Leone for side control without a shred of effective offense, but I won't. 10-10 round for an even amount of effective offense. I have it a draw (Boo! Hiss!).
One judge has it 29-28 for Makovsky but the other two see it the same for Anthony Leone, who defeats Zach Makovsky by split decision.
We'll start off with a bad-blood bout featuring the ladies.
Zoila Gurgel vs. Jessica Eye
R1:Oh my goodness ... after seriously hyping what does seem like a genuine dislike for one another, Gurgel and Eye sprint out of their corners, plant their feet and unload the cannons. Eye is quicker and crisper, and plants Gurgel on the canvas with a tight 1-2 in the opening exchange. Gurgel recovers well from her back and gets back to her fight immediately, but Eye bullies her against the cage and transitions to a standing arm-triangle.
Gurgel tries to stay patient and work her way free but Eye has it cinched deep and does an excellent job of keeping her body pressed tight against Gurgel's to tighten her grip and limit her movement. Gurgel falls unconscious. This was a vicious and intelligent display of technical aggression by Eye.
Jessica Eye defeats Zoila Gurgel by submission (standing arm-triangle), Round 1.