Season 7 tournament finals continue this Friday, as the inspirational Rad Martinez squares off against once-beaten Shahbulat Shamhalaev with a title shot at 145 pounds on the line. Two top-ranked ladies at 125 pounds are also set to step into the cage when women's champion Zoila Gurgel battles surging prospect Jessica Eye. Former bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky returns to Bellator and meets Anthony Leone. Bellator 83 goes down Friday, December 7 in Atlantic City at the special time of 7/6c on MTV2 and EPIX2.
Martinez and Shamhalaev took near-opposite paths to the finals, with Martinez cashing in two unanimous decision wins and Shamhalaev scoring a pair of first-round knockouts. Though Martinez's trademark is without question his wrestling, the improvement in his hands has been the x-factor in his first two tournament fights. The self-proclaimed grinder churned in impressive performances in out landing both Nazareno Malegarie and Wagnney Fabiano, while avoiding the latter's incredibly dangerous ground game. Against Shamhalaev in the finals, he'll face one of the most feared strikers in the division.
Shamhalaev's punching accuracy and power has been on full display in his first two fights under the Bellator banner. The Russian import made quite the first impression, manhandling Cody Bollinger before finishing him off with vicious ground and pound in the opening round. Perhaps even more impressive was his encore, as the Team Bombsquad product was content to stay in the pocket and trade against fellow striker Mike Richman. A vicious counter right hand from "Sha" put Richman, who had never been KOed, down and out in less than two minutes. The winner of Martinez vs. Shamhalaev earns a title shot at featherweight, though previous tournament winners Patricio "Pitbull" Freire and Daniel Straus are next in line.
Gurgel and Eye meet in one of the year's biggest WMMA fights at 125 pounds. Inaugural women's champion Gurgel returned to action from a lengthy layoff due to ACL surgery in October. While ring rust was certainly apparent, "The Warrior Princess" earned a unanimous decision verdict and picked up her sixth straight win in Bellator. Fighting 10 pounds north of her championship weight, Gurgel will need a full return to form against Eye. Cleveland native Eye is certainly one of the division's hottest prospects and brings a five-fight winning streak, including two in Bellator, into what will be her toughest test to date. Eye's strength, like the majority of her Strong Style teammates, is in her standup, as her crisp and straight punches led her to victory in her previous Bellator outings.
Makovsky returns to the cage for the first time since losing his title to Eduardo Dantas and looks to get back to championship form. Before the loss to Dantas, "Fun Size" put together an impressive eight-fight winning streak that included a tournament and title winning effort. The Philly native brings a strong wrestling base and improving hands into the cage as he takes on Anthony Leone. A three-time Bellator vet, Leone picked up his first win under the Bellator banner in May against Claudio Ledesma.
Before the main card airs at 7/6c, the prelims stream live on bellatorlive.spike.com starting at 6e/3p. Mike Wessel returns to the cage following a loss to heavyweight tournament finalist Rich Hale and battles promotional newcomer Alexei Kudin, who brings 10 knockouts into his Bellator debut. Jimmie Rivera meets Jesse Brock in an intriguing bantamweight bout. Rising lightweight prospect Darrell Horcher looks to follow up on an impressive Bellator debut, a 21-second knockout win, as he takes on the Ricardo Almeida trained Chris Liguori.
Bellator 83 main card is live Friday, December 7 at a special time 7/6c on MTV2 and EPIX2
Prelims are live at 6e/3p on bellatorlive.spike.com