Bellator 76 Preview

October 11, 2012

Bellator Fighting Championships heads back up north to Canada as Season 7 rolls along. Former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez meets Season 4 lightweight tournament finalist Patricky "Pitbull" Freire in what's expected to be one of the most explosive bouts of the season. Along with a stellar lightweight bout topping the card, the featherweight tournament kicks off featuring plenty of talented new faces. Bellator 76 is live from Caesars Windsor in Windsor, Ontario, Canada this Friday, October 12 at 8/7c on MTV2 and in HD on EPIX2.

Alvarez enters the Bellator cage for what will be the last fight on his current contract on the heels of arguably his biggest win. After losing his title in November 2011, Alvarez demolished Japanese lightweight kingpin Shinya Aoki in a rematch last April, showing superior boxing and quickly getting the stoppage. The Philly native needed less than a round to score the TKO victory and climb back up the rankings. Freire finds himself in the opposite situation, as he comes into Friday's bout in search of new momentum. "Pitbull" enters the cage coming off the first stoppage loss of his career, where he had his arm mangled at the end of a wild bout in last season's tournament. There's no reason to think he won't rise to the occasion; "Pitbull" responded to his last loss with a knockout win in less than a minute. A win over Alvarez would be the biggest of the explosive Brazilian's career.

Nazareno Malegarie makes his third tournament appearance as he battles Rad Martinez in a featherweight quarterfinal matchup. With several tournament appearances under his belt along with a 22-2 record, featuring 20 finishes, Malegarie certainly holds an experience advantage over his opponent Martinez. The Brazilian's only two career losses have come to elite company in tournament finalist Marlon Sandro and Season 7 tournament winner Daniel Straus. Martinez enters his first Bellator tournament riding a 3-fight win streak. The Utah native followed up his promotional debut with a first round TKO last March, earning him a tournament spot.

The tournament also features a clash between a pair of once-beaten fighters, as Jeremy Spoon faces Mike Richman. Spoon got a tough assignment in his previous tournament outing last March, drawing wrestling powerhouse and eventual tournament winner Straus in the quarterfinals. The well-rounded Oklahoman looks to get back on the winning track against perhaps the division's hottest set of hands. Richman entered Bellator last April with a well-documented boxing skill set and still managed to exceed expectations. The Academy product showed impressive hand speed and pinpoint accuracy, as he ripped through big show vet Chris Horodecki and scored a knockout win in just over a minute. Both Richman and Spoon enter the quarterfinals with 12-1 records.

Once-beaten Shahbulat Shamhalaev battles fellow promotional debutant Cody Bollinger. Shamhalaev has yet to fight in North America, but the Russian prospect set up shop with Team BombSquad ahead of his first tournament fight. With backgrounds in both Muay Thai and kickboxing, expect Shamhalaev to push the pace and stay aggressive. At just 21 years of age, Bollinger is nearly a decade younger than his opponent but has already amassed more pro experience. His current six-fight unbeaten streak includes bouts against UFC vets Din Thomas and Cameron Dollar.

Rounding out the featherweight tournament is a bout between jiu-jisu ace Wagnney Fabiano and the surging Akop Stepanyan. Fabiano was set to take part in last season's tournament when an injury pulled him from the bout. The third-degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt has been on the sidelines for the last 23 months and is set to fight at featherweight for the first time since October 2009. Half of the WEC vet's wins are submissions. Stepanyan looks to continue the trend of excellence set by his Rusfighters Sport Club teammates Michail Tsarev, Andrey Koreshkov and Alexander Volkov this season. After opening his career with three losses, Stepanyan has rattled off 12 straight wins. All four of his wins in 2012 have been finishes.

Before the MTV2 televised main card, a full two hours of prelims stream live on starting at 6e/3p. Welterweights A.J. Matthews and Dom O'Grady return to Bellator coming off of spectacular finishes in their last outings. O'Grady snagged a nasty armbar last May, while Matthews delivered a rare – and legal – soccer kick knockout against Charlie Radar in May. Unbeatens Chad Laprise and Jason Fischer are set to meet once-beaten Ainsley Robinson and Kyle Prepolec, respectively. Get the full Bellator 76 card here.

Main card is live Friday, Oct. 12 on MTV2 and in HD on EPIX2 at 8/7c
Prelims are live Friday, Oct. 12 at at 6e/3p

Image: Eric Coleman /Eric Coleman Photography /Bellator Fighting Championships