Bellator 95: Curran vs. Shamhalaev preview for April 4 in Atlantic City, New Jersey

April 2, 2013

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Bellator 95: Curran vs. Shamhalaev preview for April 4 in Atlantic City, New Jersey



John Boldrick – This Thursday Bellator returns to the cage for the promotions’ season 8 finale. While we may be without the promotion for a little bit, the finale is sure to leave a lasting impression. With a title fight and two tournament finals, the card is quite simply stacked. Throw in prelim fights featuring former UFC fighters Dante Rivera, Tom DeBlass and Phillip “Next Anderson Silva” Nover along with Bellator’s first welterweight champion Lyman Good and you have the recipe for a great night of fights.

Featherweight champion Pat Curran returns to the cage, although it won’t be against who he thought. He was originally scheduled to face Daniel Straus, but the challenger broke his hand. The change in opponent shouldn’t worry Curran too much. One of the promotions top stars, Curran hasn’t lost since dropping to featherweight, going 5-0 and winning the title with a KO over Joe Warren that still gives people night mares. Last time out, Curran defended his title against Patricio Pitbull Freire, taking a split decision win. The fight with Freire was the first televised fight of the season, so it’s only fair a Curran fight ends it.

Replacing Straus is season 7 tournament winner and world muai thai champion Shahbulat Shamhalaev. Assassin is undefeated in Bellator, taking the tournament with wins over Cody Bollinger, Mike Richman and Rad Martinez. In fact, Shamhalaev hasn’t lost since a 2009 defeat to current UFC fight Khabib Nurmagomedov. While he started his career in Russia, since coming to USA Shamhalaev has begun training with Team BombSquad and the likes of Mike Massenzio and Kenny Foster. One question that remains is if the quick turn-around will affect the dangerous striker. His fight with Martinez was on February 21; a far quicker returns that other winners.

A main event on any other night, our co main of the evening is a battle to crown this season’s middleweight winner. A veteran of eight Bellator fights, Brett Cooper has really seemed to put it all together in this tournament. He defeated Norman Paraisy by decision in the first round, before TKO’ing Dan Cramer in a hard fought battle last time out. Known for his good chin (or beard), Cooper has only been (T)KO’ed twice in his 26 fight career. A win here would give Cooper a rematch with current champion Alexander Schlemenko, a fight Storm won the first time around.  Cooper hits hard and isn’t afraid to stand and trade. Luckily, he has an opponent that just might indulge.

Former WEC light heavyweight champion Doug Marshall has bounced around a little since leaving his old home, but has finally settled in Bellator. He’s also found three straight victories in the promotion, catapulting him to the finals of the tournament. Marshall KO’ed Swede Andreas Sprang in a little over three minutes in the first round of the tourney, before defeating Sultan Aliev last time out. The split decision win was controversial, as many (including Marshall, judging by the look on his face) felt that Aliev’s significant ground control was enough to win the fight. The judges rewarded Marshall’s aggressiveness and stand-up in the end, giving him a birth in the finals.

Two more top featherweights collide, as Bellator looks to crown its season 8 FW tournament winners. Originally brought in to face Canadian Chris Horodecki in Windsor, Richman was victorious and has continued the trend. His first round matchup saw Richman win by vicious head kick and punches TKO over Mitch Jackson. Following that, Richman met BJJ brown belt Alexandre Bezerra in the semi finals. While Richman started out slowly, he eventually turned on the gas, winning a split decision. Richman has been known more recently for his highlight reel knockout, The Marine owns seven career submission wins, from a wide array of holds. A win for Richman and Shamhalaev here would set up a rematch of their season 7 tournament clash, one Shamhalaev won via knockout.

He squares off with one of Bellator’s most dangerous Russian Fighters, Magomedrasul Khasbulav. Frodo has been on an absolute tear this tournament, submitting Fabricio De Silva with an arm triangle in the opening round before crushing Marlon Sandro’s spirit (and face) in the semis. While it may not have been a “prime” Sandro, the way Khasbulav dominated the fight was extremely impressive. An international master in sambo, Frodo has shown some high level jiu-jitsu in Bellator. Add in a dose of some scary standup and a dash of speed and what you get is one dangerous fighter. He owns  12 career submission wins, but has been submitted four times.

Our opening main card bout sees a battle between new and old school judo practitioners. Representing the new school is former Olympian Rick Hawn. Debuting in Bellator back in 2010, Hawn made his way through the competition on route to a spot in the welterweight tournament final. Hawn was defeated that night by Jay Hieron and dropped a weight class. Once again, Hawn tore apart his opponents, winning the tournament and getting a fight with champion Michael Chandler.  Chandler defeated Hawn via rear naked choke inside two rounds and that’s where we currently stand. At 36 years of age, Hawn will need to work quickly if he wants another shot at winning a title, as the clock is ticking.

Representing the old school is a man who is six years younger, but a whole lot more experienced that Hawn, Karo Parysian. A once promising UFC career took a turn for the worst but now may be looking up. While Parysian has had his share of problems, both personal and in the form of a three fight losing streak, he is currently on a two fight win streak, defeating both opponents by first round arm bar. It’s been a while since Parysian has faced “top competition”, but there is a chance that The Heat of old might come back. It may just take a fellow judo practitioner to bring it out.

 

Main Card

–          Featherweight Championship: Pat Curran © vs. Shahbulat Shamhalaev

–          Middleweight tournament finale: Brett Cooper vs. Doug Marshall

–          Featherweight tournament final: Mike Richman vs. Magomedrasul Khasbulav

–          Rick Hawn vs. Karo Parysian

Preliminary Fights

–          Lyman Good vs. Dante Rivera

–          Jimmy Rivera vs. Brian Kelleher

–          Tom DeBlass vs. Carlos Brooks

–          Sam Oropeza vs. Shedrick Goodridge

–          Brylan van Artsdalen vs. Brett Martinez

–          Lima McGeary vs. Anton Talamantes

Follow John Boldrick on Twitter @JohnBJournalism

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