Bellator Fighting Championships will head to "The Beehive State" this Thursday night (Feb. 14, 2013) at the Maverick Center in West Valley City, Utah.
The main card will air live on Spike TV on fight night, beginning at 10 p.m. ET.
Headlining the main event will be a fight over two months in the making as the season seven featherweight tournament finally concludes with a battle between Russian striker Shahbulat Shamhalaev and American wrestler Rad Martinez, which was delayed when Shamhalaev was ill on fight night and unable to compete late last year.
Also on tap will be a pair of tournament semifinal bouts as the light heavyweight tournament continues with Muhammed Lawal taking on former MFC champion Emanuel Newton while young prospects Jacob Noe and Mikhail Zayats look to continue their Cinderella stories.
Last but not least, the welterweight tournament rolls on as former tourney winner Douglas Lima battles injury replacement and season five finalist Bryan Baker while Ben Saunders scores a rematch against the always dangerous Raul Amaya.
Our complete Bellator 90 preview and predictions are posted below:
145 lbs.: Shahbulat Shamhalaev (11-1-1) vs. Rad Martinez (14-2)
Shamhalaev had a tremendous run in the season seven featherweight tournament, destroying Cody Bollinger with some downright brutal ground and pound after surviving a few submission attempts and then showcasing his tremendous handspeed by knocking tournament favorite Mike Richman senseless in just two minutes. As he was gearing up for his tournament final against Martinez, he fell ill and when a member of the commission saw him heaving backstage, they called the fight off two months ago.
Rad Martinez's story is inspirational, taking care of his brain-damaged father, but that wouldn't mean nearly as much if he wasn't a very competent cage fighter to back up his tremendous tale. He earned a spot in this tournament by winning two bouts under the Bellator banner and then stood and traded with Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts Nazareno Malegarie and Wagnney Fabiano to earn consecutive decisions and make his way to the finals.
This will be a grappler vs striker match-up, despite Shamhalaev winning via ground and pound and Martinez keeping it standing in their last two bouts, the Russian will want to try to knock Martinez out on the feet while Martinez clearly will want to take Shamhalaev down and wear him out on the canvas. It will all come down to who can impose their will on the other and when you have a match-up like this, it's tough not to side with the gritty wrestler especially since he's allowed to use elbows now.
Final Prediction: Rad Martinez via decision
205 lbs.: Muhammed Lawal (9-1) 1 no contest vs. Emanuel Newton (19-7-1)
King Mo finally made his long-awaited debut under the Bellator banner last month, showcasing his superior boxing technique against Przemyslaw Mysiala and knocking him senseless with a perfect right hand inside the first round. The part-time TNA wrestler and former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion wants to send a message and he'll have a golden opportunity on Thursday night.
Newton has really rejuvenated his career as of late. The former MFC light heavyweight champion ended his run in Canada and looked poise to potentially win the Bellator summer series tournament but an extremely controversial decision loss to eventually winner Attila Vegh put a halt to that. He bounced back last month by putting a hurting on top prospect Atanas Djambazov and choking his European foe out in the second round.
Lawal should have the advantage in all areas with superior boxing and wrestling. Newton is a very competent Greco Roman wrestler, but that has nothing on Lawal's world class skills. The only advantage Newton may have is either in the kicking department or if he can pin Lawal against the fence, but that's a long shot. King Mo is just too well-rounded and dangerous and we are likely going to see a different side of him on Thursday night should he need to bring out that wrestling and utilize some ground and pound.
Final Prediction: King Mo Lawal via TKO in round two
170 lbs.: Bryan Baker (18-4) vs. Douglas Lima (23-5)
We last saw Bryan Baker when he was on the receiving end of one of 2012's finest submissions, losing via heel hook to Karl Amoussou in the season five welterweight tournament finals. While he wasn't initially a participant of this tournament, "The Beast" was brought back when Brent Weedman couldn't continue due to a broken hand suffered in his victory over Marius Zaromskis. Baker is hoping to get back to his winning ways against one of the most dangerous men on the Bellator roster.
If you didn't think Douglas Lima was back to form heading into his quarterfinal bout against Michail Tsarev, he sure as hell proved it by putting on one of the most brutal stoppages via leg kicks that's been seen in MMA history. He hurt the Russian badly at the end of the first round and then punished him until he could no longer support himself in the second. He's clearly out for blood this season.
Lima has a power advantage on the feet and is a bit more diverse with his attack. He's also the superior grappler in the submission department, but Baker has a slight advantage in terms of wrestling and also because he doesn't have the wear and tear of having to compete twice in two months. If the fight goes all three rounds, Baker could certainly have an advantage as Lima has been known to fade a bit, but with Lima's power and amazing submission ability, we have a very real chance of not seeing a third round here.
Final Prediction: Douglas Lima via knockout in round two
205 lbs.: Jacob Noe (11-1) 1 no contest vs. Mikhail Zayats (20-6)
Jacob Noe is a talented light heavyweight who's making the most of an incredible opportunity. He's finished both of his Bellator fights in the first round, including his last bout, a quarterfinal match-up against Seth Petruzella where he took advantage of "The Silverback's" bum knee to score a TKO via ground and pound along the fence.
Mikhail Zayats rose to the occasion in Bellator's debut on Spike TV, stepping up and knocking former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Renato Sobral senseless at the end of the first round after blasting the Brazilian with a spinning back fist to set the finish in motion. Now, he's out to prove the victory wasn't a fluke by attempting to advance to the finals.
Noe should have a wrestling advantage and that's how he can win this fight. He possesses good power in his hands but it would be wisest to use that power with strikes on the ground after taking the Russian down. Zayats has been prone to that in the past. For Zayats, he obviously wants to keep the fight standing and work his diverse striking arsenal. He could throw any strike under the sun and it wouldn't come as a surprise. What makes things interesting is that he can throw all of those attacks with serious power.
Final Prediction: Mikhail Zayats via TKO in round one