Bellator Fighting Championships will head to "The Garden State" this Friday night (Dec. 7, 2012) at Caesars Atlantic City in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The main card will air live on MTV2 and Epix HD on fight night, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.
Headlining the main event of Bellator 83 will be a season seven featherweight tournament finale pitting vicious Russian striker Shahbulat Shamhalaev against scrappy American wrestler Rad Martinez. The winner will take home $100,000 and a shot at the 145 pound title, although they'll have to wait in line behind both Patricio Freire and Daniel Straus.
Also on tap will be a very high level female 125 pound fight featuring rising star Jessica Eye against battle-tested veteran Zoila Gurgel in the co-main event of the evening.
Lastly, opening up the main card will be former bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky as he takes on WEC veteran Anthony Leone in front of his hometown fans.
Our complete Bellator 83 preview and predictions are posted below.
145 lbs.: Shahbulat Shamhalaev (10-1-1) vs. Rad Martinez (14-2)
Shahbulat Shamhalaev has burst onto the scene in this Bellator season seven tournament. After surviving some submission attempts early, he laid a beatdown on Cody Bollinger, eventually overwhelming the grappler with vicious ground and pound. In the tournament semifinals, he outstruck American boxer Mike Richman, scoring an insane first round knockout and showcasing some serious hand speed in the process.
Rad Martinez has been methodical in this tournament. He kept the fight standing and utilized his powerful left hand to beat up Nazareno Malegarie in the quarterfinals and was much more convincing in the semifinals, cruising past Wagnney Fabiano by again keeping it standing and using his wrestling in reverse to win a decision and advance to the finals.
This time around, Martinez will want to use his wrestling to put Shamhalaev on his back. If he stands with the Russian, bad things will likely happen to him. Shamhalaev has incredible power and speed in his fists and he's capable of finishing a fight at any instant. Martinez needs to take away his weapons by closing the distance. The longer this fight goes, the more advantage Martinez has so if he can drag the fight into the later rounds, he's got a shot.
Final Prediction: Shahbulat Shamhalaev via TKO in round two
125 lbs.: Jessica Eye (8-1) vs. Zoila Gurgel (12-1)
Jessica Eye is a very bright up-and-coming female 125-pounder. She started her career off 3-0 after a lengthy amateur stay and has won five straight since suffering her lone career defeat at the hands of Aisling Daly. In her last bout, she completely outworked Angela Magana en route to a unanimous decision win to set the stage for this elite showdown.
Zoila Gurgel made her mark when she demolished female mainstay Rosie Sexton inside the opening round in her Bellator debut. With an invite to the 115 pound tournament in her hands, "The Warrior Princess" defeated a trio of elite opponents in Jessica Penne, Jessica Aguilar and Megumi Fujii to be crowned the female 115 pound title. The last two bouts were controversial but she handled the criticism and looked solid in her return bout to the promotion. After a long layoff due to a knee injury, she shook off the rust to squeak by her last opponent via a close decision.
The key for this bout is whether or not Gurgel is still rusty. Her last opponent wasn't one quarter as talented as Jessica Eye and if she shows up hesitant to engage or not capable of implementing the proper gameplan, this could be an upset. Eye will try to take the fight to Gurgel, working her punches and kicks from the outside while utilizing footwork. If Gurgel is losing the striking battle, she might have a wrestling edge but most important for her is to keep pressing forward. She'll gain confidence by making her opponent go on the defensive. This should be a very fun fight.
Final Prediction: Jessica Eye via decision
135 lbs.: Zach Makovsky (14-3) vs. Anthony Leone (11-5)
Zach Makovsky rose up from obscurity to be crowned the inaugural Bellator bantamweight champion, defeating fan-favorite Ed West in the process. He began showing finishing instincts in his "super-fights" while awaiting his first defense, finishing off both Chad Robichaux and Ryan Roberts before losing his belt to Eduardo Dantas in a wild title fight earlier this year. Makovsky has not competed since.
Anthony Leone had a rough run in the WEC, losing via submission to current UFC champion Renan Barao in his lone appearance. He's had a rough go of things since. After winning his first eight fights, he's dropping five of his last eight although he was able to score a split decision over Claudio Ledesma in his last fight for Bellator.
Makovsky should have a significant wrestling and submission edge, potentially even in the striking department. Leone will likely put up a fight but this is "Fun Size's" fight to lose. Expect him to win either by dominant decision or submission.
Final prediction: Zach Makovsky via submission in round two