Two men enter and only one can walk out, but then, we know this all too well.

Rad Martinez and Shahbulat Shamhalaev both want their crack at the Bellator featherweight title belt, but only one of them can reach that goal, regardless of whether Pat Curran remains champion or not. Martinez brings a solid wrestling game to the table, but he never had to contend with Shamhalaev’s unpredictable knockout power. Whether or not he can, the world will find this out this Friday.

Also, women’s flyweight champion Zoila Gurgel returns on the strength of yet another dominating decision win. Unfortunately for her, Jessica “Evil” Eye loves fighting to decisions so much that she has never lost in fights that have gone to a decision. However, Gurgel calls herself the Bellator women’s champ for a reason, and in accordance with the norm for world champions, Gurgel will aim to kill that distinction, regardless of whether her throne lies at stake or not.

Finally, Zach Makovsky returns after losing his bantamweight title to Eduardo Dantas. He’ll attempt to rebound when he faces big-show veteran Anthony Leone.

As always, The MMA Corner thanks you for choosing us as your home for your official Bellator 83 preview, and once again, we thank you for allowing us to walk you through everything you must know about this card from top to bottom!

FW Tourney Final: Rad Martinez (14-2) vs. Shahbulat Shamhalaev (11-1-1

Shamhalaev (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

In a way, we saw this coming, but in another way, no one saw this coming.

Confused yet? Let me explain this in layman’s terms.

See, Rad Martinez, a man with an inspirational backstory, possesses the blend of finishing instinct needed to complement a solid wrestling game Martinez made the best of his wrestling game and displayed it in full in two unanimous decision wins over quarterfinal foe Nazareno Malegarie and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert Wagnney Fabiano. In retrospect, we saw his finals appearance coming because we knew him prior to this season’s featherweight tourney, and therefore, we more or less knew he would find a way to make it here.

His opponent, Shabulat Shamhalaev presents a much different threat and made his way to the finals in a much different manner. Despite three career wins by decision, Shamhalaev, having finished six foes in his most recent 9-0-1 streak (which he began to assemble after his 2009 loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov), favors leaving no doubt about his victories. As a matter of fact, Shamhalaev’s most recent streak of finishes continued with a quarterfinal victory over Cody Bollinger and a semifinal win over vaunted finisher Mike Richman.

Though his fans may have kept a faith in Shamhalaev’s ability to make his shots count, most pundits anticipated someone like Fabiano making it to the finals, so Shamhalaev’s appearance here came as a surprise to most, all of whom probably had not heard of Shamhalaev prior to this tourney.

To beat Martinez, however, Shamhalaev must outwork the wrestler, but the West Jordan native proves as one of the common cases of a man who will not go down easily. Besides, Martinez will aim to outwrestle the striker and likely test his skill set on the ground. If that happens, Martinez will take a unanimous decision, two rounds to one.

Women’s FlyW: Zoila Gurgel (12-1) vs. Jessica Eye (8-1)

Gurgel (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

Zoila Gurgel still possesses her Bellator women’s world flyweight title, but it won’t be on the line against the competition in front of her. After implementing her dominating top game and technical striking in her rematch with Karina Hallman, she proceeded to do the same against Casey Noland. To put it in simplest terms, Gurgel’s past two unanimous decision wins further proved what can happen when one gets submitted by Miesha Tate.

Jessica “Evil” Eye knows exactly what she needs to do in order to end that comfy winning streak, though. Remember, Eye knows how it feels to use a loss as motivation for an impressive streak, as her current five-fight winning streak comes in the aftermath of her loss to Aisling Daly. Naturally, the Strong Style Fight Team standout owns five decision wins in that streak, with four recent unanimous decision wins and one split decision victory.

On paper, that five-fight winning streak means that Eye might aim to grind out Gurgel, but Gurgel knows a thing or two about winning a fight while going the distance. Despite disputed wins over Jessica Aguilar and Megumi Fujii, Gurgel nonetheless uses her striking, takedowns and top control in her efforts to dominate the fight and walk away with an undisputed victory. Unless Eye suddenly exhibits the type of grappling and wrestling that Tate used to submit Gurgel, expect Gurgel to take another lopsided unanimous decision by making more good use of her taekwondo and her devastating top control.

BW: Zach Makovsky (14-3) vs. Anthony Leone (11-5)

Makovsky (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Zach Makovsky enters this fight with Anthony Leone with the same upside he brought in when he competed in Bellator’s first bantamweight tournament. However, much like his first quarterfinal tilt, Makovsky also enters this bout without the promotion’s 135-pound title. Even still, he does live up to his “Fun-Size” nickname through his style, in which he makes the best out of a strong wrestling game and a high amount of energy in his offense. Defensively, his wrestling background also helps him prepare for even the most solid takedown attempts, and thus far, only Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas found a way to get Makovsky on his back and in a precarious position.

Makovsky should have no problem righting his ship against Leone, but don’t let that premature guess detour an honest analysis. Leone evolved from the fighter that Renan Barao handled in the WEC and rides a sweet 3-2 run over his last five fights. Not only that, but that run includes his current two-fight winning streak, and he aims to extend that streak against Makovsky.

However, the big show vet will have his hands full with Makovsky. The man just does not like to let up, and when he does smell blood in the water, he goes in for the kill. Sometimes, Makovsky might encounter a resilient foe that won’t go out despite getting put in difficult spots, but Makovsky will nonetheless find a way to break down Leone en route to a second-round TKO win.


HW: Mike Wessel (12-5) vs. Alexei Kudin (14-4)

Mike Wessel suffered a quarterfinal loss to Richard Hale in this season’s heavyweight tournament quarterfinals, while Alexei Kudin owns a five-fight winning streak. Wessel always manages to capitalize in situations where he needs to rebound after a loss, but Kudin will expose Wessel’s susceptibility to finishes. I’ll take Kudin by TKO, but don’t count out Wessel.

Catchweight: Kelvin Tiller (5-0) vs. Najim Wall (0-0)

Kelvin Tiller only stands at 5-0, but he already looks to be on his way towards establishing himself as one of the premier middleweight prospects outside of the Zuffa umbrella. Najim Wall doesn’t have the same promise as Tiller, but he can earn that honor if he captures his first pro win against Tiller. Though Wall could always show tremendous upside in his career, he will not do so on this night. Tiller will let his hands go and earn a TKO finish in the first round.

LW: Chris Liguori (15-9) vs. Darrell Horcher (6-0)

Chris Liguori, having fought the likes of Jim Miller, Pete Sell, and Jorge Santiago, holds the experience edge over the prospect, Darrell Horcher. Horcher, meanwhile, owns a win over Terrell Hobbs. Expect experience to trump potential here as “The Story” ends Horcher’s streak while taking a unanimous decision victory.

FW: Brylan Van Artsdalen (7-4) vs. Terrell Hobbs (4-6)

I don’t want to go off on a rant here, but Terrell Hobb’s record doesn’t exactly suggest a competitive bout with Brylan Van Artsdalen. Not only does Van Artsdalen hold the experience edge, but he also knows his way around submissions, something which Hobbs traditionally struggles against. Anticipate Van Artsdalen sinking in a rear-naked choke midway through the first round, thus forcing another tap from Hobbs.

FlyW: Tuam Phan (4-5) vs. Matthew Lozano (3-0)

Tuam Phan can even out his record against Matthew Lozano, but Lozano can close fights, thus creating an interesting clash of two under-the-radar flyweights. Lozano lacks experience, but Phan needs to make a statement if he wishes to attract heads as a serious flyweight star. If Lozano can get this one to the ground, though, he can secure a finish late in the first round or early in the second by securing whatever submission he pleases.

BW: David Harris (7-4-1) vs. Claudio Ledesma (7-3)

Claudio Ledesma can lose this fight if David Harris outworks him, but Ledesma can also outwork Harris if Harris leaves any openings available and winds up having to merely survive rounds. Neither man will bow out of this fight without a challenge, though neither will likely finish their foe, because of the resiliency that both possess. Let me take Ledesma by a split decision, but I will prepare to score the bout for Harris if it should turn in a close affair after two rounds, provided the fight makes it that far.

Photo: Bellator 83’s Rad Martinez (blue trunks), who faces Shahbulat Shamalhaev this Friday night (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)