One of the biggest surprises that has emerged from Bellator’s seventh season has to be the absence of Wagnney Fabiano from the finals of the featherweight tournament.

Anyone who looked at the field of featherweights could easily see that the Brazilian was one of the tournament favorites and would have fully expected him to take home the guaranteed title shot and the $100,000 check.

But the tournament didn’t play out as such. Fabiano lost in the semifinal round and will have to start all over again in the quest for the tournament victory. For now, he’ll have to sit by and watch as Shahbulat Shamhalaev and Rad Martinez vie for that prize.

The two tournament finalists had very different paths to the finals. Martinez had to grind out two decision victories in order to make it to the end, while Shamhalaev knocked out his two opponents.

But that’s not to say that Martinez is not a feared striker. Actually, it is quite the opposite. While only one of his knockouts has taken place inside the Bellator cage, he has six total knockouts in his career. That number is just one fewer than that possessed by his opponent for this Friday’s tournament finale.

As far as this particular tournament has played out, it finds the knockout artist taking on the grinder in the finals. While both philosophies have their respective places in the sport, the grinder can at times lack the killer instinct or sense of urgency that is really needed to take home the victory. Not only that, but another key point is that Martinez has spent 30 minutes in the cage over the last two months, while Shamhalaev has spent less than seven.

In a Bellator tournament format, simply being able to stay healthy enough to win three fights in three months is very difficult. But the Russian is a clear favorite as far as having more gas in his tank to this point, even though both men have had a lot of recovery time.

Outside of that factor though, the Russian fighter has shown the flash that a prospect should hold. Exciting first-round knockouts are the type of fights that promoters want to see, and Shamhalaev has delivered this twice in two fights on North American soil. Considering that current featherweight champion Pat Curran has delivered two knockouts in his last two fights, he draws an exciting potential match-up, should Shamhalaev take down Martinez and Curran takes down Daniel Straus.

But let’s not count our eggs before they hatch. There is still a lot that could happen. Sure, it is fun to sit back and play hypothetical matchmaker, but sometimes it is better to watch and see how everything unfolds on its own.

Photo: Shahbulat Shamhalaev (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

About The Author

Brian McKenna
Staff Writer

Brian McKenna was born and raised in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. A sports nut from as long as he can remember, he came to be a fan of Mixed Martial Arts from a roommate watching The Ultimate Fighter while attending Westfield State College. Brian came to writing by starting his own blog, Four Down Territory, which focuses on Boston based sports, life, and of course MMA.