Rad Martinez will not see Shahbulat Shamalhaev until season eight of Bellator Fighting Championships, nor will Bellator light-heavyweight champion Christian M’Pumbu meet Attila Vegh, but Bellator will close out 2012 the way it opened the year as it showcases a stacked card featuring two tournament finals and the return of “Lil’ Bulldog” Felice Herrig.

Herrig will contend with familiar foe Patricia Vidonic, while Rich Hale meets Alexander “Drago” Volkov in the finals of this season’s heavyweight tournament, and Dave Jansen takes on submission ace Marcin Held in this season’s lightweight tournament final.

As always, The MMA Corner thanks you for making us your home for your official Bellator 84 Preview, and as we aim to crown a new lightweight tournament champion, as well as a new Bellator heavyweight champion, we thank you for allowing us to walk you through everything you must know about this card from top to bottom!

HW Tournament Final: Richard Hale (21-4-1) vs. Alexander Volkov (18-3)

Hale (blue trunks) (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Richard Hale always possessed heavy hands and a unique grappling game, but he still needed to answer a few questions when he entered this season’s heavyweight tournament. Despite a win over Mike Wessel in the quarterfinals, Hale still needed to convince those who remembered his run at the light heavyweight title of his ability to serve as a threat to the bigger heavyweights. Naturally, Hale did a respectable job of convincing those doubters when he pulled out a win over Thiago Santos.

Whether or not Alexander Volkov goes the way of Santos depends on how hard Volkov prepared for this fight. Many viewed the Rusfighters Sports Club heavyweight phenom as a mere stepping stone for Brett Rogers, and the lanky heavyweight proved the multitudes wrong by first dismantling Rogers and then using his technical striking prowess to best Vinicius “Spartan” Quieroz on the feet before finishing him.

With Bellator’s champion, Cole Konrad, suddenly and rather unexpectedly announcing his retirement this year, the tournament final serves to crown a brand new champion. Both of these guys possess the talents needed to claim that throne, but only one man can walk out with the title. Hale can find a way to get inside on Volkov and either attack the body or take the fight to the ground, but he will have no easy time doing that with the technical Volkov. When the fight goes to the ground, the Russian responds from his back, and when the fight stays standing, he displays brilliance on the feet while demonstrating some serious power.

Expect that technique and power to overcome Hale’s craftiness as Volkov earns a second-round knockout and not only wins the tournament, but also becomes the first Russian to win a Bellator world title.

LW Tournament Final: Marcin Held (15-2) vs. Dave Jansen (18-2)

Jansen (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

Marcin Held wants the Bellator lightweight title, and he only needs one more win to put himself in position for a title shot. After defeating Murad Machaev in the quarterfinals, Held shocked some people by submitting Rich Clementi in the semifinals and making a statement in the process.

Dave Jansen wants to make a statement himself, as he will come off of his split decision win over Ricardo Tirloni. Whereas Jansen eventually found his timing against Magomed Saadulaev in the quarterfinals, he fought a hard battle against Tirloni in the semi’s, and despite the win, spectators and pundits alike found themselves believing in Tirloni’s efforts providing enough for a win, more so than Jansen.

Needless to say, Jansen’s fight against Held will not provide any easier of a night than the one which Tirloni presented. When Held attacks with submissions, he never lets up unless his opponent finds a way to tire him out, just as Michael Chandler did. In some way or another, Jansen will capitalize on whatever openings he can find on the ground and use them to his edge as he outworks Held to earn himself a unanimous decision and the season-seven lightweight tournament championship.

Women’s FlyW: Felice Herrig (7-4) vs. Patricia Vidonic (7-3)

Felice Herrig (Keith Mills/Sherdog)

At XFC 17 in April, Felice Herrig and Patricia Vidonic fought three hard rounds against each other. Vidonic built up a reputation for submitting fighters, but she’d never fought anyone quite like Herrig before. At fight time, it showed as Herrig found her mark more often in the slugfests on the feet and took Vidonic down at will, grounding and pounding Vidonic en route to a unanimous decision win in the process.

Now, things differ. Vidonic responded to the Herrig loss with a unanimous decision victory of her own, and Herrig built on the win over Vidonic by earning a unanimous decision over Simona Soukupova in August. Originally, Herrig prepared to rematch Michelle Gutierrez at this event, but when Gutierrez withdrew due to injury, Vidonic stepped up and stepped in.

How soon will the takedowns come this time out? Will Herrig aim to end the fight in the heat of the intense exchanges on the feet? Will Vidonic find a way to outgrapple Herrig? So many questions to ask, but anticipate a slightly more cautious approach from Herrig, albeit one that causes her to let her hands go once again and earn a TKO midway through the opening frame.

Preliminaries

WW: Quinton McCottrell (6-9) vs. Kevin Nowaczyk (11-2)

Kevin Nowaczyk lost to Dom Waters on The Ultimate Fighter 16, but despite the loss in the reality show’s elimination round, Nowaczyk still officially owns a three-fight winning streak. Meanwhile, Quinton McCottrell will come in on a two-fight losing streak. McCottrell will not give Nowaczyk his lunch money, but he will find defeat after Nowaczyk latches onto his neck and coaxes the tap via guillotine choke.

LW: Christian Uflacker (4-0) vs. Cliff Wright (7-3)

Christian Uflacker fought for the first time since 2009 in earning a split decision win over WEC veteran L.C. Davis. Cliff Wright owns all seven of his wins by way of submission, and despite the great potential of Uflacker, Wright will find the submission once more. Uflacker will give it his all, but he’ll still submit to Wright via armbar late in the first round.

MW: Jack Hermansson (5-0) vs. Daniel Vizcaya (6-2)

Jack Hermansson owns five finishes in five wins, with four of those wins coming by knockout. Daniel Vizcaya also comes to finish fights, and his only losses came by way of submission. However, if Hermansson aims for the body and sticks his shots with supreme authority, he will earn a knockout win midway through the opening round.

Catchweight (215 lbs.): Anthony Gomez (6-2) vs. Anton Talamantes (5-2)

They call this a “catchweight” bout because Anton Talamantes regularly fights at light heavyweight, but in reality, these two will weigh in as heavyweights. Both men come off a recent win to face each other, and although Talamantes should operate lighter on his feet, the size of Anthony Gomez could prove a slight problem. This one will go the distance with Gomez getting the better end of a split decision.

MW: Louis Taylor (7-3) vs. Joe Vedepo (14-5)

Joe Vedepo returned to the win column early last month with a victory over Mike Bernhard. Louis Taylor lost to Perry Filkins earlier this year, and now he will look to return to the win column, but Vedepo will not allow Taylor the satisfaction of an opportunity to do just that. Vedepo will take this to the ground and find the neck before securing a mid-second-round submission victory.

FlyW: Joey Diehl (3-3) vs. Jerald Williams (2-1)

XFO veteran Joey Diehl lost the momentum of a two-fight winning streak after a loss to Joshua Killion in April. Rising prospect Jerald Williams also owns some veteran status in terms of his XFO career, having gone 1-1 in the promotion. The weight cut will not hinder Williams, a regular bantamweight, but Diehl’s persistence and patience will pay dividends towards his success against Williams, who will succumb to a TKO defeat in the third round.

HW: Eddie Castillo (0-1) vs. Dave Sharp (1-0)

Eddie Castillo lost his debut fight by a decision, but like Dave Sharp, he maintains plenty of room for growth. Meanwhile, Sharp submitted Jonathan Chandler, but so many more questions exist about his game. Nonetheless, Sharp exhibits a slightly more well-rounded skill set at this stage in his career, and although he has room to grow, he will still find a way to outwork Castillo through two rounds and submit him in the third.

FW: Robert White (0-0) vs. Kenny Booker (2-0)

We will learn more about MMA newcomer Robert White as the fight with Kenny Booker progresses. Booker will also show plenty more about himself as his career progresses, but if he can outwork White, he will easily shut down the hopeful and spoil his MMA debut in the process. Booker takes this by unanimous decision.

Photo: Alexander Volkov (L) faces Rich Hale at Bellator 84 for the heavyweight title. (Keith Mills/Sherdog)