On Thursday, April 4, Bellator held its 95th event from Ovation Hall inside the Revel Atlantic City in Atlantic City, N.J.

The event was headlined by a featherweight title clash between current champion Pat Curran and season-seven winner Shahbulat Shamhalaev. Curran entered the contest riding a five-fight winning streak that coincided with his drop to the 145-pound division. Meanwhile, the Russian Shamhalaev came in a perfect 3-0 under the Bellator banner, having not tasted defeat since 2009.

Also on the main card were the conclusion of the season-eight featherweight and middleweight tournaments.

In the 145-pound final, yet another Russian, Magomedrasul “Frodo” Khasbulaev, faced off with U.S. Marine Mike Richman. The pair looked to claim the $100,000 prize, as well as a shot at the winner of the Curran-Shamhalaev main event.

The middleweight final pitted well-rounded Brett Cooper against hard-hitting WEC veteran Doug Marshall. Like the featherweight finalists, each hoped to take home the large cash prize and a shot at Bellator middleweight kingpin Alexander Shlemenko.

Rounding out the main card was a welterweight collision between UFC veteran Karo Parisyan and Olympic judoka Rick Hawn.

The four-fight main card aired live on Spike TV beginning at 10 p.m. ET, while eight preliminary card fights streamed live on the promotion’s website starting at 7:15 p.m. ET.

Curran chokes Shamhalaev out cold in title defense

The first fight in the Bellator cage televised on Spike TV in season eight featured featherweight champ Pat Curran successfully defending his title against Patricio Freire. It was only fitting that the final fight of the season saw Curran again putting his title on the line, this time against Shahbulat Shamhalaev.

Both fighters are known for their counter striking abilities inside the cage, which resulted in both fighters timidly waiting for the other to open up and throw during the first round. Curran was working to land a high kick on multiple occasions, all of which were shaken off by the Russian. About halfway through the round, “Paddy Mike” saw an opening and shot for a successful takedown, which he immediately was able to turn into an arm-in guillotine choke. The champion had the submission locked in tight, and as referee Keith Peterson looked on, he saw that Shamhalaev was not responding and therefore he put an end to the fight.

With the victory, Curran finds himself again having Daniel Straus as his next opponent for the title as the busy featherweight division continues to line up contenders for his title.

Frodo outlasts Richman in featherweight tournament final

Whereas the main event was for the featherweight championship, the co-headliner was for the season-eight tournament championship, with the winner being guaranteed a shot at the title belt down the road. Mike Richman and Frodo Khasbulaev went through three hard-fought rounds in order to earn the title shot and the $100,000 check that comes with it. At the end of the fight, it was Khasbulaev who had his hand raised as he won by unanimous decision.

Both fighters came out with bad intentions, and they were able to land strikes and work short combinations effectively.  Khasbulaev was more the aggressor early, as he pressed forward and shot for two takedowns. The takedown attempts were stuffed by “The Marine,” but it was Frodo ahead early.

Richman was the aggressor early in round two, pressing ahead and working hard. Halfway through the round, the aggression backfired when he walked right into a takedown by Khasbulaev. Richman was able to get back up quickly and continued to press forward.  The round ended with the Minnesota native on top of the Russian, but Khasbulaev got to his feet right before the bell.

The final round of the fight appeared to have the fighters on equal ground, with both trying to accumulate as many points from the judges as possible. Both Richman and Khasbulaev were trying to press forward, which caused them to meet in the middle and throw at each other. Frodo was able to bring the fight to the ground a couple of times in the round, which tilted the momentum and the round in his favor.

When it was all said and done, it was the Russian who had his hand raised, as he won every available round according to the three judges. The victory guarantees a title shot for Frodo, who will have his chance at Bellator gold in the future.

Marshall lands huge knockout to earn title shot

Right out of the gate, Doug Marshall stormed forward looking for an early knockout. “The Rhino” threw several solid leg kicks and big strikes at the head of Brett Cooper, who remained calm and fired back some big strikes of his own. Realizing he didn’t want to keep this pace, Cooper took the fight to the ground with a double-leg takedown. While he had Marshall on his back, “Fudoshin” wasn’t able to land much offense, which allowed Marshall to return the fight to the feet with his back against the cage.

While there, “The Rhino” looked for a chance to charge. He waited and found an opening to spring forward off of the cage, throwing strikes along the way. During that moment, Marshall connected on a huge right hook which dropped Cooper and effectively ended the fight.

With the first-round knockout, Marshall wins the season-eight middleweight tournament, the $100,000 prize and a title shot against champion Alexander Shlemenko.

“Genghis” knocks out “The Heat” to kick off the main card

When Rick Hawn and Karo Parisyan were ready to lock horns, it was advertised as a fight between two men who have a mutual dislike for each other. The distaste is one that carried over from their days on the judo mat, where both are high-level judo practitioners.

The first round of the fight was rather slow, with both fighters strategically picking their spots to be aggressive. There were a couple of times throughout the round that the two found each other in the clinch, but their judo abilities canceled each other out, which brought the two fighters back to striking range. Although most of the round was spent with Parisyan coming forward, the impression was left by Hawn, who landed a solid head kick which he followed up with swarming strikes right at the end of the round.

The former lightweight tournament champion carried the momentum that he had at the end of the first round into the second. Realizing that trying to use his judo would not be effective, “Genghis” started using his boxing more and began to land strong combinations. It didn’t take long before Hawn was able to land a big straight right, which was the beginning of the end. Parisyan was staggered by the strike, which allowed Hawn to pounce and earn the knockout.

Although this fight took place at welterweight, Hawn told Bellator commentator Jimmy Smith that he would return to lightweight for his next fight.

FULL RESULTS

Pat Curran def. Shahbulat Shamhalaev by technical submission (guillotine choke). Round 1, 2:38  – for Bellator featherweight title
Magomedrasul “Frodo” Khasbulaev def. Mike Richman by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) – featherweight tournament final
Doug Marshall def. Brett Cooper  by KO (punch). Round 1, 3:39 – middleweight tournament final
Rick Hawn def. Karo Parisyan by KO (strikes). Round 2, 1:55
Lyman Good def. Dante Rivera by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Liam Oropeza def. Shedrick Goodridge by TKO (strikes). Round 2, 4:22
Tom DeBlass def. Carlos Brooks by TKO (doctor’s stoppage). Round 2, 5:00
Phillipe Nover def. Darrell Horcher by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Jimmie Rivera def. Brian Kelleher by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Will Martinez def. Michael Hess via knockout (strikes). Round 1, 4:15
Kevin Roddy def. Bryan Van Artsdalen by submission (armbar). Round 2, 1:04
Liam McGeary def. Anton Talamantes by TKO (strikes). Round 1, 1:18

Photo: Shahbulat Shamhalaev (L) faces off with champion Pat Curran (Bellator MMA)

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.