This Thursday April 4th, Bellator ends their season 8 run with Bellator 95, headlined by the Featherweight title defense of Pat Curran. He faces Russian Shahbulat ‘The Assassin’ Shamhalaev, a fighter who left a trail of bodies behind him as he rolled to a season 7 tournament victory to earn the shot at the title. Most of the sportsbooks will put a line out on this fight during the week, and it will be interesting to see where those lines come in, as the fight is a very difficult one to get a read on. If either man is too big an underdog, you would certainly have to take a look at him.
Curran was originally scheduled to take on Daniel Straus, who won the season 6 Bellator tournament, but Straus pulled out due to an injury. Shamhalaev steps into his title shot a few months earlier, which after the momentum he built in the tournament, probably suits him just fine.
There is still a lot that we do not know about Shamhalaev. We know he made short work of his tournament opposition, going to the second round only once before his fists found their mark.
Curran has really blossomed since his drop to 145 lbs. He has won by kicks, he has won by punches and he has won by submission. He also has gone the distance, including a five rounder in his last outing against Patricio Freire. Curran is savvy and experienced, and though Shamhalaev has a lot of fights, the level of opposition is unknown. The Russian was forced to go the distance a few times early in his career, and he won the decisions, but it is still in dragging the fight into the championship rounds where Curran will likely define himself.
Curran is likely going to have to withstand a rush from Shamhalaev. He needs to be offensive as well as defensive, answering Shamhalaev and hopefully frustrating him. It will be difficult for Shamhalaev to set his fast pace in the 3rd, 4th and 5th rounds which are unfamiliar territory.
In the ring, anything can happen in this fight. Expect to see Curran favored, but not by that much. If the fight ends quickly it favors Shamhalaev, though if he gets too wild and Curran figures him out, Curran will put his lights out a well. The longer it goes, the more it will favor Curran.