Last night, Bellator 83 took place and it was, in a word, weird. From the beginning, things seemed a step off with Jade Bryce and Mercedes Terrell being recorded live when they didn’t realize it, leading to awkwardness in their attempted promotion of some Video Game Awards. (I still love both of you girls, and I don’t blame either of you at all! Can’t wait until you all are off MTV2 and on a real cable channel!)
Other than that harmless flub, things were going fairly normal from the start, with Jessica “Evil” Eye pounding Zoila Gurgel in under a minute in the first main card bout. To say this performance was “eye-opening” would be quite the understatement, as Eye came out guns’a'blazin’ from the opening bell and rocked Gurgel with punches. Then they ended up against the cage, and Eye was able to lock in a standing arm triangle, rendering Gurgel unconscious. My eyes couldn’t believe what I saw! (No puns intended but puns completely intended).
After that, Anthony Leone took a split decision win over former Bellator bantamweight champ Zach “Fun Size” Markovsky, using mainly positioning, wrestling, and control. By no means was the fight boring, but it wasn’t extremely titillating either. Part of that was the fact that Leone looked so much bigger than Markovsky, and the result seemed pretty much a foregone conclusion once it became clear how much stronger Leone was on the mat.
Then things got weird. And sad. Up until this point, there was no hint that something could be afoul with the scheduled main event of the show, a featherweight tournament finale between Rad Martinez and Shahbulat Shamhalaev (whose name is awfully fun to say and hear). In fact, earlier in the show, we saw a delightful clip of Shamhalaev pulling up to the arena in a red Ferrari, and got a video package highlighting Martinez. But, as we went to commercial break after the Leone fight, the cameras caught the Russian throwing a chair (very politely) in the locker room area, and Bellator boss Bjorn Rebney explaining something to Martinez. Awkwardly, we were told to hang through the commercial break because, when we get back we would be getting a mai…announcement.
And then when we got back from said commercial break, we were treated to Jimmy Smith and Rebney doing that typical MMA thing where the promoter and analyst scream about stuff to get us excited. Unfortunately this time, it was more subdued, as we were informed that Shamhalaev was vomiting in the back, as he apparently had been all day, due to food poisoning. As a result, the commission wouldn’t let him fight, and the main event was cancelled and postponed until next week. If he had been throwing up all day, it is hard to imagine that the fight was not formally cancelled until 10 minutes before it was supposed to happen. But, I have not read anything to suggest any bait and switch shenanigans.
I immediately started to feel for that beautiful red Ferrari, and the rental car agent that would be tasked with cleaning it, considering that Shamalaev was puking all day. But I felt worse for Bellator. Cancelling a main event at the last second is not fun for anyone, especially the fans in Atlantic City, and Rad Martinez. At least this happened on MTV2 and not in front of a likely bigger audience on Spike.
At the same time, it’s not like this kind of thing is unprecedented, as a young UFC had a very similar problem with the ill-fated UFC 24, where Kevin Randleman fell down backstage and was not able to defend the Heavyweight Title. UFC bounced back fine (over time), and I am sure Bellator will do the same, especially with what’s now a super-stacked card next week. Just keep the fighters away from the buffets in Hammond, Indiana!