Sha KOs Martinez
From Old School
Team Bombsquad Featherweight Sha Shamhalaev took his game to another level yesterday when he KO’d Rad Martinez midway through the second round of their Bellator Tournament Final fight, setting up a showdown for the title currently held by Pat Curran. The fight had been scratched and postponed a couple of times over the previous months due to circumstances beyond control, but the showdown finally was set up in Martinez’ back yard, Salt Lake City, Utah. But in typical Team Bombsquad fashion, Sha flew into town, executed his game to perfection, and accepted the winner’s check for $100K!!!
When Coach Ciotoli and I talked on Tuesday of this week, the most humble coach in MMA gave me the usual “Aw shucks, we’re used to fighting guys in their home town” and “Heck, it’s only a two hour jet lag” and “Rad Martinez is just a man” type of answers that I have become accustomed to hearing. But deep down, I know that Ryan has to be concerned any time one of his fighters takes on an opponent as highly skilled as Martinez in front of the pro-Martinez crowd; but Sha kept both the crowd and the judges out of the picture!
At the Bellator 90 weigh-ins on Wednesday, the handsome kid with the boyish charm and the 1977 mop of hair was a few ounces overweight, so the boys took him out back and shaved his head. “We had to sacrifice his hair to the fight gods,” Ciotoli would tell me later. Sha came back out and weighed in right on the money; 145.9! Unlike the biblical warrior Sampson, Sha would show that his supernatural strength was not in the hair, but in his heart and in his hands. But the hair cut did reveal another piece to this Dagestanian puzzle, however.
Sha grew up in the former Soviet republic of Dagestan, where fighting became his way of life, and nobody who has seen his last three Bellator fights would ever question that pedigree. But much like the American Wrestler’s ears, the front of Sha’s head along the hairline reveals a telling story of fights that have been contested over his lifetime. Hidden from view under that 1970’s hair are the scars of battles won and lost, and this was revealed at the Bellator 89 Weigh-ins. (Check it out: www.sherdog.com/pictures/gallery/event/50275/200711/ .)
In the first round of the Main Event, Sha controlled the action with cat-like speed, landing snapping leg kicks and sharp punches. At one point, Sha dropped Martinez with a crisp combination, but Martinez found his way back to the feet, eventually scoring a takedown. In the second round, Sha continued to stalk his opponent. With Anderson Silva-like precision, Sha landed sniper strikes one at a time; a single shot to the body… another single body punch… a head kick put Martinez on wobbly legs… a final straight right hand put him down for good, as the ref stopped the action before Sha could land anything in the way of G&P. The end came at 2:12 of round 2.
Bellator 90 featured several other KO of the Year candidates, including Ben Saunders (head kick), Emanuel Newton (spinning back fist), and Doug Lima (one punch KO). On this night of super Knock Outs, Sha once again showed himself to be one of the most powerful strikers in the world at 145lbs. The Dagestanian wrecking machine is just one more straight right hand away from bringing that long awaited World Championship to Ithaca, NY.
In the cage after the fight, Sha, his interpreter, and announcer Jimmy Smith entertained the Utah crowd. “I’d like to apologize to whoever’s mood I ruined today for knocking him out,” said Sha through his interpreter. But there was one person who was missing from the scene; Ryan Ciotoli, who was visible cageside throughout the fight and post fight, had snuck out of the picture. The most humble coach in MMA was somewhere, ducking the cameras, probably planning for Sha’s Bellator Title fight.