Russian fighters often get painted as nearly emotionless – fighters with scowls and cold stares and ice in their veins and, well … as Ivan Drago replicas, at least in terms of their dispositions.
If Shahbulat Shamhalaev is not like that, he’s not giving many indications of it ahead of his Bellator featherweight title fight. OK – maybe he gives one indication that he’s no robot.
Shamhalaev (12-1-1 MMA, 3-0 BFC) on Thursday meets Pat Curran (18-4 MMA, 8-1 BFC) for Curran’s 145-pound title, and he has every indication of leaving with the belt – in a cold and calculated manner. No emotions – just going to work.
“My advantages over Pat Curran in the cage are my powerful punches,” Shamhalaev told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com). “I am very quick – and also better looking, too.”
See? Not all cold, all the time. Maybe even funny.
But when it comes to Thursday’s fight, Shamhalaev’s plan becomes much more precise, and probably doesn’t end with a smile on his face while he’s thinking about what he wants to do.
“I really don’t see this fight with Pat Curran going to the judges’ decision,” he said. “I doubt that will happen. Expect a finish. Because with my striking power, if I land on him, he is going down.”
Shamhalaev won a delayed Season 7 featherweight tournament in February when he knocked out Rad Martinez in the finals. And though Daniel Strauss was ahead of him in line for a shot at Curran, an injury forced him out.
So instead, Shamhalaev brings his six straight wins, five straight knockouts and 11-fight unbeaten streak to Curran, who defended his belt for the first time with a split-decision win over Patricio “Pitbull” Freire in January.
For Shamhalaev, Curran will be his biggest test by far. But he’s not prepared to say if that will remain the case after the fight.
“This fight with Pat Curran is the biggest fight of my life because it’s a title fight,” he said. “As far as Curran specifically, it’s hard to say right now if he is the biggest challenge for me, because I have not fought the guy yet. He may be better or worse than my previous opponents. It’s just another fight.”
But it’s just another fight that could put Shamhalaev on the MMA map, and do it in a big way.
Curran currently is the No. 4-ranked featherweight in the world in MMAjunkie.com’s latest rankings.
So Shamhalaev already is mentally prepared for how big it could prove to be for him. And he doesn’t hold any particular fear of the champ.
“Pat Curran holds the championship belt,” he said. “That’s what is unique about him. I will let you know if there is anything else unique about him after this fight, but right now that’s it. I don’t need to make any big statements in this fight with Pat Curran. I want the belt and I will earn it. I am ready to take the belt and then defend it against anyone else who wants it.”
Bellator 95 takes place Thursday at Ovation Hall at Revel in Atlantic City, N.J. The main card, including Hawn-Parisyan, airs on Spike TV (10 p.m. ET) following prelims on Spike.com (8 p.m. ET).
For the latest on Bellator 95, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.