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Traveling to the home state of a popular opponent like Rad Martinez might be a concern for many fighters, but not Shahbulat Shamhalaev.
The native of Russia went into the Bellator Season 7 featherweight tournament final Thursday night in West Valley City, Utah, confident and eager to unleash his striking power.
And as he'd done in each of his previous two tournament fights, Shamhalaev eventually found his target, knocking out Martinez at 2:12 of the second round.
"I showed that I'm a pretty good fighter with every one of my opponents," Shamhalaev said after improving to 12-1-1. "I've shown some good striking, but I've got a lot more that nobody knows about."
With the victory, Shamhalaev earned a featherweight title shot. He will face either titleholder Pat Curran or top contender Daniel Straus on a date yet to be determined.
Curran and Straus, the Season 6 featherweight tournament winner, are scheduled to meet April 4 in Atlantic City, N.J.
While the loss snapped Martinez's five-fight win streak, he did last longer than Shamhalaev's two other tournament foes. Cody Bollinger and Mike Richman were each flattened in the first round.
Martinez, who resides in West Jordan, Utah, now has a pro record of 14-3.
In what might be the biggest upset in Bellator tournament history, little-known Emanuel Newton knocked out former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Muhammed Lawal in the first round of their Season 8 semifinal bout.
Lawal entered the cage expected to win this fight and eventually the entire tournament. For the first few minutes, there was no evidence that Newton could do anything to change those expectations.
Lawal looked to be in control during stand-up action. He had the superior technique. His hands were faster and punches sharper.
But Lawal often dropped his left hand and ate a couple of overhand rights from Newton. None of Newton's punches did enough damage to encourage Lawal to keep his hands up.
That mistake, however, proved beneficial to Newton, who landed a spinning back fist that caught Lawal flush on the chin. Lawal, whose hands were at his side when the punch landed, fell to the canvas at the 2:35 mark.
"I saw that Mo drops his hands a lot and comes in with big haymakers," Newton said. "I turned and saw his hands down, so I threw [the punch] and caught him."
Newton (20-7-1) moves on to face Mikhail Zayats in the light heavyweight final.
Lawal falls to 9-2 with one no-contest.
Getting a title rematch is all the motivation Douglas Lima needs during this year's welterweight tournament.
And he took another step toward achieving his goal with a first-round knockout of Bryan Baker in a semifinal bout.
Lima earned a title shot against Bellator 170-pound champion Ben Askren in April 2012 after claiming the Season 5 tournament. Askren won the fight by unanimous decision.
But Lima wants a second chance and appears well on his way after disposing of a weary Baker with a solid right hand. The punch landed flush on Baker's chin, and he fell to the canvas.
Though there was no need to deliver any more shots, Lima added another for good measure before referee Jason Herzog could jump in.
"I was looking at him and timing him to land the right hand," said Lima, who improved to 24-5.
Lima will face Ben Saunders in the Season 8 tournament final. Bellator has yet to announce a date or location for that fight.
Saunders (16-5-2) stamped his ticket to the final earlier on the card with a first-round knockout of Raul Amaya. A head kick finished Amaya at 2:56.
Lima and Saunders fought in the Season 5 tournament final. Lima won that fight, which was held in November 2011, by second-round knockout.
In a light heavyweight tournament semifinal that featured two of Bellator's less recognizable participants, hard-hitting Mikhail Zayats submitted Jacob Noe to advance.
The finish came at 3:38 of the first round.
Zayats took control of the bout seconds into the fight when he caught a kick from Noe and countered with a right hand. The punch sent Noe to the canvas. Zayats jumped on him and began delivering punches.
Noe did everything in his power to hold Zayats close, but Zayats was able to position himself for an armbar. He locked in the hold, and Zoe was forced to tap.
It was Zayats' second appearance inside the Bellator cage. During his promotion debut Jan. 17, in a tournament quarterfinal bout, Zayats knocked out former Strikeforce 205-pound champion Renato Sobral in the first round.
Zayats improved to 21-6 with his victory over Noe, who slips to 11-2.