Bellator Fighting Championships returned for round four on Spike TV last night (Feb. 7, 2013) with a middlweight title fight and the season eight featherweight tournament quarterfinals with finishes galore.
The main event of the evening was a battle between tournament winners Alexander Shlemenko and Maiquel Falcao who were competing to fill the vacant title left behind by former champion Hector Lombard when he left for UFC.
Shlemenko was a two-time tournament winner, losing a title fight to Lombard and then winning the season five middleweight tournament to earn another shot while Falcao was victorious in the season six middleweight tournament.
The Russian got off to a bit of a slow start early and Falcao capitalized by keeping his striking short and crisp. Falcao landed a few nice punches but his best work was his knees, which he threw every time both men clinched either in the cage center or along the fence.
Shlemenko bounced back by attacking to the body with his left hand and also mixing in his patented spinning attacks whether it was back fists or back kicks, but he seemed a step slow early on. He helped himself out by securing a trip takedown, but couldn't do much with the position.
In the second round, The RusFighter turned it on, really taking his aggression up a notch and hammering home some solid punches, kicks and body shots. When he had Falcao trapped against the fence, Shlemenko unloaded with a big flurry of blows, connecting with several shots and doing some serious damage.
With Falcao hurting badly, a short right hand from Shlemenko convinced him that dropping to the ground would be a good idea. Unfortunately for the Brazilian, Shlemenko followed him there and blasted him with a left then a right hand to put the "Bigg Rigg" out cold on the canvas.
The victory earned Shlemenko the vacant Bellator Middleweight Championship and his enthusiastic post-fight speech proved just how much it meant to him.
In featherweight tournament action, veteran Brazilian Marlon Sandro faced a significantly tougher test than anyone was expecting from Russian striker Akop Stepanyan, who kept him on the defensive with a plethora of spinning back kicks and opportunistic strikes.
Unfortunately for the Russian, he grabbed the fence multiple times to thwart not only takedown attempts by Sandro, but also a heel hook at the end of the second round, the latter of which cost him a point. While Stepanyan was in control for a majority of the first two rounds, he allowed Sandro to take him down far too often in the third and with the first round being close combined with the point deduction, the judges ended up siding with Sandro via majority decision in a relatively ho-hum bout.
The action quickly picked up with the featherweight tournament bout between Minnesota rivals Mike Richman and Mitch Jackson. Jackson was the grappler while Richman was the serious striker, but the grappler scored first blood, landing a good few punches early and opening up a cut under "The Marine's" right eye.
Richman would get his revenge, however, fighting a slightly more conservative gameplan which included dropping Jackson three times in the first round before landing the killshot, a brutal head kick in the final 10 seconds of the round followed by some hammerfists that put Jackson to sleep (just as he predicted).
Lastly, a tournament bout between talented Brazilians Genair da Silva and Alexandre Bezerra showcased several tide-turning moments, but this fight was still pretty one-sided in Bezerra's favor. The young Brazilian training out of Team Alliance MMA rocked da Silva with a stiff left jab and proceeded to pounce on his back while working for a standing rear naked choke.
When da Silva was able to shake him loose, he found himself in top position on the ground and proceeded to drop hammer fists on Bezerra, but this only exposed him to an armbar against the experienced grappler which forced a tap just about two minutes into the first round.
Russian "Frodo" Khasbulaev also advanced to the tournament semifinals, defeating top Brazilian prospect Fabricio Guerreiro via second round arm triangle in a very entertaining battle.
So who stood out to you the most last night, Maniacs?
Was it the featherweights with their fantastic finishes? Or was it the new Bellator middleweight champion?