Mixed martial arts invaded the night life of Atlantic City, New Jersey last night with a stacked card that suffered several hiccups in regards to the supporting bouts, but nonetheless did not disappoint. Headlined by a superfight between Bellator Middleweight Champion “Shango” Hector Lombard (27-2) and “Niko” Falaniko Vitale (27-9) and a supporting lightweight title contender bout between Season 4 finalists “Pitbull” Patricky Freire (3-1) and Michael Chandler (8-0), the card made promises of a stellar night of fights from the outset. Despite a bantamweight fight between Anthony Morrison (14-9) and Byran Goldsby (14-9) being cancelled due to Morrison missing weight by an astonishing 10lbs., the premium MMA organization from Chicago still had more than enough talent on its undercard to make good on those promises. “The Storm” Alexander Shlemenko (30-4) made his return to the cage against rising middleweight star Brett Cooper (12-6) and kicked off the night with a middleweight qualifying match that was followed by a pair of bouts that were every bit as exciting as the fans have come to expect from Bellator.
Alexander Shlemenko vs. Brett Cooper: Cooper has stated that he is here to stay at middleweight and has added on the needed bulk to his frame. He is also determined to make “The Storm” his welcoming victory to the next tournament, but Shlemenko has the same plans for his opponent. They touch gloves and begin circling each other. Shlemenko catches a kick and flips Cooper on his back but lets him back up. Cooper shows good movement but his opponent is stalking him and by the round’s mid-point, Cooper’s left eye is swollen already from Shelmenko’s pin point strikes. Shlemenko is unleashing a multitude of spinning back fists and kicks to Cooper’s torso and face and Cooper can’t seem find his rhythm. Shlemenko drops Cooper with a spinning back fist but Cooper responds in kind with a straight right. The crowd goes nuts at the war in the cage. Both men are up and trading strikes and the action goes to the ground when Shlemenko catches another kick. A solid first round but Shlemenko takes it all the way. Both men show signs of damage as Shlemenko is cut under his eye and Cooper is showing significant bruising and swelling.
Round two begins and Cooper goes for a takedown after he gets Shlemenko against the cage. Shlemenko stuffs it and gets back to the center of the cage but Cooper is focusing on leg kicks and is still pressing the action while “The Storm” seems to be slowing down. Shlemenko goes for a knee but Cooper puts a well-timed right hand to Shlemenko’s jaw and drops but doesn’t hurt him. Cooper doesn’t waste time – he wraps Shlemenko up against the cage and is peppering his legs with knees. Cooper is clearly the better man in the wrestling department, and Shlemenko is looking at the referee waiting for the action to be separated. “The Storm” finally breaks away and pays Cooper back with another spinning back fist. He blocks it but the repeated blows are taking their toll on the wrestler. The closing seconds has Cooper controlling Shlemenko on the ground until the final ten seconds where they exchange a flurry of punches. Cooper seems to be finding the holes in Shlemenko’s game in the clinch and wrestling area. A very close round but Shlemenko takes its due to his ability to do more damage.
The final round opens and both men are standing in the center of the cage feeling each other out. Shlemenko is firing off combos of body shots to Cooper. Cooper looks tired; his kicks are half-paced and he is lunging into his punches. Shlemenko continues with the flashy spinning attacks but Cooper is ducking and shoots to the clinch. They separate and Shlemenko pops Cooper with a right hook. He follows it up with several knees and Cooper turtles up, but Shlemenko doesn’t try to finish the fight and Cooper recovers. Both men are clearly tired but are still game to sling strikes and give the fans a show. The final minute is a Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robot-like war with both men giving it their all. The final horn sounds and both men are bloodied and breathing heavily. The judges turn in their scorecards giving the win to the Russian striker Alexander Shlemenko. “The Storm” now will compete in the Season 5 Middleweight Tournament and hopes to gain another shot at reigning champ Hector Lombard. Shlemenko via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-28, 29-28), Round 3, 5:00
Patricky Freire vs. Mike Chandler: The Bellator Season 4 Lightweight Tournament final is a classic style versus style fight featuring heavy handed slugger Freire and the relentless wrestler Chandler. Both men are confident that their style of fighting will win them a shot at champion Eddie Alvarez (21-2) who joins Sean Wheellock and Jimmy Smith outside the cage to call the fight. The bout gets underway and both fighters are on their toes moving about. Chandler is moving in-and-out while Freire is following Chandler at a slower pace, winging punches, wide hooks and power shots. Chandler is throwing a punch and moving out quickly, easily evading Freire’s power. A low kick is misplaced and Freire catches it in the groin and is given time to recover. The fight restarts after a minute and Freire’s nose is bloody – Chandler’s in-and-out movement is working very well. Freire continues stalking with his feet flat now while Chandler is still moving about and lunging in with jabs. The bell sounds. It’s a close round but Chandler takes it.
Round two starts much the same with Chandler spry and mobile against the flat footed Brazilian. Chandler slams a right hand into Freire’s face and he stumbles. “The Pitbull” recovers and fires back but Chandler is already out of range and he goes to his brawler-style knee but Chandler catches it. Freire is getting frustrated and Chandler throws a flying kick that barely clips Freire. They end up against the cage and another misplaced knee hits Freire’s groin. He is given time to recover and Chandler states to the referee that he won’t do it again and avoids a point deduction. The pace of Chandler is clearly getting to Freire since he is used to being the bully in the cage. Chandler has a busted nose and his left eyebrow is cut while Freire has a split lip, but both men are warriors and continue going at it. Freire shows some promise in a bout he has been losing when he repeatedly stuffs Chandler’s takedowns but then throws a weak kick that Chandler catches and takes Freire to the mat. Chandler works to the guard of Freire and is controlling him with peppering shots. The round ends with a rain of right hands from Chandler. He returns to his corner with a mouse under his left eye but he is fired up. Alvarez gives the second round to Chandler due to control and the takedown.
The final round is under way and Chandler is on fire. He throws a kick that is misplaced again and Freire is hit hard in the groin for a third time. A point is taken away due to the third warning, but Chandler is up two rounds to none. Freire returns after taking five minutes and Chandler has to stay smart and stay quick, as dropping the round will result in a Draw. Chandler lands a right hand and stops “The Pitbull” but Freire is coming swinging and is landing a bulk of his strikes. Chandler eats a punch but gets the takedown. He picks up Freire and slams him against the mat and the crowd erupts at his trademark power slam. Chandler is in the guard but has little trouble controlling Freire and preventing him from walking the cage or gaining control of his posture. Chandler is landing right hands over and over again to the face of Freire, who looks like a fish out of water on his back. Freire is tired and Chandler is still going strong, landing more hammer strikes and elbows. Freire’s face is extremely bloody after a powerful elbow lands to his head and he looks hurt but is saved by the final horn. Chandler jumps up and shouts as he heads to his corner to await the judges’ decision. Even with the point taken away from Chandler he is clearly the dominant fighter in this match-up. Chandler via Unanimous Decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27), Round 3, 5:00
Hector Lombard vs. Falaniko Vitale: Vitale is coming in believing he is the man to dethrone the king. Lombard, however, is here to make a statement that he is ready for the best because he is one of the best. Lombard is looking cold and calm as always,as they come out to the center of the ring and the champ opens up with a flurry of strikes – all but a single kick fail to connect. “Niko” is moving about and staying away from the hands of Lombard; his plan clearly is to get the fight into the later rounds and let “Shango’s” power fade. Lombard is throwing heavy shots but is being smart about it while Vitale is using the jab well to measure the distance by grabbing Lombard’s right hand. Vitale throws a kick and hits Lombard in the groin and the fight is paused. Shortly after, they resume with a touch of gloves. The action is slowing down and the fight has lasted a lot longer than most fans believed it would. The final minute of the fight consists of both men feeling out the other and ranging distance. The opening frame ends with the referee giving them a warning to pick up the action. Lombard takes the round due to his control and more aggressive movement.
The second stanza begins and Lombard is on the attack again. He charges Vitale against the cage and slams him with several body shots. A solid body kick from Lombard lands on Vitale’s right arm and Vitale is just circling away from Lombard’s power hand. Lombard is using a lot of kicks in this round and Vitale hasn’t thrown a strike yet. The Hawaiian is still feeling out distance with his lead hand and finally throws a combo after minutes on the defensive. They scramble against the cage and separate, as Vitale takes to his heels in light of the champ’s superior power in the clinch. Lombard is still popping kicks to Vitale’s body and “Niko” is on the retreat in the closing seconds of the second round as the crowd begins booing the fight. The round goes to Lombard due to control and the solid flurry at the opening bell.
Round 3 starts with Lombard ahead on the judges’ score cards. Both men meet in the center of the cage and the action is picking up. Vitale is coming in and putting on the pressure but Lombard is answering with powerful strikes. Vitale clinches Lombard; “Shango” fades back and counters with a right hook that folds Vitale over. Lombard walks away as Vitale stumbles up then falls back down. He is clearly out of it and doesn’t know where he is. Lombard lifts his arms and gives a smile to his corner, his win streak now up to 18 straight fights. Although many fans believed the fight would have ended in the first round by knockout it comes two rounds later with a single punch. Lombard via KO (Punch), Round 3, 0:54
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