Bellator’s most popular host, The Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida, will welcome perhaps the most talented division of all the Bellator ranks. The middleweight tournament is set and eight men will enter the cage to fight their way to the top. Ruled by the aggressive and powerful champion “Shango” Hector Lombard (27-2), the middleweight division has to produce a truly gifted challenger to make it worth his while and Bellator has done just that with eight of the best the world has to offer. With several returning fighters and plenty of new faces looking to take Bellator by storm, Season 5 is perhaps the deepest tournament pool to date.
Starting off the night is newcomer, former Strikeforce fighter, and explosive striker Brian Rogers (7-2) and Legends of Fighting veteran and Ring of Combat champion Victor O’Donnell (12-1). Rogers has a very impressive record, earning six TKO victories and one submission win all in the first round. Rogers has also never been finished in his career, making him a man to look out for right out of the gates. O’Donnell is a man of similar finishing ability, but with a majority of his wins by submission this match-up becomes style vs. style classic between the striker and grappler.
World Jiu-Jitsu champion Vitor Vianna (10-1) will make his Bellator debut against “Smiling” Sam Alvey (14-2) in the second tournament bout. Vianna brings world class Jiu-Jitsu to the Bellator cage that is matched only by the iron will of his opponent. Vianna has only one loss and that being to the dangerous Thiago Silva (17-2). Alvey will be fighting for the second time under the Bellator banner after his somewhat controversial win over “Psycho” Karl Amoussou (12-3) at Bellator 45. Nonetheless, Alvey showed heart to never give up while he was on the receiving end of Amoussou’s often fight-ending strikes. “Smiling” Sam certainly has the wrestling background to give Vianna a run for his money on the mat.
“The Storm” Alexander Shlemenko (30-4), the man who says he represents “pure strikers”, came up short against Lombard after he dominated the Season 2 tournament. Now, with a striking clinic victory over Brett Cooper (12-6) at Bellator 44, Shlemenko looks for his first tournament win since his loss to Lombard. Across the cage is Croatian K-1, Cage Rage, and DREAM veteran Zelg Galesic (9-5). Galesic has finished all of his opponents within the first round with eight ending by strikes, but he has been overcome by the submission skills of his past opponents. Needless to say – win, lose, or draw – Galesic brings the action to the fight that has fans on their feet. Shlemenko will be a tough welcoming party for Galesic, but Galesic isn’t going to be a pushover by any means. It’s do or die in this tournament and both men really want to continue onto the next level.
Perhaps two of the most familiar faces in the Bellator cage are those of “The Beast” Bryan Baker (12-2) and Jared Hess (12-2). Baker came up short against Shlemenko in his first tournament run at the Season 2 finals; since that loss he has defeated two former UFC veterans in “Gumby” Jeremy Horn (86-20) and “Diesel” Joe Riggs (33-14). Hess has finished all of his opponents save for the two men that defeated him – those men being Lombard and Shlemenko. After a freak accident knee injury during the third round of his bout with Shlemenko, many wrote off Hess, but Hess came back stronger than ever with a first-round submission over Chris Bell (11-4) at Bellator 42. Baker is known for his heavy strikes and towering physical presence while Hess is respected for his tough spirit and outstanding wrestling. Surely a bout between two former finalist as the main event will bring the heat to the cage but only one man will move on in the tournament to face their next opponent.
Hector Lombard, a man of few words but never short on action in the cage, gave his two cents on who would win the tournament this go around and face him for his title. His choice was Jared Hess, a man he respects highly and still calls their fight a four-round war. Lombard will be watching the first match-ups nonetheless to see how the talent matches up with the tale of the tape.