After gathering returning contenders and signing new talent, Bellator Fighting Championships has set the match-ups for the first round of the Season 6 Middleweight Tournament. With Bellator king “Shango” Hector Lombard (31-2) scheduled for his second title defense and rematch with “The Storm” Alexander Shlemenko (34-5) in the late spring or early summer, both he and his challenger have eyes on yet another title contender who will rise from the eight fighters to earn the chance for a shot at the gold around Lombard’s waist.
Returning finalist and Jiu-Jitsu champion Vitor Vianna (12-2) will face heavy-handed Ohio native “The Predator” Brian Rogers (8-3). Rogers is best remembered for his slugfest with Shlemenko, a fight in which he was rocked several times but still fought back to even the line until he was finally overwhelmed by his opponent. Vianna, however, was outclassed on the feet by the Russian. Shlemenko can be used as a measuring bar for both fighters, but Rogers won’t count his chickens just as Vianna won’t listen to the pundits before the cage door locks and the two men determine who deserves a potential second crack at the revered striker.
“The Arm Collector” Giva Santana (17-1) looks to cap off his journeyman career with a tournament championship and a title shot as he welcomes undefeated Brazilian “Carioca” Bruno Santos (3-0) to Bellator. Although Santos has ten decision victories on his unsanctioned 12-0 record that on paper may make him appear lackluster, he has dominated all of his opponents from bell to bell, including the three men he faced in the one-night Bitetti Combat 9 middleweight tournament. With Santana getting on in age, many will question if the 40-year-old submission specialist will be able to collect another arm and advance to the next round, or is he will have to pass the torch on to the young up-and-comer.
Victor O’Donnell (12-2) may have been stopped by Brian Rogers in the first round of the last middleweight tournament, but he fought to the very end when the referee pulled Rogers away. O’Donnell will meet Russian M-1 veteran “Slava” Vyascheslev Vasilevsky (1-0), who is 15-1 in unsanctioned competition, in the Russian’s Bellator and US debut. Vasilevsky is on a 14-fight win streak and has the tools to defeat opponents standing or on the mat and he also has never been finished. O’Donnell will look to be the first man to finish the Russian newcomer as he pits his well-rounded skill set against the dangerous prospect.
Middleweight powerhouse “Big Rig” Maiquel Falcao (28-4) is the lone UFC veteran in this bracket and will bring his Chute Boxe violence into the Bellator cage. Falcao looks to build off his latest victory and get back to his brutal knockout roots when he faces the last man to defeat former WEC Middleweight champion “Ely” Paulo Filho (19-3), 25-year-old Frenchman Norman Paraisy (10-1-1). Paraisy fought under the Bellator banner once before and came up short against former UFC 185lbs. champion “The Warrior” Dave Menne (46-16) at Bellator 3 in April 2009. Now he gets a second chance in the promotion while Falcao gets a second chance in his career. Both men have a lot to lose come fight night.
Stay tuned to MMA Gospel for more previews of Bellator Season 6.