Alexander Shlemenko earned a middleweight title shot by winning his second Bellator tournament 15 months ago, but it wasn't until Thursday night at The Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Ga., that he got his championship shot.
Shlemenko (47-7) , a native of Omsk, Siberia, stopped Brazilian Maiquel Falcao (31-5) after punches. first standing, and then on the ground. The win came at 2:18 of the second round to capture the title vacated last year when Hector Lombard signed with UFC.
Shlemenko debuted in Bellator in 2010, winning a tournament to earn a shot at Lombard on Oct. 28, 2010. He lost that fight via five-round decision, his only defeat in his last 17 fights. He won a second tournament that ended on Nov. 12, 2011, with a win over Vitor Vianna. He spent the last year plus fighting in Russia and India waiting for Bellator to finish a second tournament to create an opponent for him to face in a title match.
Falcao, a former UFC fighter, battled Shlemenko tight in the first round with both fighters landing a lot of shots. Falcao seemed to win the round with pair of takedowns. But Shlemenko took control in the second round, with a key shot being a hard left to the liver that took the steam out of the Brazilian. Seconds later, Falcao went down after a short right that seemed to surprise Shlemenko that it was so effective. From there, Shlemenko threw hard body punches, opening Falcao up for two head punches on the ground and the match was waved off.
"It was a liver shot first, liver shot, head shot, liver shot, head shot and I finished him," said Shlemenko in the ring through an interpreter.
Alexandre "Popo" Bezerra (15-2) got an armbar from the bottom to force Genair Da Silva (13-5) to tap in 1:40 of the first round. Bezerra had earlier scored a knockdown and was constantly working for a submission from there.
Bezerra will face hard-hitting Mike Richman (14-2) in the semifinals.
Richman stopped Mitch Jackson (20-3) with a head kick, and landing hard punches on the ground before it was stopped at 4:57 of the first round. The head kick was the fourth knockdown Richman had scored in the round.
The other semifinal has Brazilian Marlon Sandro (24-4) against Russian Frodo Khasbulaev (19-5)
Sandro, the 35-year-old former star of the Japanese scene, looked like age had caught up with him in most of the first two rounds, looking slower and not having the aggression standing that he's known for.
But he still scored a majority decision over Akop Stepanyan (12-5) in a fight that wasn't without controversy.
Stepanyan was getting the better of Sandro for most of the first round with punches and flashy spinning kicks. Sandro did score with a running powerslam with 12 seconds left in the round, and that was enough for two judges to give him the round.
Stepanyan clearly dominated the second round, but ref George Allen docked him a point for grabbing the fence, which he had been warned about in the first round, to block being taken off his feet late in the round.
Sandro got two takedowns in the third round, which he clearly won. With the penalty point, the fight was scored 28-28, 29-27 and 29-27 for Sandro even though he clearly took more damage in the fight.
Khasbulaev used an arm triangle at 1:15 of the second round on Brazilian Fabricio Guerriero (17-2) to advance. Both fighters were aggressive in a first round that saw wild punching and submission attempts coming from both sides.