UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Bellator 98 went down at the Mohegan Sun, which featured a middleweight title fight between Alexander Shlemenko and Brett Cooper, and the quarterfinals of the season nine middleweight tournament. Here is a rundown of the action.
Alexander Shlemenko retains title after bloody war with Brett Cooper
The first time Bellator's middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko fought Brett Cooper at Bellator 44 in May 2011, he had an easier time of it. This time, with Cooper filling in for the injured Doug Marshall, and with a belt the line, things were a lot more difficult.
In fact, almost too difficult. In a bloody war of back-and-forth war of attrition, where both fighters showed their threshold for 25 minutes of punishment, Shlemenko emerged the victor with a narrow unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47).
From the start it was toe-to-toe action, and each fighter landed big shots early and often. Both men were going for home runs early, too. Shlemenko set up a spinning backfist three times with jabs. Cooper had his moments too, and even buckled Shlemenko with a huge right hand to the temple. Shlemenko recovered and retaliated with a flurry of his own.
That set the tone for a war between the two. In the second round, Cooper put Shlemenko in trouble with a body shot and some hard uppercuts. Shlemenko went reeling across the cage, but a fatigued Cooper was unable to capitalize. Shlemnenko put up his arms to signal he was okay to referee Dan Miragliotta, and survived the round.
The third round was more of the same. Shlemenko ate a hard right hand and threw his hands up as if to say, "come on." He then came in and snapped off a big right of his own. Cooper's uppercuts were finding a home all night. By the end of the third round, it was arguable that the champion may need a finish to retain his belt.
In the championship rounds, Shlemenko downed Cooper with a big shot. But, as he'd done all night, Cooper answered the challenge and fired back. Both guys, bloodied and battered, traded punches for the rest of the fight.
With the victory, Shlemenko improves his record to 48-7, while Cooper -- game in defeat -- drops to 19-9.
Bellator newcomer Derek Anderson upsets Patricky Pitbull
Hard-hitting puncher Patricky Freire came in as a big favorite to end a two-fight losing streak against Bellator debutante Derek Anderson, but instead Pitbull's streak now sits at three.
The 23-year old Anderson was able to withstand an early bit of trouble in the first round as Freire landed some big left hands and at one point had on a tight triangle. For his part, Anderson seemed to gain confidence as the fight went on, and was able to work his jab effectively all night. By the early second round Freire became visibly gassed and Anderson was initiatiing -- and winning -- most of the exchanges. In the third round, Anderson was able to work his jab and fire off combinations while Freire slowed down. The judges scored the fight unanimously for Anderson (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
The victory raises Anderson's professional MMA record to 10-0, while Freire is now 10-5.
Perry Filkins sank a third-round rear-naked choke on Colorado's Jeremy Kimball to advance to the semifinals of the season nine middleweight tournament.
The fight was a back-and-forth affair early, with Kimball using a surprisingly agile array of kicks both high and low. Filkins got audibly fired up by the second round, and let his emotional surge takeover the fight. Towards the end of the round, he had Kimball flattened on his stomach and was close to finishing the fight with a barrage of punches. He asked referee Todd Anderson to stop it, but time ran out. By the third round, Kimball was completely outclassed. Filkins landed a series of big shots and eventually got Kimball's back. He choked Kimball out at the 4:18 mark of third round.
Filkins, who trains with Gabriel Gonzaga, moves to 8-1 as a pro. The 22-year old Kimball drops to 10-4.
Connecticut's Brennan Ward made a statement against Bellator veteran Justin Torrey with a vicious second-round TKO.
Ward was aggressive early, and after a scramble was able to gain top position and work his ground and pound. He was ultimately reversed, and Torrey spent the greater bulk of the first round dropping fists through Ward's defense.
In the second round, with Torrey's left eye nearly shut, Ward threw Torrey to the canvas and went to work. Torrey absorbed a few big shots, but got a little overzealous trying to put some mustard behind a punch, and ended letting Torrey up. But it was only a momentary reprieve for the 30-year old Torrey. After a big exchange, Ward took him right back down, and from there it was academic. Ward landed a sequence of big lefts before referee Todd Anderson called him off.
The official time of the TKO stoppage was 3:28 of the second round. The fan favorite Ward advances in the middleweight tournament.
In what was a clash of seasoned grapplers, it was 28-year old Jason Butcher who caught stalwart Giva Santana with -- of all things -- a big punch. Butcher TKO'd the third degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Santana at the 1:12 mark of the second round.
Butcher, a brown belt who trains jiu-jitsu in Cincinnati with Jorge Gurgel, spent much of the first round on his back fending off Santana's submissions. Santana tactically maneuvered into dominant positions after a takedown just 20 seconds in, and even got mount with a little over a minute to go, but Butcher was game. He was able to return the pressure late in the round.
In the second, Butcher was able to turn the fight into a kickboxing affair, and landed a big uppercut to put Santana in trouble. Butcher pounced on the fallen Santana and delivered a series of punches until referee Kevin McDonald stepped in to call him off.
Afterwards, Santana, who turns 42 in November, announced that he was retiring in the cage. He finishes his career with a record of 18-3, with 16 submission victories. Butcher remains undefeated at 7-0, and advances to the semi-finals of the middleweight tournament.
Heavy-handed middleweight Mikkel Parlo was able to put his first professional loss behind him with a unanimous decision over Bellator veteran Bryan Rogers. The official scores were 30-27, 30-26, 30-26.
The fight began with fireworks, as both guys traded punches in several big exchanges. Rogers had Parlo rocked early on after a combination, but the Danish fighter was able to recover. The back and forth action prompted Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney to tweet out "Wow, don't blink here." The second round began where the first left off, with Parlo standing in Rogers' wheelhouse. But Parlo took Rogers down about a minute in, and was able to stay busy enough to stay there for four-plus minutes working ground and pound.
Clearly fatigued, Rogers answer the bell, and came out swinging. But a minute in, Parlo took Rogers down again, and kept the fight there for a chunk of the time. Towards the end of the fight, Parlo hurt Rogers along the fence with a big punch, and followed that up with a body shot. Inside of ten seconds left it looked like he knocked Rogers out with a huge right on the ground, the fight ended in a decision.
With the win, Parlo (10-1) joins Jason Butcher, Brennan Ward and Perry Filkins in advancing to the semifinals of the season nine middleweight tournament.