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Brett Cooper replaces Doug Marshall in Bellator middleweight title fight


A hand injury has forced former WEC light heavyweight champion Doug Marshall out of his shot against Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko, the company announced. Brett Cooper will take his place on Sept. 7 at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun Casino.

The 26-year-old Cooper brings a 19-8 record into the fight. He was knocked out by Marshall in the Bellator season eight tourney final, but prior to the loss, had won six straight fights.

"My goal has always been the same, get the belt," Cooper said. "I'm always making improvements and this is an incredible opportunity I'm not going to pass up. When we fought in 2011, it was an absolute war, and I've grown into a much different fighter over the last few years. I'm 26 years old, and this is my time to take the next step."

Shlemenko (47-7) has won 10 in a row and 16 of 17. He defeated Maiquel Falcao in April to capture the vacant middleweight title. Among those was a unanimous decision win over Cooper in May 2011.