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Alexander Shlemenko defends middleweight title at Bellator 126

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bellator will make its second trip to Phoenix in September. The promotion, which held its 100th card in the city in 2013, returns a year later with a middleweight title in the main event.

Alexander Shlemenko, Bellator’s 185-pound champion, puts his belt on the line against tournament winner Brandon Halsey at the Grand Canyon University Arena on Sept. 26. In the co-main event, Patricky Freire meets Marcin Held in the lightweight tournament final.

Shlemenko (50-8), who successfully defended his title three times since winning the vacant title in February of 2013, looks to get back on track following a first-round submission loss to Tito Ortiz in a light heavyweight bout in May.

Halsey (7-0) challenges "Storm" after winning the middleweight tournament with a pair of wins in 2014. After three victories at 205 pounds under the Bellator banner, "Bull" cut down to middleweight and defeated Joe Pacheco and Brett Cooper to earn his shot at the gold.

In the co-main event, longtime Bellator lightweight "Pitbull" Freire (13-5) looks to prove he’s back for good after three straight victories. Prior to his current win streak, Freire went 1-4 in five bouts, including losses to Eddie Alvarez and Michael Chandler.

Held (19-3) enters a Bellator tournament final for the second time after wins over Rodrigo Cavalheiro and Derek Anderson. He was expected to meet "Pitbull" in April, but the Brazilian was forced out of the bout with a hand injury. Held made quick work of Nate Jolly instead at Bellator 120.

"I’m very excited for this fight, it’s been a long time coming and I’m ready to finally face ‘Pitbull,’" Held stated in a release. "I’m training at one of the best gyms in the world with Duke Roufus and Roufusport, and my sparring partners have really elevated my game. Even with my standup improving, my style isn’t going to change, I’m always going to look for the finish, but now I’m even more dangerous on my feet."

The main card will also feature Alejandro Villalobos (17-3) vs. Bubba Jenkins (6-1) and Mike Richman (15-6) vs. Ed West (18-8).