Bellator 98 suffered several bumps in the road en route to finally taking place on Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., but eventually did take place with the Bellator middleweight championship on the line.
Alexander Shlemenko defended his belt, winning a unanimous decision over Brett Cooper, who stepped into the fight as a replacement for the injured Doug Marshall.
Shlemenko established his dominance early with his stand-up game, landing with greater frequency and greater power than Cooper.
Everything nearly went off the rails for the champion towards the end of the first round, however, when Cooper rocked him with a short left hook. He wasn’t able to land the necessary follow-ups to capitalize.
Shlemenko recovered, and continued his relentless striking attack, doing an excellent job of mixing up his strikes to work the body, and not just go for the knockout blow.
Cooper tried on several occasions to take Shlemenko down, but was rarely successful. When he was, Shlemenko quickly brought the fight back to the feet.
Cooper wouldn’t fade away, though. He kept coming after Shlemenko, but couldn’t match the Russian’s pace or power.
To make sure he left no doubts, Shlemenko turned the tables on Cooper and planted him on the mat three times in the final minutes of the fight, securing the unanimous nod of the judges.
A bantamweight tournament semifinal bout between Joe Warren and Nick Kirk was nixed from the event early on Friday when Warren was not allowed to fight due to concerns over his medical paperwork.
Andreas Span was originally supposed to fight Justin Torrey, but was also not approved by the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation.
The opening round of the middleweight tournament that could determine one of Shlemenko’s next challengers got underway at Bellator 98.
Mikkel Parlo won a unanimous decision over longtime Bellator veteran Brian Rogers, Jason Butcher stopped Giva Santana with strikes, Brennan Ward did the same to Justin Torrey, and Perry Filkins submitted Jeremy Kimball to move on to the semifinal round of the tournament.
Derek Anderson vs. Patricky “Pitbull” Freire was elevated to the main card with the removal of Warren vs. Kirk. Anderson took advantage of the limelight, winning a unanimous decision.
Bellator’s live events move to Friday nights at 9 p.m. ET beginning with next week’s Bellator 99. The one exception is Bellator 106, a special Saturday night pay-per-view event headlined by former UFC champions Rampage Jackson and Tito Ortiz.
-Alexander Shlemenko def. Brett Cooper by Unanimous Decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
-Mikkel Parlo def. Brian Rogers by Unanimous Decision
-Jason Butcher def. Giva Santana by TKO (Strikes) at 1:12, R2
-Brennan Ward def. Justin Torrey by TKO (Strikes) at 3:28, R2
-Perry Filkins def. Jeremy Kimball by Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 4:18, R3
-Derek Anderson def. Patricky Pitbull Freire by Unanimous Decision
-Jeff Nader vs. Mike Mucitelli ruled No Contest (Accidental Eye Poke) at 1:30, R1
-Josh Diekman def. Parker Porter by TKO (Strikes) at 1:12, R1
-Ryan Quinn def. Brylan Van Artsdalen by Submission (Arm Triangle Choke) at 2:34, R1
-Matt Bessette def. Nick Piedmont by KO (Punches) at 1:41, R1
-Rico DiSciullo def. Glenn Allair by KO (Punches) at 1:21, R1
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