by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
When Bryan Baker entered the season 2 middleweight tournament for Bellator Fighting Championships, it wasn’t about making a good showing, or even winning the whole tournament. It was about getting to Hector Lombard and beating him for the Bellator middleweight title.

As Baker prepares for the final step before getting a shot at Lombard Thursday night in Louisville against Alexander Shlemenko, he makes no bones about his goals, and sees his opponent as another bump in the road to his path to the title.

Training with longtime MMA veteran Thomas “Wildman” Denny, Baker has become a machine in the cage, finishing his last two opponents in Bellator in impressive fashion. While he compliments Shlemenko’s game, he doesn’t feel that he’s going to be able to withstand the pressure Thursday night.

“I think he’s an exciting fighter, a lot of spinning stuff, a lot of crowd pleasing entertainment, but I’m going to neutralize that for sure, and just work my game plan and look to get the early finish, just like the prior two fights in the tournament,” said Baker in an interview with MMAWeekly.com.

Shlemenko has show very solid stand-up in all of his fights, but doesn’t particularly seem to love the ground game. Baker is all about the groundwork, and he’ll show that off if Shlemenko gives him the opening.

“If you watch his fights, he gives his back, he really doesn’t know what he’s doing on the ground at all really,” Baker stated. “I know I’ll have many submission attempts and full control once we hit the mat. That’s a confident base I can have in the fight.”

The tournament finals were just the first goal of many for Baker in 2010, and he admits to really enjoying the format that Bellator employs to determine a top contender.

“Step by step, knowing what you’re doing, knowing where you’re going to end up, just the work and sacrifices you put in, and know you come out with the victory and knowing after I win this tournament that I’m going to have a title shot,” said Baker. “That’s my goal, that’s what I want to do, without the politics.”

Politics aside if Baker gets past Shlemenko his next step is facing Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard. In his last fight out, Lombard lambasted former UFC middleweight Jay Silva with a vicious knockout in only 6 seconds.

While most would argue that facing Lombard is no easy task, Baker has no plans of facing the champion. He has plans of defeating the champion.

“It’s not so much I get a shot at him, it’s more that I’m going to go and beat him, and I’m going to become the champ and get the belt,” stated Baker. “I’m not excited to get a chance, I’m excited to go and beat him.”

Bryan Baker will try to make that fight a reality Thursday when he faces Alexander Shlemenko in Louisville, Ky., in the Bellator middleweight finals.