Bellator 98 Bet: Middleweight Championship bout: Alexander Shlemenko (-640) vs Brett Cooper (+470)

Alexander ShlemenkoBellator 98 Date: September 7, 2013 Arena: Mohegan Sun Arena City: Uncasville, Connecticutl Middleweight Championship bout: Alexander Shlemenko (-640) vs Brett Cooper (+470) Fight Breakdown: The main event for Bellator 98 will be a contest for the promotion’s middleweight title, as contender Brett Cooper takes on the Champion Alexander Shlemenko. Shlemenko is the big favorite at -640 ($640 to win $100), while Cooper is a big dog at +470 ($100 to win $470) at Several Bookmakerss. ALEXANDER SHLEMENKO (47-7 MMA, 8-1 Bellator) is stepping into the Bellator cage for the tenth time in his professional mixed martial arts career, his second Bellator title fight this year. Six months ago he defeated Maiquel Falcao by second round knockout to capture the vacant Bellator middleweight title, which Hector Lombard had vacated when he signed with the UFC. Alexander Shlemenko is a very talented fighter, all around. He is skilled in every aspect of mixed martial arts. He has crisp boxing and excellent kickboxing skills. He is an unorthodox striker and is arguably one of the best in his division, in all of MMA. His takedown defense is very good, as are his offensive takedowns. He is a talented grappler, both offensively and defensively. Shlemenko is tough to submit; he has not has a submission loss since 2006 loss in Brazil, where an arm-triangle-choke by Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza put him to sleep when he refused to tap. Alexander Shlemenko is enjoying a ten fight win streak going into his first Bellator title defense. The win streak began after his first initial shot at the Bellator middleweight against Hector Lombard at Bellator 34 three years ago. Lombard defeated Shlemenko by Unanimous Decision, then Shlemenko went on a tear. His current ten fight win streak includes six finishes. Shlemenko has had a full training camp for this bout and his conditioning should be aces heading into this fight. BRETT COOPER (19-8 MMA, 6-3 Bellator) will also be making his tenth Bellator appearance, replacing an injured Doug Marshall, to whom he lost by first round knockout only five months ago. Cooper’s fight versus Marshall was for a shot at the middleweight title. Marshall won, got the fight, and ended up getting injured, so Cooper stepped in to replace him. Cooper is taking this fight on short notice and has never been in a five round fight in his career, so he might gas in rounds four and five, whereas Shlemenko will still be looking good. Before the loss to Marshall, Brett Cooper had been on a tear, winning six in a row and three by TKO stoppage. Cooper has strong hands and likes to throw leather. He generally can take a punch, but now his last loss gives him three knockout losses on his resume, so that is questionable at this point. More than likely, if Shlemenko is able to get his hands and/or legs on him, he will be able to put Cooper away. Brett Cooper’s striking skills are average, though he has noteworthy wrestling, as he works nice takedowns and does good work from the ground and pound position. Fight Prediction: Cooper wings in with his punches and is slow, so after the first round, he becomes very easy to time. If the fight makes it past the first, I don’t doubt Shlemenko will be able to stop him in the second or third. These guys train together at Reign in California, and I think Cooper is walking into this bout knowing he’s going to lose, because I doubt he’s ever gotten the better of Shlemenko in the gym, or even gotten close. Shlemenko will have advantages going into this bout, every which way possible. Cooper will look to take the fight to the mat, he will fail, then take one too many shots, and eventually the ref will step in. Gabe’s Pick: Alexander Shlemenko by TKO (strikes, 3:44 round 1) Gabe’s Recommended Play: Alexander Shlemenko -640 for a big play, as I see value even in that juicy line. Also, a small-to-moderate play on Under 1.5 rounds +175.

Written by Gabe Killian

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