Bellator 98 Preview

Alexander ShlemenkoBellator returns to Spike TV with a stacked card headlined by Brett Cooper and Alexander Shlemenko as Bellator visits Connecticut and the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday, September 7th. The main even is between Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko (47-7) and recipient of the first injury replacement clause in Bellator history, Brett Cooper (19-8) who replaces the injured Doug Marshall who defeated him in the tournament finals via KO. Shlemenko has made a big mark over the last three years with his ridiculous rate of activity (7 fights in 2011 alone), but he has settled down recently after a few injuries had their way with the two-time middleweight tournament winner, fighting only three times in the last 18 months. Cooper trains with Mark Munoz and Jake Ellenberger at Reign Training Center, and that has helped him evolve from a guy who would stand and bang, to a well-rounded martial artist with solid takedowns and good ground and pound. He may need to channel his training partners and impose his newfound wrestling on Shlemenko, so he doesn’t see a repeat of the beating on the feet he took from Shlemenko a few years ago. Both men have evolved quite a bit since their first meeting, but Shlemenko is still the better martial artist. In the co-main event, Fight Master coach and former Bellator featherweight champ Joe Warren (8-3) will face Nick Kirk (10-2) in a bantamweight fight. Joe Warren is best known for his sloppy stand up, tendency to eat punches and absolutely overwhelming wrestling attack. Kirk is undefeated outside Bellator, but has lost his last two Bellator fights via close decisions in which he wasn’t able to nullify David Harris or Tony Zelinksi’s offensive grappling. Stylistically, this doesn’t make for a good match for the 30-year-old vet, Kirk. Warren is a guy who finds a way to win, somehow, with his weak stand up and relatively weak ground and pound. This will be Warren chasing Kirk around, trying to get the takedown while Kirk looks to keep Warren at bay with his striking. The next Bellator middleweight tournament kicks off with Justin Torrey (7-0), an often-injured vet stepping in Brett Cooper’s middleweight slot, taking on the dangerous Andreas Spang (8-3). Spang is best remembered as a deadly striker who has the highlight-reel knockout of Brian Rogers at Bellator 66. This will be his third tournament, and Torrey’s first. In fact, Torrey hasn’t fought in over three years, which will definitely play a factor against the head-hunting Spang, who is on a two-fight losing streak, to Doug Marshall and Maiqual Falcao, both Bellator middleweight contenders. The middleweight tournament continues with fan favorite Brian Rogers (10-5) looking to add to his highlight reel full of brutal knockouts as he faces Mikkel Parlo (9-1). This, ladies and gentlemen, will be one hell of a first round. Both of these men have violent tendencies, and will be looking often to finish the fight on the feet. The similarities don’t end there, however. Both men also gas as their fights go on, as sure as the sun rising in the morning, if the fight doesn’t end early, this could get ugly. Real ugly. This is especially important for Rogers, as he’s still chasing two wins in a row in Bellator, and he’s coming off a loss last season to Dan Cramer. Lightweight Bellator mainstay Patricky Freire is kind of like the Frankie Edgar of Bellator, or maybe Joe Warren is the Frankie Edgar of Bellator. Well, maybe neither of them really are, but despite losing two in a row, Patrick “Pitbull” will continue to get air time due to his exciting fights, and his two losses come to great competition in former champ Eddie Alvarez in an exciting first round brawl and surprisingly to Lloyd Woodard in last season’s lightweight semifinals. Patricky’s opponent is the undefeated prospect Derek Anderson (9-0) who owns a 100% finishing rate with 3 KOs and 6 subs to his name. This is his first fight under the Bellator banner, and he will look to make a name for himself off Patricky’s head. But that is much easier said than done. In the limited tape I’ve seen, Anderson has looked far better than his competition, and I have to question that level of competition. This could be a fight to get Patricky back into the in column, but it should be exciting nonetheless.

Written by Jason Nawara

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

Bellator 98 Bet: Brian Rogers (-145) vs Mikkel Parlo (+125)