This weekend, Alexander Shlemenko will look to become the leader in title defenses among current Bellator champions. He has only held his belt since February 2013, but has already defended it twice since then and hopes to add a third when he takes on middleweight tournament winner Brennan Ward this Friday at the Maverik Center in West Valley, Utah. Ward was the surprise winner of season nine’s middleweight tournament after being brought in as a late replacement. He proceeded to defeat Justin Torrey, Joe Pacheco and Mikkel Parlo all by second round stoppage to take home the $100,000 novelty cheque. His other reward, of course, was the shot at Shlemenko’s title. It will be no easy task for Ward to make the belt change hands, as Shlemenko has rattled off 12 straight wins since losing to Hector Lombard back in October 2010. The Russian has refined his style from earlier in his career, and fights at a more deliberate, effective pace now. It will be interesting to see how he handles Ward’s aggressive approach. A trio of tournament semifinals are also featured on the main card of Bellator 114, as the season ten featherweight final and half of the middleweight final will be determined on Friday. Desmond Green and Will Martinez both notched upset victories via decision in their quarterfinal bouts, and will now square off in one of the most unpredictable brackets a Bellator tournament has ever seen. On the other side, Daniel Weichel is coming in off of an excellent first round submission victory in his quarterfinal and he will face Matt Bessette, who advanced due to a particularly poor decision against Diego Nunes. Despite their differing paths to get to this point, these styles should make for an interesting bout. Kicking off the main card in the middleweight tournament is last year’s tournament runner-up, Brett Cooper, taking on a man who is no stranger to success in the tournament format, TUF 3 winner Kendall Grove. MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas opened the betting lines for the Bellator 114 main card today at Several Bookmakers. Take a look: ——————– MAIN CARD (Spike TV, 9pm ET) Bellator Middleweight Title Alexander Shlemenko -285 Brennan Ward +205 Bellator Featherweight Semifinal Desmond Green -265 Will Martinez +185 Bellator Featherweight Semifinal Daniel Weichel -190 Matt Bessette +150 Bellator Middleweight Semifinal Brett Cooper -185 Kendall Grove +145 ——————– Brad’s Analysis: I’m finding that Shlemenko’s lines are becoming overinflated of late, which is common when you see fighters put together the sort of streak that he’s on now. I think this opening spot is fair, as Ward is a young and rapidly improving fighter but do think Shlemenko takes the fight. However, I also fully expect this line to get bet up significantly by the public. If it gets too high, I may have to take a shot with Ward. Despite only being four years apart in age, Shlemenko has been in 56 fights as opposed to Ward’s ten. Eventually that starts to take a toll, regardless of age, and this could be the right time for Ward to be getting his shot. Will Martinez found most of his success against Goiti Yamauchi in the first round because the young Brazilian was willing to fight off of his back. He will have no such luck against Desmond Green in that department, and is likely to find himself on his back. I don’t expect this bout to be anything special to watch, but Green should get the job done. Green isn’t much fun to watch, and perhaps that will lead bettors to bring this line a little bit closer, which could present some value in terms of parlays, or if they really bet with their hearts, a straight play. This is a weird one. Weichel looked very good in his quarterfinal bout, and Bessette doesn’t belong in this round of the tournament. Still, this is where we find ourselves, and this fight should actually be quite competitive. Weichel’s striking was markedly improved against Scott Cleve and we only saw a glimpse of his highly aggressive ground game in that bout. I actually think he’s better in both areas than Bessette, and since this fight isn’t taking place in Bessette’s backyard, we should get the right verdict if it goes to the cards. Early in his career, Kendall Grove’s problem was that he got knocked out a lot. Lately, he’s been getting put on his back (and submitted in a few cases). Either way, he has a number of defensive flaws in his game, and I expect Brett Cooper to be able to exploit them. Still, Cooper has been getting hit an inordinate amount in his last few fights, and Grove has tightened up his striking to the point where that could cause some issues. This should remain a moderately close line with the lean towards Cooper, but to see it move too far in either direction could present some value.