Alexander “Storm” Shlemenko sports 28 knockouts on his resume. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Alexander Shlemenko did not expect to see Brett Cooper again so soon.
Shlemenko will defend his Bellator MMA middleweight championship against the Season 8 tournament runner-up at Bellator 98 on Saturday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Cooper, who lost a hard-fought decision to Shlemenko at Bellator 44 in May 2011, replaced injured former World Extreme Cagefighting titleholder Doug Marshall on short notice.
One of the sport’s more prolific finishers, Shlemenko has delivered 35 of his 47 professional victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. The 29-year-old Russian striker last competed at Bellator 88 in February, when he captured the vacant Bellator middleweight crown with a second-round knockout against Maiquel Jose Falcao Goncalves at the Gwinnett Arena in Duluth, Ga. Shlemenko will enter the cage on the strength of a 10-fight winning streak, having won 25 of his past 27 fights. He has compiled an 8-1 mark in Bellator, a five-round unanimous decision loss to American Top Team’s Hector Lombard the lone blemish.
Cooper has recorded six wins in his last seven appearances. The 26-year-old Californian last fought at Bellator 95 in April, when he succumbed to first-round punches from Marshall at the Revel Casino in Atlantic City, N.J. Based at Reign MMA, Cooper trains alongside Ultimate Fighting Championship standouts Jake Ellenberger and Mark Munoz. He has not suffered consecutive defeats in more than seven years.
With the Shlemenko-Cooper title bout as the centerpiece, here are 10 facts surrounding Bellator 98:
FACT 1: Shlemenko has competed in nine different countries during his 54-fight career: the United States, Russia, India, Canada, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Brazil and Kazakhstan.
FACT 2: Though he has never fought under the UFC banner, Cooper has finished five different men with Octagon experience: Dan Cramer, Joe Doerksen, Sergio Moraes, Rory Markham and Jason Von Flue.
FACT 3: Former Bellator featherweight titleholder Joe Warren wrestled collegiately at the University of Michigan and struck gold in Greco-Roman wrestling at the 2006 FILA Wrestling World Championships.
FACT 4: The Academy’s Nick Kirk owns a perfect 10-0 mark outside of Bellator. However, the Minnesotan has walked away a loser twice inside the tournament-based promotion.
FACT 5: Of Team Oyama middleweight Giva Santana’s 18 professional victories, 13 have come by armbar-induced submission, hence the nickname “The Arm Collector.”
FACT 6: Brian Rogers played college football at Walsh University in North Canton, Ohio, where he was a three-year starter and four-year letterman as an inside linebacker. His 320 career tackles rank second on the school’s all-time list.
FACT 7: Bellator Season 6 middleweight tournament finalist Andreas Spang splits his training between J-Sect MMA and One Kick’s Gym in Las Vegas, more than 5,300 miles from his hometown of Stockholm, Sweden.
FACT 8: Jason Butcher, Justin Torrey, Derek Anderson and Mike Mucitelli are a combined 27-0. The men they have beaten are a combined 106-94-1.
FACT 9: All three of Jeremy Kimball’s losses have come by submission. His opponent, Team Link’s Perry Filkins, has never won a fight by submission.
FACT 10: Having spent more than a decade in MMA, Atlanta-based middleweight Dave Vitkay has never won or lost more than three fights in a row.