Returning to Atlantic City for the second time this season, Alexander Shlemenko and Vitor Vianna advanced to the Finals of the Bellator Middleweight Tournament at Bellator 54 last night. Current Bellator Bantamweight Champion Zach Makovsky earned his 14th career victory with a submission win in his non-tile feature fight against Ryan Roberts while Jacob Kirwin took down the previously undefeated Nazare in surprising fashion. The finals will take place on Saturday, November 19 at The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.
“The middleweights have absolutely brought it this season,” Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “Vitor Vianna, who is known for his submission game, has proven tonight that he has dynamite in his hands, and Alexander Shlemenko is absolutely one of the most exciting and explosive middleweights in the world. These finals will be an absolute magic at The Seminole Hard Rock on November 19.”
Alexander Shlemenko entered the night as the perceived favorite with Brian Rogers. The dynamic Russian entered the fight with over 40 victories and was the winner of Bellator’s last Middleweight Tournament. Rogers surprised many when he was able to knock Shlemenko to the mat with a punch and steal the first round, but Shlemenko stayed true to form nearly knocking Rogers senseless in the second round with a flurry of big knees to the head. It took exactly 2:30 for Shlemenko to finish Rogers in the second round as referee Keith Peterson decided to stop the fight and award a stoppage victory to Shlemenko.
It was a heartbreaking night for middleweight Bryan Baker who was eliminated for the second time in a Bellator Tournament. Just one win away from a possible rematch with Alexander Shlemenko in the finals, Baker was stunned early on by Vitor Vianna. While both exchanged blows early, it was Vianna that caught Baker with a crisp overhand right to drop “The Beast” and secure a Bellator Finals spot and a shot at a $100,000 payday.
Winning his second feature fight since becoming Bellator Bantamweight Champion, Zach Makovsky submitted Ryan Roberts in the opening round at Bellator 54 by way of a brilliant North-South Choke. Roberts thought he’d have an advantage over the champ since he was dropping down in weight for this fight but Makovsky’s stand up and ground game proved sharp as ever with “Fun Size” controlling the fight from the opening bell. After staggering Roberts with a stiff left cross near the end of the first round, Makovsky forced a takedown and set up a choke after making a beautiful guard pass into side control and then moving out in front for the finish. Roberts tapped from a north-south choke with just 12 seconds to go in the first round and Makovsky improved his record to 14-2.
In a stunning upset at lightweight, Jacob Kirwan improved his undefeated record to 7-0 and dealt rising star Rene Nazare his first career loss in 11 fights with a win by unanimous decision. Kirwan took Nazare down at will and was able to neutralize both his stand-up and his ground game by taking the fight to the floor and riding out rounds in half guard. Nazare attempted a kimura and guillotine from the bottom, but was unable to get out from under him without the referee standing them up. Kirwan won the takedown war and spent the majority of the fight in dominant position.
Next week on October 22, Bellator Fighting Championships will visit Yuma, Arizona, as the Bellator Bantamweight Tournament Semifinals take place at the Cocopah Resort and Casino. Marcos Galvao is scheduled to take on Alexis Vila who recently knocked out Bellator Featherweight Champion Joe Warren in his bantamweight debut and Ed “Wild” West will look to advance to the finals with a win over Eduardo Dantas who also made his way into the semis with a win by knockout in the quarterfinals.