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Bellator 44 Preview

Bellator 44 looks to be one the strongest events of the ongoing fourth season.  We will see the crowning of the season four Lightweight Tournament Champion, while top middleweights Hector Lombard and Alexander Shlemenko will both be in action.

This card looked even better before injury derailed a Lyman Good/Dan Hornbuckle fight at welterweight.  Another scheduled bantamweight fight between Anthony Morrison and Bryan Goldsby has been canceled due to Morrison significantly missing weight.  That was scheduled to be a bantamweight tournament qualifier, so I would imagine Goldsby might get the spot in the tournament uncontested.

Bellator 44 will be live on MTV2 tonight at 9:00 PM EST/8:00 PM CST.  As always, Bellator will be airing a replay immediately after the live event.  How awesome is that?  I say it’s pretty awesome if you can’t watch the fights live or miss a portion of the event.  It’s perhaps minimally awesome if you watch all of the fights live and have no interest in catching the replay.  It is also not awesome if you lose a fight at the event and can get back to the hotel in time to watch yourself get beat, though I don’t think many hotels carry MTV2.

Middleweight: Hector Lombard (28-2-1, 1 NC, No. 10 MW) vs. Falaniko Vitale (28-9)

Lombard: A judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, also has professional kickboxing experience, on an incredible 17 fight win streak and is 21-0-1 in his last 22 fights, only two career losses to Gegard Mousasi and Akihiro Gono, badly bloodied Joe Doerksen in Australia for his last win, lost in the round of 32 in judo (73 kilograms) at the 2000 Summer Olympics, reigning Bellator Middleweight Champion.

Vitale: Great BJJ practitioner with very good boxing, has 16 career submission wins and 9 career (T)KO wins, 5-1 in his last six fights with the sole loss to Frank Trigg in Strikeforce, went 1-1 in the UFC splitting two fights with Matt Lindland, holds wins over Kalib Starnes, Yushin Okami, and Dave Menne, making his Bellator debut.

Remarks: This is my favorite Superfight of the current Bellator season, though it’s solely on the strength of seeing Hector Lombard fight.  Vitale is a 12 year veteran and very capable opponent, but Hector Lombard is a very different opponent than Dylan Clay or Kala Hose.  Lombard proved against Jay Silva that his striking is supremely dangerous, while his unanimous decision win over fellow Bellator 44 competitor Alexander Shlemenko showed that Lombard has no trouble going the distance.

I don’t like Vitale’s chances in this fight, but that’s no criticism of the Hawaiian.  Lombard is another class of fighter than Vitale, with a black belt in BJJ and a fourth degree black belt in Judo with Olympic experience.  Consider how destructive of a striker Lombard is and I have a hard time seeing any fighter keeping up with Bellator’s 185 pound champion.  I’m picking Lombard by early TKO in this fight, as his power will just be too much for Vitale.

Lightweight Tournament Finals: Patricky Freire (9-1) vs. Michael Chandler (7-0)

Freire: Scored an incredible knockout victory over Toby Imada in the tournament semifinals, now has six career (T)KO wins, undefeated in his brief Bellator career at 2-0, has apparently defeated a fighter named “Guns n Roses.”

Chandler: Won a unanimous decision over Lloyd Woodard in the tournament semifinals, now 4-0 when fighting for Bellator, went 2-0 when fighting for Strikeforce, website description still calls Chandler a “professional UFC fighter.”

Remarks: I really don’t know how to pick this fight.  I’m leaning toward Freire, as he’s looked ridiculously good in Bellator thus far.  However, I don’t think he’s ever faced a wrestler as good as Chandler.  Freire is wont to show off his fabulous striking, but he’s also a BJJ black belt, so I’m not sure that Chandler will have much of an advantage on the ground.  I think Chandler will hang in there, but lose a unanimous decision to the “Pitbull.”

Middleweight: Alexander Shlemenko (38-7, No. 25 MW) vs. Brett Cooper (13-6)

Shlemenko: Russian kickboxing champion with wrestling experience, has won an astounding 24 fights by knockout, has a 2004 win over M-1 fighter Magomed Sultanakhmedov, winner of Bellator’s season two middleweight tournament, 3-1 in Bellator with the sole loss to Hector Lombard, name in Russian is Александр Павлович Шлеменко.

Cooper: Heavy striker with 9 career (T)KO victories, 1-1 in previous Bellator fights, last knocked out Keith Berry in ten seconds for the Lords of the Cage promotion, has wins over former UFC fighters Rory Markham and Jason Von Flue

Remarks: I am fairly confident that one of these fighters is going to get knocked out.  Given the striking we’ve seen from Shlemenko and Cooper, we’re sure to see an explosive middleweight contest between these two.  I think Cooper is going to be a great opponent for Shlemenko, as he has the credentials and skills to make this a close fight.  Still, I have to go with Shlemenko by TKO toward the end of this fight.  He’s the more experienced, well-travelled fighter in this contest and hasn’t spent a lot of time in his seven year career losing fights.

Featherweight: Jeff Lentz (6-2) vs. Anthony Leone (8-3)

Middleweight: Jay Silva (6-4) vs. Gemiyale Adkins (6-1)

Welterweight: Giedrius Karavackas (4-1) vs. Sam Oropeza (5-1)

Heavyweight: Randy Smith (7-7-1) vs. Jamall Johnson (2-1)

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