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Saturday, September 7, 2013
Updated: September 8, 12:36 PM ET
Alexander Shlemenko retains belt

By Franklin McNeil
ESPN.com

Middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko retained his title Saturday night with a unanimous decision over Brett Cooper at Bellator 98 in Uncasville, Conn.

All three judges scored the fight 48-47 for the champion. ESPN.com also had Shlemenko winning 48-47.

"I'm very happy with that fight," said Shlemenko, who was making the first defense of his title. "Thanks Brett. That's from good training."

Though Shlemenko and Cooper often train together, they openly admit not ti being friends. In fact, each has said he does not like the other.

Shlemenko (48-7) took control early in the first round by aggressively throwing punches and kicks. Determined to keep this fight on the feet, Shlemenko stuffed a takedown attempt from Cooper.

But Shlemenko would soon discover that standing with Cooper can be dangerous. A short left hook momentarily stunned Shlemenko. He survived, but Cooper's confidence increased afterward.

Cooper would carry that confidence into the second round. He landed punches that opened a cut above the champ's left eye and blood began flowing from it.

Shlemenko then turned up the aggression, landing several hard punches that shook Cooper. But Cooper would answer with a hard right hand during an exchange that dropped Shlemenko. Copper would end the second round by slamming a dazed Shlemenko to the ground, where he landed several strikes as the horn sounded.

After a difficult second round, Shlemenko bounced back in the third. He went after Cooper aggressively, connecting mostly with left hands. It should also be noted that blood was no longer flowing from the cut above Shlemenko's left eye.

Shlemenko dropped Copper with a left hook and further hurt him with additional punches and kicks. He wasn't able to finish the fight, but Shlemenko did enough damage to take away some of the confidence Cooper might have gained in the first two rounds.

Both fighters entered the fifth breathing heavily, but Shlemenko was the more aggressive, accurate striker. He hit Cooper (19-9) with straight left hands and kicks. The champ also registered three takedowns.

After the third takedown, Shlemenko finished strong with punches and elbows to the face of Cooper. The loss was Cooper's second in a row.

Harder-hitting Parlo eliminates Rogers

In a battle of middleweight heavy hitters, Mikkel Parlo got the better of the striking battle with Brian Rogers to earn a unanimous decision.

The judges scored the fight 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26. ESPN.com scored the fight 30-26 for Parlo.

Mikkel Parlo and Brian Rogers
A late push in Round 3 helped Mikkel Parlo, left, secure his place in the next round of the Bellator middleweight tournament.

With the win, Parlo improves to 10-1 and moves into the Bellator middleweight semifinal against Jason Butcher. It is not yet known when or where the semifinal bouts will take place.

Rogers and Parlos went after one another early and often in the first round. Each man was wobbled briefly, but Rogers threw slightly more strikes.

After a close opening round that proved to be Rogers' most competitive, Parlo picked up his attack in the second. He landed several hard strikes and got a seemingly exhausted Rogers to the ground.

From there, Parlo delivered hard left and right hands. Parlo attempted a rear-naked choke but Rogers escaped quickly.

Rogers, however, wasn't out of trouble. Parlo continued to pound on him. He also landed bone-crushing knees.

With the fight seemingly even entering the third round, both fighters came out throwing and landing hard punches. But Parlo gained control when he took Rogers to the ground.

Parlo landed several hard left hands. After several minutes on the ground, Rogers got to his feet with a little more than a minute remaining. But that allowed Parlo to hand out more punishment.

He got Rogers back on the ground and delivered punches to the head and kicks to the body. When Rogers returned to his feet again, Parlo floored him a vicious knee to the chin. Roger fell backward to the ground, and Parlo landed more left hands as the horn sounded to end the fight.

Butcher ends Santana's career with TKO win

Jason Butcher is a fast learner and it served him well en route to a second-round TKO of Giva Santana in their middleweight tournament quarterfinal bout.

The end came at the 1:12 mark -- a right hand wobbled Santana. Butcher dropped him with strikes shortly thereafter and began pounding the defenseless Santana, forcing referee Kevin MacDonald to stop the bout.
Jason Butcher, Giva Santana
Jason Butcher, top, managed to survive several tense moments in Round 1 to overwhelm Giva Santana in Round 2.

As a result, Butcher improved to 7-0 and moves into the tournament semifinal.

Before the fight, Butcher didn't show much respect for Santana's advanced jiu-jitsu skills -- though 16 of Santana's 18 wins had come via submission.

But it didn't take long for Butcher to have a change of opinion.

Santana took Butcher to the ground seconds into the fight and gained side control. Despite maintaining control, Santana focused exclusively on getting an armbar that never materialized.

But with a minute remaining in the round, Santana switched to a triangle and locked it in deep. Butcher, however, survived and escaped. He would finish the round on top of Santana, where he delivered strikes.

In the second, Butcher changed his fighting strategy. Butcher kept the fight standing, where he was able to catch Santana with right hands and kicks.

Immediately afterward, Santana announced his retirement.

"My body is old-school, but my mind and jiu-jitsu is up there every day at the gym," said the 41-year-old Santana, who ends his career with a record of 18-3. "I guess now it's time for me to step out and help my family and my team. We're going to come back here again strong.

"I'm going to make a lot of champions here [in Bellator]. But that's the last time you guys will see me barefoot here with the gloves on my hands."

Ward batters Torrey's left eye en route to TKO

Brennan Ward advanced to the middleweight tournament semifinal with a second-round TKO of former sparring partner Justin Torrey.

Justin Torrey
Justin Torrey's face was left a bloody mess following one and a half rounds of action against Brennan Ward.

Though they once sparred, there was no love lost between Ward and Torrey. The two expressed dislike for one another before the fight and each promised a knockout victory.

Ward would be the one to keep his word, targeting and pounding Torrey's badly swollen, bloody left eye as referee Todd Anderson stopped the fight at the 3:28 mark.

Ward jumped on Torrey early, throwing him to the ground one minute into the fight. He landed several hard right hands. The punches closed Torrey's left eye. But when Ward attempted a heel hook and failed to get it he lost position and gave up his back.

Torrey was able to land several right hands. The damage, however, was minimal. But Torrey retained control of Ward, got a full mount and began landing right and left hands. Ward survived the assault.

Despite a strong finish to the opening round, Anderson told Torrey before the start of the second that he must defend himself, due to his eye injury, or the fight would be stopped. Knowing he was now facing a severally wounded opponent, Ward came out aggressively.

He immediately took Torrey down and targeted the badly damaged left eye. A left hook would open a cut under the eye.

Torrey, now tiring, would get to his feet but that only delayed the inevitable. A hard right hook landed flush on Torrey's left eye and wobbled him. Ward would take him down again and begin pounding the bloody eye. After several punches landed and Torrey could no longer defend himself, referee Anderson jumped in.

Filkins' no-quit attitude leads to submission of Kimball

In a middleweight fight that feature two fights making their tournament debuts, determination would prove to be the difference as Perry Filkins advanced with a third-round submission of Jeremy Kimball.

The finish came at 4:18, when Filkins applied a rear-naked choke that forced Kimball to tap.

Perry Filkins-Jeremy Kimball
Perry Filkins, top, softened Jeremy Kimball with vicious ground-and-pound before ending matters in Round 3 with a choke.

"It wasn't dirty, it was filthy. Just as I like it," Filkins said to describe the fight. "Watch out baby because I don't quit. Let's go [Bellator middleweights] and put up a fight and show everybody what we are made of."

Kimball took control of the fight early by using his jab, kicks and footwork to frustrate Filkins. But Kimball's attack wasn't limited to striking; he took Filkins to the ground several times. But each time Filkins got up quickly.

Though he was being controlled for much of the first, Filkins (8-1) stalked Kimball throughout and landed the more telling strikes.

The momentum would change in the second as Filkin used his takedown skills to get the better of Kimball and even the contest. Filkins took Kimball down several times in the round and each time scored with hard strikes.

With seconds remaining in the second, Filkins slammed Kimball (10-4) to the ground, got his back and unleashed a barrage of punches that referee Todd Anderson appeared on the verge of stopping. Fortunately for Kimball the horn sounded, ending the round.

Filkins remained aggressive in the third and even scored a takedown. He gained side control before eventually getting the back of Kimball, who showed signs of tiring.

Despite being exhausted, Kimball escaped. But his freedom was brief as Filkins again got Kimball's back and submitted him.

Anderson upsets Freire to remain unbeaten

For most of his career, lightweight Patricky Freire made it a habit of being the most aggressive fighter in the cage. But after dropping two fights in a row, he changed his approach for fast-rising Derek Anderson.

Derek Anderson-Patricky Freire
Derek Anderson's more active approach helped sway the judges in his favor over Patricky Freire.

The strategy change, however, proved ill-advised. All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Anderson. ESPN.com also scored the fight for the upset-minded Anderson, who improves to 10-0.

"I wasn't scared," Anderson said. "I thought he was the perfect opponent. It was my toughest fight yet. It makes me stronger."

After starting out aggressively in the first two rounds, the more experienced Freire was cautious at the beginning of the third. Anderson was also less aggressive than in the previous rounds, but he was throwing and landing more telling strikes.

Two minutes into the third, blood began flowing from the mouth of Freire, and the sight increased Anderson's confidence. He stalked Freire, landing straight rights and lefts to the head as well as kicks.

Freire started the fight aggressively, landing an overhand left that knocked Anderson to the ground. Seconds later, however, Anderson delivered a kick to the midsection that dropped Freire.

But Freire wasn't finished throwing punches. He dropped Anderson a second time with a right-left combination. Anderson is on his feet quickly and became the more aggressive fighter.

Freire's attack slowed, but he would get a takedown in the final minute of the round.

That pattern played out in the second round. The difference this time was that when Anderson picked up his attack he never allowed Freire to regain any momentum.

Freire falls to 10-5. His skid is now at three.