A week this Saturday, Bellator MMA will host its first pay-per-view event.
On the May 17 night, as from the Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi, the promotion will put forth a card - Bellator 120 - that will be headlined by an Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chandler trilogy match, and in a fight for Alvarez’s BMMA lightweight title. Additionally, fans will be treated to a co-main event featuring former UFC light-heavyweight champion Rampage Jackson vs. Muhammed Lawal, with the pair duking it out in the brand’s light-heavyweight tournament finale; the winner gets a shot at champion Emanuel Newton and 100K for the win.
Sitting in the ‘show’ spot for the night is a 205 pound feature match between current BMMA middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko – “Storm” is stepping up a class to take the fight – and another of the UFC’s former light-heavyweight champs, Tito Ortiz.
Coming into the fight many Bellator purists are giving Shlemenko the nod for the win, and for good reason. Regardless of “Storm” being the smaller fighter he carries with him a number of advantages.
Shlemenko is ten years younger, riding a 13 fight winning streak, is healthy and fresh out of the ring, having just beaten Brennan Ward on March 28 – submission victory, Bellator 109. By comparison, “The Huntington Beach Badboy” hasn’t competed in nearly two years, has had a myriad of health issues over his career, and is riding a three fight losing streak.
Beyond that, Shlemenko, for as young as he is, has it all over Ortiz in terms of ring experience. At age 29, “Storm” has 30 more fights under his belt than does Ortiz. Or to put it another way, the difference between their two records – 30 – is three bouts greater than the total number of fights that “THBB” has had in his entire career; 57 vs. 27, respectively. To say the least that’s a gap.
In terms of a winning percentage Shlemenko comes in at an impressive 88%, where Ortiz tips the scale at a more modest 59%. However, their finishing rates would be similar – 74% Shlemenko, 69% Ortiz.
Aside from a slight height advantage – 6’2” vs. 5’11 – and maybe a few pounds going in - Ortiz appears to be the lesser of the two fighters. And where Ortiz may have fought a better pedigree of opponent over his MMA tenure, he's often as not came up short in many of those fights. And of course, where Ortiz has always been a strong first round fighter and one known for his wrestling and ground and pound, all of it could be stifled by Shlemenko’s takedown defense.
In listening to his fight-journal, Ortiz says all the right things and he looks to be in fighting shape, but for those that have followed Ortiz’s career over the years they’ve heard the rhetoric before. The California native says that’s he’s “still in a hunt for a title”, but at age 39, two years of ring rust, a bad back, and going up against an opponent the likes of Alexander Shlemenko, it might asking too much of a veteran that’s already given so much to the sport.
Video courtesy of MMAFighting.com