How a punch can change a fight, and it did at Bellator 133.
One punch, one man’s greatest nightmare and another’s salvation.
That punch was a spinning back fist by Alexander Shlemenko. He scored a second-round technical knockout over former championship kickboxer Melvin Manhoef with this punch and, in turn, put himself back in the epicenter of the Bellator Middleweight title mix.
Manhoef began the fight by rushing Shlemenko, who snapped what was once a thirteen-fight win streak last year, losing twice in a row in the very first round. He was in dire need of a revelation; something to fix what had gone so terribly wrong in his MMA career. Shlemenko, with the fight close after the first round, was getting roughed up close and was unable to make a true impact with the striking that earned him thirty knockout victories in his 62-fight MMA career. He was boxing on near even terms with Manhoef but wasn’t able to separate himself when he needed to.
Shlemenko’s right hand was landing, but Manhoef did have the proper pace and footwork to negate the Russian’s hardest punches. Just as the storyline had set in, one spinning back-fist rewrote the script, and sent Manhoef down and out in an early knockout-of-the-year contender. Shlemenko wouldn’t even need a follow-up attack. He had scored a comeback win at 1:25 of round two.
Shlemenko moved to 52-9, and will be looking for another shot at the Bellator Middleweight title in the near future. Brandon Halsey took the belt from him in September of last year — scoring a submission just 35 seconds into round one. That would not be the case against a fellow striking expert in Manhoef.
On his feet, Shlemenko has proven once again to be one of the most unpredictable fighters in the sport. It is on the ground where he has his downside. He will need to improve upon that to consistently score wins at a high level.
In the Bellator 133 co-main event, Pat Curran’s nervy start to the fight lead to uncertainty on the scorecards.
The fight, in which the former Lightweight champion was favored, was dominated by Daniel Weichel. He was awarded the nod only on the merits of a split decision, but was the better man for much of the night.
The 35-8 MMA veteran would be the aggressor. He set the pace early and was pressing the fight in the clinch and on the ground. Curran’s wrestling proved to be a non-factor and his striking couldn’t change anything once the German strolled along by an early lead. Curran couldn’t meet his exigent demands and never threatened to take over through three rounds. The judges didn’t recognize that, but did grant “The Weasel” Weichel a split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).
Other results from Bellator 133:
Women’s Featherweights: Julia Budd UD 3 Gabrielle Holloway (30-26, 30-25, 30-24)
Welterweights: Chris Honeycutt TKO 3 Clayton MacFarlane (Referee stoppage forced by punch accumulation)
Featherweights: Emilio Chavez UD 3 Art Arciniega (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
Middleweights: Blake Watkins KO 1 George Zuniga (Punch; stoppage at :55 of opening round)