Bellator 98 featured an exciting middleweight title bout between Alexander Shlemenko and Brett Cooper with a lot on the line. Leading up to the fight, both were former training partners. Shlemenko considered Cooper a training partner, but Cooper was very vocal about his disdain for Shlemenko, saying he was a bully in the gym and tried to take advantage of his training partners.
This animosity proved to be fireworks inside the cage, as both put on a war from start to finish. Early in the fight, Shlemenko showed his dynamic strikes, often throwing spinning backfists. Brett Cooper would respond, rocking Shlemenko in rounds two and three. He was unable to get the finish, however, which is a testament to the durability of Shlemenko.
It was a close fight, but ultimately, Shlemenko did enough on the feet and ground to get a unanimous decision. Shlemenko is now 48-7 in his career, and this was his first successful defense of his middleweight crown. Originally, Doug Marshall was scheduled to face Shlemenko is this championship bout; but and injury allowed Cooper to take the spot, and he certainly did everything he could to bring the fight to Shlemenko.
This title fight was one of the more exciting bouts under the Bellator banner, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Shlemenko proved that he is one of the best middleweights in the world, and he will be looking to continue his dominance against his next opponent, which more than likely will be Marshall.