alexander-shlemenko-3.jpgOne of the greatest cliches in MMA is that fighters don’t pay attention to the odds.

But Alexander Shlemenko might not be in that group. He’s seen the odds for his Bellator middleweight title fight against Doug Marshall, and he believes those odds tell the story before it even starts to unfold.

After a hard and close five-round title fight against Brett Cooper in September, the champ wants to put minds at ease – he hasn’t lost any edge. He just had a tough fight.

But the 25 minutes he needed to eke out a 48-47 win over Cooper has some people thinking about Marshall – who knocked out Cooper in the first round in April to win the Season 8 middleweight tournament. An eye injury kept Marshall from getting his shot right away, and Cooper jumped him in line despite the loss.

“My advice to people who think that Doug Marshall will beat me because of my fight with Brett Cooper: Take a look at the betting odds for our fight,” Shlemenko told MMAjunkie. “(The oddsmakers) make money betting on fighters. So they know what they’re doing.”

Shlemenko (48-7 MMA, 9-1 BMMA), who knocked out Maiquel Falcao to win the 185-pound title in February, defends the belt against Marshall (18-6 MMA, 4-0 BMMA) at Bellator 109, which takes place Friday at Sands Event Center in Bethlehem, Pa. The main card will air on Spike TV following prelims on

Shlemenko said because his fight with Cooper was a rematch from one he won in 2011, it made things a little closer. And the fact they were training together prior to Cooper’s run through the tournament was another notch in his favor.

Because while the cliche that fighters don’t pay attention to what the oddsmakers say might not apply to Shlemenko, but the one about fighting friends just might.

“Because Brett Cooper knew me better this time, he had a good knowledge and game plan on how to fight me,” Shlemenko said. “Also, in the first fight I didn’t know him at all. In our second fight, I knew him – I thought of him as a pal. Not a friend, but somebody I know. We trained together and he helped me to prepare for my fights. So it was a bit difficult to fight with him for the second time.

“I didn’t have an off night. It was a good night. I knew ahead of time that fight would be tough because I fought with a friend, and I can’t tune myself to a mood when I am going to kill my opponent. I knew it wouldn’t be a walk in a park.”

The fight against Marshall probably won’t be a walk in the park, either – despite the 3-to-1 odds in the champ’s favor.

Marshall, a former WEC champion, has mostly ripped right through Bellator since signing with the promotion a year ago. Three of his four wins are by knockout, including the opening round of the Season 8 middleweight tournament and the final against Cooper, both coming in the first round. In between, he had a hard-fought split-decision win over Sultan Aliev.

To call Marshall a bit eccentric might be an understatement. Before the Season 8 tournament, he predicted a win and a title shot in the most “Rhino” way he could. He said he planned to unleash “violence. Just pure violence.”

Shlemenko even seems to think his opponent might be a little … out there. Cooper, before they fought, said he was “not the brightest light on the tree.” But Shlemenko cuts right to the chase.

“It’s hard for me to speak about Doug Marshall as a person because I don’t know him,” he said. “He’s a crazy fighter. During a fight, he acts like a mad person. He’s crazy, fast, explosive and unpredictable. I should be prepared for a fury of punches from him. My best assets against Marshall will be my wrestling, my ground game, and most importantly, my experience.”

But he also wants to turn the tables on the American.

“I want to knock Doug Marshall out. Fast,” Shlemenko said. “I will try to KO him. But we’ll see. If the ref would jump in, it will be a TKO. If the ref would hesitate, it will be a KO.

“I plan to keep the belt. Everyone who will try to take it from me will be punished. And fans will see it.”

For more on Bellator 109, stay tuned to the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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