Bjorn Rebney says only one man stands a chance against his middleweight champ. | File photo: Dave Mandel


ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Since winning Bellator Fighting Championships’ inaugural middleweight tournament 28 months ago, Hector Lombard has stood alone atop the promotion’s 185-pound division.

The former Olympic judoka is a perfect 7-0 under the Bellator banner, having gone the distance only once in a five-round defense of his title. Some MMA fans and pundits have made it their jobs to try and find a hole in the impenetrable; Lombard has been so dominant that critiques have stretched to simply not knocking out opponents fast enough.

Next to try and dethrone the hard-hitting Cuban will be Alexander Shlemenko or Vitor Vianna, both of whom notched impressive finishes at Saturday’s Bellator 54 to advance to the finals of the fifth-season middleweight tournament.

Vianna, 31, was hailed as a “freak” upon his signing by Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, a competitor who “resembled an attack dog in the cage.” But the Brazilian’s promotional debut in the middleweight quarterfinals saw him take a tough split decision over Sam Alvey, a result which left Rebney scratching his head. What Vianna never mentioned to anyone prior to the fight was that he could barely use his right hand.

“He’s just such a soft-spoken, sweetheart kind of a guy that he never brought up to us that his hand was bothering him, that his wife had gone into surgery and spent 11 days sleeping in the hospital,” Rebney told Sherdog.com on Saturday. “She had some thyroid situation they thought could conceptually be cancerous. He didn’t bother to tell us any of that. He was just a disheveled mess who couldn’t use his right hand when he came into the fight.”

With the personal and physical issues behind him, Vianna impressed thoroughly on Saturday, scoring a decisive stoppage victory over Bryan Baker in just 54 seconds. A spot in the middleweight final now booked for Bellator 58, the Wand Fight Team representative put any concerns Rebney had at ease.

“He looked like the guy we wanted to sign,” the CEO said of Vianna’s performance. “A lot of people had him listed as the top 185-pound unsigned prospect in the world. That’s why we signed him and that guy showed up tonight. It was beautiful ... I said, ‘Whatever it is you did over the last 30 days to prep for this fight, do it again.’ Hope against hope that’s the guy we’ll see.”

During Saturday’s postfight press conference at the Boardwalk Hall Ballroom, Vianna was reserved but confident as he looked forward to his next bout.

“Now I am focused for fighting the final next month,” Vianna said. “I want to train very hard to be ready, because it’s going to be a great war. I have a plan, but wait for next month.”

Shlemenko, meanwhile, has been down this road before. The 27-year-old Russian is the only man to take Lombard to that final bell, falling on the wrong end of an October 2010 unanimous decision. He’s been nearly as impressive as the champ, going 6-1 inside Bellator’s circular cage with four stoppages. With back-to-back wins over Brian Rogers and Zelg Galesic now under his belt, Shlemenko is one bout away from his rematch.

“After the quarterfinals, I said that my goal is to fight Hector again,” Shlemenko said. “I do my best and I’ll do everything possible in the finals to get the chance to fight Hector again. If I were to fight again with Hector, it would be a completely different fight, because I would be much more ready and I’d have a good chance of beating him.”

Asked why he chose to bring Shlemenko back for the fifth-season tournament, Rebney praised the flashy striker as “dominant and exciting.”

“[He’s] a great personality, this dour, aggressive Russian fighter that just comes to fight,” Rebney added. “He looked better against Hector Lombard, our champion, than anyone has looked. No one has put on the kind of fight [Shlemenko did]. There was no question about bringing him back.”

Shlemenko and Vianna will lock horns Nov. 19 in Hollywood, Fla., the same night on which Lombard will meet Trevor Prangley in a non-title affair. The season’s tournament winner, Rebney believes, will have earned a title shot and a challenge nearly unmatched in all of MMA.

“We have an incredibly dominant champion,” Rebney stated when asked about finding opponents for Lombard. “It’s not easy. I think, right now, when you look at Vitor Vianna and Alexander Shlemenko, we could provide a good test for Hector Lombard. I think he’s one of the best two middleweights on earth. I think Hector is an absolute monster.

“I think there’s one guy on earth right now that I would look at and say to myself, ‘He could beat Hector.’ His name is Anderson Silva. I don’t know that I would pick Anderson to beat Hector, but it would be one heck of a fight. We’ll see what happens with Alexander and Vitor, and one of those guys is going to come out with a big win.”

view original article >>

Report here if this news is invalid.

Related News

Bellator 152 Results: Patricky ‘Pitbull’ Freire, Alessio Sakara Pick Up Wins in Italy

  • 19 days ago
  • 11 views

Bellator MMA staged their inaugural international event, Bellator 152: Pitbull vs. Souza, at Italy’s Pala Alpitour this weekend. read news >>

Benson Henderson not thinking of historic implications of winning Bellator title

  • 22 days ago
  • 12 views

Benson Henderson is just over a week away from his chance to become the first fighter in MMA history to win Bellator and UFC championship belts in a career.Filed under: Bellator, News, UFC read news >>

Melvin Manhoef Kickboxing as Bellator Takes Italy; Guns for MMA Title Shot Next

  • 22 days ago
  • 15 views

On Saturday, Bellator will hold its first event in Torino, Italy, headlined by the company’s new kickboxing venture, which features Melvin Manhoef. read news >>

Dan Henderson Video: Lyoto Machida, UFC 199, and New Contract Requirements

  • 21 days ago
  • 54 views

Dan Henderson reacts to Lyoto Machida's recent anti-doping violation, facing Hector Lombard at UFC 199, his demands for a new UFC contract, and much more. read news >>

Video: Bellator 152 press conference highlights and media day face-offs

  • 21 days ago
  • 45 views

TURIN, Italy – Bellator is in Italy this week for the promotion’s first international event, and MMAjunkie was on scene as the card’s featured competitors were brought face to face for the first time read news >>

Alessio Sakara is Looking to Knock Out Brian Rogers at Bellator 152

  • 21 days ago
  • 10 views

MMA veteran Alessio Sakara is looking to score a knockout over Brian Rogers in the Bellator 152 co-main event in Torino, Italy on Saturday. read news >>

5 reasons to watch Bellator's finisher-heavy debut in Europe for Bellator 152 in Italy

  • 21 days ago
  • 19 views

Bellator has put together a card heavy on finishers for its first trip to Europe. The 10 fighters competing at Bellator 152 have 109 fights between them, and only 28 of those fights have gone the dis read news >>

Bellator 152 weigh-in results: Patricky Freire (155.2), Kevin Souza (155.2) official

  • 21 days ago
  • 10 views

The Bellator 152 weigh-ins are in the books, and the fighters on the main card are official and set for their nationally televised fights.Filed under: Bellator, Featured Videos, News, Videos read news >>

Only 21, Bellator 152's A.J. McKee calls his title shot by the end of 2016

  • 20 days ago
  • 3 views

A.J. McKee drives fast cars too fast, can disassemble and reassemble any gun put in front of him, and occasionally eats too much cinnamon.Filed under: Bellator, Featured Videos, News, Videos read news >>

Lost, Broke, and Broken: Bellator's Patricky Pitbull and a Fighter's Lot in Life

  • 20 days ago
  • 15 views

Patricky "Pitbull" Freire, the lightweight striker who headlines Bellator's first European expansion Saturday against Kevin Souza, had a point to prove back in 2012. When longtime Bellator kingpin Ed read news >>