Vianna Does Not Fear Standup Battle with Shlemenko at Bellator 57


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Vitor Vianna will enter Bellator 57 on a five-fight winning streak. | Photo: Keith Mills


In a standup confrontation, Russian middleweight Alexander Shlemenko is a whirling dervish of creativity, capable of unleashing a spinning back fist or exotic kick at a moment’s notice.

His striking aptitude has paid dividends, as the RusFighters Sport Club representative has earned 26 of his 42 career victories by knockout or technical knockout, including a second-round TKO of Brian Rogers in the Bellator Fighting Championships Season 5 middleweight tournament semifinals at Bellator 54 on Oct. 15.

Vitor Vianna, his opponent in the 185-pound final at Bellator 57 on Saturday in Rama, Ontario, Canada, is well aware of the dangers Shlemenko presents on the feet. That does not mean he is afraid to engage the Russian there, however.

“I can knock out anyone, and Alexander Shlemenko is no exception,” Vianna said. “All I need to do is punch him on the button, and he’s going down.”

The winner of their encounter receives $100,000, as well as a title shot against current Bellator middleweight king Hector Lombard.

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Rodrigo Medeiros, Vianna is noted for his ground skills, but three of his victories in a current five-fight winning streak have come via TKO. That includes a 54-second finish of Bryan Baker in their half of the middleweight bracket at Bellator 54. In that bout, the Brazilian dropped Rogers with an overhand right before finishing him with a barrage of hammer fists on the canvas.

As the bout began, Vianna felt that Baker was a little too nonchalant for his liking.

“I saw in his eyes before the fight; he didn’t give me the respect that I deserved, and it motivated me a lot,” he said.

Vianna felt extremely comfortable trading with Baker, whom many had tabbed as the tournament favorite following his TKO victory over Jared Hess at Bellator 50.

“My plan against Bryan Baker was exactly what I did -- keep the fight [standing] up and punch him very hard with small combinations,” Vianna said. “I trained that combination for him [for] about three weeks after my classes. He is good on the ground but has a lot of holes in his standup.”

While the Wand Fight Team product is confident he can trade strikes with Shlemenko, Vianna also realizes that his best opportunity for success could lie with his submission skills.

“I know Shlemenko is very capable on the ground, but I definitely feel like I can submit him. Whatever it takes; I’m here to be a champion,” he said.

Once considered one of the sport’s top unsigned talents coming out of Brazil, Vianna is quickly becoming an established commodity within Bellator’s middleweight ranks. A couple more victories will complete the transition.

“I want to show the world that I’m one of the best fighters on the planet,” Vianna said. “I can fight standup and on the ground. It doesn’t matter where the fight ends up -- I’m always ready to finish it.”

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