Baker (R) moved on after beating Hess (L) (Bellator.com photo)
Now that he is in with “Storm,” a “Beast” and a “Predator,” Vitor Vianna is going to need a catchy nickname.
Vianna and three others punched their respective tickets into the semifinals of the Season 5 middleweight tournament at Bellator 50 on Saturday at the Seminoles Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla.
Alexander “Storm” Shlemenko, Bryan “The Beast” Baker and Brian “The Predator” Rogers won to join Vianna in the round of four.
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Vianna was the first to advance, edging Sam Alvey via split decision, with all rounds scored 29-28. The protegee of Wanderlei Silva had a rough debut against Alvey (15-3, 1 NC), who seemed to be the choice of the fans after the completion of the fight.
“This guy, Sam Alvey, he’s a tough guy,” said Vianna. “I did my best, I knew it was a close fight. I worked hard in this fight, I had a year without a fight. I’ll come back better next time.”
Vianna (11-1-1) had been off since October 2010, and had only two fights that year. He was away from MMA matches for all of 2009 and 2007.
Alvey had won four straight and 10 of his previous 11 decisions, with one no contest. His last three fights have ended in a split decision.
Shlemenko (41-7) won his stand-up battle with Zelg Galesic (10-6), but somehow did it without throwing a single one of his trademark spinning back-strikes.
The expected result was that the fight lasted 1:55 and it was decided on the feet. What was unexpected was that Shlemenko did it via submission, with a standing guillotine that forced Galesic to tap and then heel-climb the fence to alleviate more vicious neck pressure.
Shlemenko has won four straight fights and 10 of his last 11, with the only loss coming in his title shot against Lombard, who trains at American Top Team in nearby Coconut Creek and was sitting cageside. Shlemenko beat Baker for the Season 2 middleweight tournament title to earn his bout with the champ.
Baker (16-2) emphatically showed how much he is looking to avenge that defeat and finally get his shot at Lombard by taking out Jared Hess with ground strikes at 2:52 of the third round in a hard-fought main event.
Baker is in full remission of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML), which was plaguing him at the time of his Season 2 meeting with Shlemenko, although he had not gone public with his condition at that point.
Hess (11-3-1) had never been finished, outside of injury and doctor’s stoppage. It was his second fight back since a gruesome knee injury felled him in the Season 2 middleweight tournament semifinals.
Hess had Baker in trouble with a rear naked choke submission attempt in the early going, but Baker escaped and kept Hess on the defensive thereafter. Hess appeared shaky on his feet for the first couple of rounds and consistently tried to keep the fight on the ground. Despite his perceived advantage on the mat, it was Baker who was able to secure the fight comfortably by getting top position in the third and then finishing it off with continued ground strikes.
“That’s what I came here to do,” said the newlywed Baker, who was supported by the wife to whom he proposed in the cage after his most recent Bellator fight, in May against Joe Riggs. “That’s my ultimate goal (to fight Lombard), and I would like to get my revenge match against Shlemenko, so we’ll see what happens.”
While Bellator moves to Akron, Ohio for event No. 51 next Saturday, Rogers beat Victor O’Donnell in a match between a pair of fighters from the Buckeye State.
The end drew the night’s bit of controversy, as referee Troy Waugh waved off the contest at 1:56 after Rogers stunned O’Donnell with a right hand and then began peppering him with ground strikes. As Waugh stepped in, it appeared O’Donnell was about to stem the tide and had a hold of Rogers’ right wrist.
O’Donnell’s ire was immediately evident in his eyes. Rogers was just glad to advance.
“Stuff happens, but hey, Google, me, I have seven first-round stoppages,” said Rogers (8-2), whose did note that those stoppages have all come in a row. ”I was trying to finish and clip him. Honestly, I was surprised the ref stopped it, but I’ll take it.”
While the main card was aired two hours earlier than normal on MTV2 in regular definition and Epix2 in high definition, the undercard was streamed internationally on Spike.com and featured the inspirational Rad Martinez.
Martinez earned a unanimous decision victory over Bryan Van Hoven in a lightweight fight. Martinez has been profiled on ESPN’s Outside the Lines for his sacrifice in taking care of his incapacitated father.