Lombard (left) extended his unbeaten streak to 21 fights on Thursday (Photo courtesy of Bellator).
Bellator Middleweight Champ Retains Title in Decision Win over Shlemenko
For only the second time in his past 10 fights, Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard (27-2-1) was taken to the judges’ scorecards in a title defense against Russian knockout specialist Alexander Shlemenko (30-5) on Thursday at Bellator 34. When the five rounds of championship action concluded, however, Lombard scored a unanimous decision to successfully defend his title and extend his unbeaten streak to 21 consecutive fights.
Lombard came out with his trademark onslaught in this bout, the same heavy punching that gave him two devastating knockouts in just 44 seconds of action in two fights for Bellator this year. Shlemenko was able to withstand the early flurry, but Lombard kept stalking until scoring his first takedown about 50 ticks into the opening frame. From the ground, he began to unload a combination of elbows and punches before sliding into back control. The Cuban Mixed Martial Artist then started to throw hooks from behind until the two broke and returned to the stand-up position. Somewhere in the close exchange, Lombard did have a cut opened on his forehead, while his Russian counterpart had a big welt over his right eye beginning to grow. Around the three minute mark, Lombard again returned the action to the ground, rolling into the full mount with Shlemenko closing his guard. The defending champion then began throwing some big punches while finishing with some hard elbows, and he closed out the first stanza with some nice ground-and-pound.
The second round opened with Shlemenko attempting a spinning back kick, but Lombard dodged the advances and gained the clinch. The two next grappled for position until Lombard took his opponent back to the floor at 3:45. He then worked into a standing mount while Shlemenko closed his guard from the bottom, and each time the battle returned to stand-up, it was immediately brought back to ground by the champion. Shlemenko looked to work a knee game when he could power into a standing clinch, but this frame ended the same as the opener with Lombard controlling the action on the floor.
By the request of referee Troy Waugh, Shlemenko got an extra look from the doctors prior to the start of the third stanza, and a nice stand-up exchange occurred as soon as the action resumed. Lombard was able to wobble his opponent with a big right hand amid that dealing, and he again took it to the ground immediately after that. He then continued to work the ground-and-pound, and while Waugh did stand them back up two times, Lombard dominated the frame with takedowns and his work on the floor.
The fourth round started a little slower with both competitors seeking an opening, and Lombard was loaded up on a big left hand. With Shlemenko not giving up a direct opening, the champion took to the ground again and continued his same game plan. The action then went back and forth between the floor game and a standing position, with exchanges highlighting the stand-up and Lombard maintaining the edge on the ground.
Before the final stanza got underway, Waugh again asked the cageside doctors to take a look at the knot above the right eye of Shlemenko, but the bell rang shortly after to start the round. There were some nice exchanges in the center of the canvas to start the action, with Lombard holding his post in the middle of the cage. Shlemenko circled his Cuban counterpart and periodically threw some punches and kicks that Lombard was able to avoid. Midway through the frame, Lombard was able to garner another takedown and worked into control from behind his opponent. When the action slowed, Waugh returned the duo to their feet. The champion again shot for a takedown, but Shlemenko was able to avoid it by sprawling and immediately landing a sharp knee. Lombard was unphased by the blow, and he grabbed his opposition into a standing body lock, which is where the night eventually concluded.
With 25 minutes of action then in the books, the three judges pulled out their cards and revealed identical scores of 49-46 in favor of Lombard.