Alexander Shlemenko admits he was too confident heading into fight with Tito Ortiz

Following his defeat to Tito Ortiz in a light heavyweight bout earlier this year, Bellator middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko returns to the Bellator cage on Friday night as he will defend the 185 pound title against Brandon Halsey.

Jason Floyd - The MMA Report
Jason Floyd – The MMA Report

When Shlemenko (50-8) steps into the cage on Friday night at Bellator 126, it will have been 132 days since he was submitted by Ortiz at Bellator 120.

The defeat snapped a thirteen fight winning streak and it was his first submission defeat since 2006, when Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza submitted him at Jungle Fight 6 by an arm-triangle choke, the same move used by Ortiz.

When is comes to the defeat to Ortiz, Shlemenko admitted that he came into the fight with too much confidence and Ortiz capitalized on a mistake he made in the fight.

“I came to my fight with Tito Ortiz being too confident,” Shlemenko said. “I thought as though I already beat him. I came in there as a winner. I didn’t think that Tito could do anything to me whatsoever. I underestimated him. I stopped following the game plan and made a mistake, which allowed Tito to get a good position. And Tito is a very experienced fighter – he took advantage of my mistake right away, and I lost. I decided to fight Tito because at that moment I had a chance to fight only against him. For me Tito has always been and still is a legend. And I’m glad that I got a chance to fight against him, even though I lost, because it is a great experience for me.”

Following the defeat, many people in the mixed martial arts community questioned the decision by Shlemenko and Bellator to make the fight with Ortiz. One of the thoughts people had following the fight was that Shlemenko had lost all the momentum he had gain over the past couple of years, but the Russian fighter believes he did not lose any momentum.

“I don’t think I lost any momentum with the fans from this loss,” Shlemenko explained. “Maybe for people who don’t like me for some reason, I gave them an excuse; a chance to point out this loss. I think I gained a lot of experience against Tito, but I can’t say for sure. I know that I’m a completely different fighter after the Tito bout, but the only way to prove that is with my next bout against Brandon Halsey.”

Shlemenko now must move forward and that begins in Friday night when he meets Halsey, who the two fighters have previous trained together at HB Ultimate in Southern California. Halsey secured this title shot by winning the Season Ten Tournament earlier this year and Shlemenko knows exactly what his opponent excels at.

“I think my next opponent, Brandon Halsey, is a good fighter. His record speaks for itself,” he said. “He’s very big for a middleweight and a very good wrestler. But because he doesn’t have vast experience, I feel that’s the only hole that he needs to fill. He has been very successful thus far in his career.”

“I don’t think Brandon Halsey will risk trying to stand up and strike with me. I feel he will not try to fight with me standing, though I would be glad if he would. Whether I will try to exploit my opponent’s weakness depends on who the opponent is. There are many variables to take into account. In some cases I can engage them at their strongest but it just depends on who I am facing.”

“One good fighter can beat another good fighter regardless of opinions on their particular strengths and weaknesses — that’s for sure. Brandon Halsey is a better wrestler than I am and I know that I must work on every aspect of my game – there is no other way. I have a lot of work to do.”

Shlemenko is known as a fighter that will finish fights and three of his last four wins have come by stoppage, including a submission win in his last title defense against Brennan Ward. While there may be some fighters that try to win on points, that is not Shlemenko’s style as he will be looking to a finish against Halsey.

“When I return to the Bellator cage once again, I think that fans will see a spectacular, flashy fight,” Shlemenko explained. “And they will see what they like about my fights — I fight to win. I don’t try to win on points. I don’t try to stall or to win every round. I don’t try to fight safe. I come in there and I try to finish my opponent no matter what.”