In Alexander Shlemenko’s world, the key to a man’s heart is through his liver.
The former Bellator MMA middleweight champion short-circuited Kendall Grove with a savage body shot and follow-up punches in the second round of their Bellator 162 (online betting) main event on Friday at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tennessee. Grove wilted 1:43 into round two, as he fell to 4-3 in seven outings under the Bellator flag.
Shlemenko sailed through some choppy waters. A left hook dazed the offensive-minded Russian in the first round and left him susceptible to a follow-up attack from Grove that included winging power punches and knee strikes from the clinch. None of it had the effect the Hawaiian hoped. Shlemenko weathered the assault and pushed the fight to a second round. There, he cut loose with a left hook to the liver that doubled over Grove and created an opening for a right hook upstairs. “The Ultimate Fighter 3” finalist retreated to his back, only to be met with a burst of standing-to-ground punches that forced referee John McCarthy to intervene on his behalf.
In wake of Bellator 162, here are four matches that ought to be made:
Alexander Shlemenko vs. Rafael Carvalho-Melvin Manhoef: In his first appearance inside the Bellator cage since serving a suspension for a failed drug test, Shlemenko put himself in prime position to challenge for the 185-pound title he once held. The 32-year-old Russian withstood Grove’s initial advances and put away the Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran in the second round. Carvalho will defend the middleweight crown in a rematch with Manhoef at Bellator 168 on Dec. 10 at the Nelson Mandela Forum in Florence, Italy.
Bobby Lashley vs. Matt Mitrione: Lashley has made himself impossible to ignore in Bellator’s shallow heavyweight division. The former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar extended his winning streak to eight fights in the co-main event, as he bludgeoned Josh Appelt with damaging ground-and-pound before finishing him with a second-round rear-naked choke. Lashley, 40, set the tone with a lopsided first round and then overcame fatigue to finish the job. He has gone 5-0 since arriving in Bellator a little more than two years ago. Mitrione last competed at Bellator 158 on July 16, when he disposed of British strongman Oli Thompson with punches in the second round.
Goiti Yamauchi vs. Derek Anderson: Those who engage Yamauchi on the ground do so at their own peril. Ask Ryan Couture. Yamauchi submitted the Strikeforce and UFC alum with a first-round armbar and barely broke a sweat in the process. Their lightweight showcase lasted all of 61 seconds. Couture executed a takedown, wound up in the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt’s venomous guard and soon became hopelessly entangled in the armbar. Yamauchi, 23, has won 15 of his last 17 bouts dating back to November 2011. Anderson has recorded consecutive victories over Saad Awad and Patricky Freire since his contentious split decision loss to Brent Primus at Bellator 141.
Hisaki Kato vs. Alessio Sakara-Joey Beltran winner: Kato more often than not gives the crowd its money’s worth. The Rizin Fighting Federation vet took care of A.J. Matthews with punches in the waning seconds of the first round, notching his third win in four fights. Kato -- still best known in MMA circles for his highlight-reel knockout on Joe Schilling in June 2015 -- recovered from a near-knockdown, clipped the Californian with a head kick and ultimately authored the finish with a series of surgical punches. Matthews bowed out 4:58 into round one. Sakara will face Beltran at Bellator 168 on Dec. 10 in Italy.