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Shlemenko, Falcao to fight for title

Bellator will crown a new middleweight champion on Feb. 7, when tournament winners Alexander Shlemenko and Maiquel Falcao meet in Duluth, Ga., promotion officials announced Friday.

"Shlemenko versus Falcao is a spectacular world title fight," Bellator chairman and CEO Bjorn Rebney said.

Shlemenko (46-7) was expected to face former Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard earlier this year in a rematch of their October 2010 bout.

But Lombard, who defeated Shlemenko by unanimous decision in their previous bout, vacated the Bellator 185-pound title in April and signed a multifight deal with UFC.

Shlemenko has won nine fights in a row since his loss to Lombard. He earned a second Bellator title shot by winning the promotion's Season 5 middleweight tournament.

"It was a long path for me," Shlemenko said. "It doesn't matter whom I will face to get my title, Falcao or anyone else. I will smash my opponent, and win the title, because I have my country (Russia) behind me."

Falcao (31-4, one no-contest) defeated Andreas Spang by unanimous decision in May to capture the Bellator Season 6 middleweight tournament crown and secure a title shot against Shlemenko.

Lombard made his UFC debut on July 21, but was on the short end of a split-decision loss against Tim Boetsch.

The loss snapped Lombard's win streak at 25. He was looking to rebound Friday night against submission expert Rousimar Palhares in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.