Shlemenko wins vacant Bellator title

Alexander Shlemenko dominated Maiquel Falcao to become the Bellator middleweight champion. Keith Mills/Sherdog.com

It was just a formality.

That's the way Alexander Shlemenko described his fight Thursday night with Maiquel Falcao for the vacant Bellator middleweight title at the Gwinnet Center in Duluth, Ga.

There was no doubt in Shlemenko's mind that Falcao would be able to last more than a few rounds. And the hard-hitting Russian could not have been more accurate in his prefight assessment.

He knocked out Falcao at 2:18 of the second round to capture the title vacated by Hector Lombard last year. Lombard now competes in UFC.

"I am champion of Bellator, and (whoever) wants this belt, come on," Shlemenko (47-7) said. "It was liver shot, and I finished him."

Shlemenko pressured Falcao throughout the first round, and increased his aggression in the second by landing hard punches and kicks. The attack kept Falcao in a defensive posture for much of the round.

But there was no defense for the liver punch Shlemenko landed on Falcao (31-5) against the cage, and the pain from that punch was evident on Falcao's face.

Aware of his opponent's dilemma, Shlemenko continued delivering punches and kicks before a short right hook dropped Falcao.

Shlemenko then connected with hard punches to the body and head that rendered Falcao defenseless, forcing referee Dan Miragliotta to wave off the fight.

"I trained a very, very long time," Shlemenko said. "Now my next is when, in August? So, I will train hard and train hard. But when I fight I will win. Why? Because, I am the best."

Sandro hangs on by majority decision

These Bellator featherweight tournaments are getting tougher for Marlon Sandro.

Twice he's come up short in tournament finals. In those defeats, however, Sandro demonstrated quickness and aggressiveness.

He was noticeably slower and less aggressive against Akop Stepanyan in their quarterfinal bout Thursday, but two judges gave Sandro the edge in a closely contested first round, helping him advance by majority decision.

One judge scored the fight 28-28, while the other two had it 29-27 for Sandro. ESPN.com also scored the fight 29-27 for Sandro.

Stepanyan repeatedly hit Sandro with spinning kicks to the head and body during the first two rounds. But Sandro (24-4) never stopped coming forward, even though his aggressiveness was not at the level most fans are accustomed to seeing.

In the second round, Stepanyan wobbled Sandro with a kick to the head and several hard punches. But Akop's striking success was nullified by a point deduction he received from referee George Allen.

Allen had warned Stepanyan (12-5) in the first round that he'd take a point away if the fighter continued to grab the cage. Allen kept his promise and deducted a point from Stepanyan after the second round, when he grabbed the cage during the closing seconds.

Sandro came on again in the third round by controlling Stepanyan on the ground to secure the win.

Richman defeats experienced Jackson

Despite having fewer pro fights than his opponent, Mike Richman walked into the cage harboring little respect for Mitch Jackson's accomplishments, claiming his record was the result of competing in small promotions against vastly inferior competition.

Vowing to prove he was the superior fighter in their featherweight tournament quarterfinal bout, Richman did just that with a first-round TKO victory.

Richman dominated Jackson on the feet, dropping him three times with short left hooks. But it was a left kick to the head that did the most damage.

The kick came with less than 30 seconds remaining in the opening round. Jackson (20-3) fell to the canvas and Richman jumped on him, landing solid punches to his defenseless foe and forcing referee Dan Miragliotta to wave off the fight at the 4:57 mark.

"I just set it up with my nice hands and wore him out," said Richman, who improved to 14-2.

After the victory, Richman turned his attention to the rest of the featherweight tournament field.

"I just wanted to show everybody that if you get too close to me, I'll put you to sleep," Richman said.

Bezerra submits da Silva in first round

Brazil natives Alexandre "Popo" Bezerra and Genair da Silva were forced to put their close friendship on hold in hopes of advancing to the featherweight tournament semifinal round.

In the end, it was Bezerra who advanced with a first-round armbar submission. The fight lasted just 1 minute, 40 seconds, but da Silva didn't go down easily.

During the brief scrum, Bezerra was able to drop da Silva seconds into the bout with a jab. Shortly thereafter he took da Silva's back from a standing position and attempted a rear-naked choke.

But da Silva loosened Bezerra's grip and tossed him to the ground, where he began delivering hammer fists. It seemed as if da Silva was about to pound out his friend until he left his left arm exposed, and Bezerra took advantage.