Bellator 98 is scheduled for Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun, and the company recently announced two of the lead bouts. It is unusual to get 7 weeks notice for Bellator, so perhaps it is a sign that the group is figuring some things out. The main event of the evening features a title defense for 185 lb Champion Alexander ‘Storm’ Shlemenko as he takes on tournament Bellator Tournament winner Doug Marshall. The second bout announced features Wrestler turned MMA fighter Joe Warren as he takes on veteran Nick Kirk. Because Bellator rarely has a card organized with real lead time, the books have become accustomed to seeting a Bellator line a lot closer to fight time. Hopefully they jump on this positive development on Bellator’s part and get the lines up early.
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As far as the Nick Kirk – Joe Warren match is concerned, this is a squash bout that will certainly see Warren come in a massive favorite. Warren has a real world class wrestling resume and the company is relying on him to be one of the coaches and stars of it’s reality series, so they must delicately balance protecting him while giving him the ring time he needs to develop.
In comes Kirk as the perfect solution. Kirk has a solid 10-0 record fighting on smaller shows against lesser opposition. On Bellator however, he is 0-2, dropping two bouts via decision. It is unlikely that Kirk will bring anything new to the table than he had in those 30 minutes of tape Bellator has on him – he is a known option to get Warren a win.
The other bout is slightly more intriguing, as Marshall has adapted well to the competition at Bellator and has gone 4-0 for the company, including a tournament win that earned him this title shot. He will make it a competitive fight.
In the end, I expect Shlemenko’s unorthodox striking attack will chop away at Marshall. Shlemenko is a brutal striker who can fight out a long fight. The Russian has over 50 fights under his belt, so it is an advantage. Additionally, he has fought 5 rounders before, while this is the first venture into a five round bout for Marshall. The longer it goes the more it will favor Shlemenko.