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The contest took place at Saturday’s Bellator 208 from Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. The middleweight bout between Tokov (27-3 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) and Shlemenko (56-12 MMA, 12-5 BMMA) aired on the Paramount-televised main card following prelims on MMAjunkie.
Shlemenko opened with a big kick attempt before the athletes settled. The desire to land big was clear on both sides, but Shlemenko offered the superior pressure and leaned in with right hands. He connected with a knee to the body of Tokov, who struggled to find range early. A wild exchange occurred where Shlemenko landed a spinning backfist. Tokov went for the first takedown, but it was stuffed by Shlemenko. He then pushed Shlemenko against the fence, where the action stayed for a short period before Tokov went for a trip takedown that was also defended. It went back to the clinch against the fence before Tokov finally landed a takedown on his third attempt. Shlemenko quickly scrambled toward the fence, though, and stood back up. He allowed Tokov to get a body lock and drag him back down, but only for a moment. Shlemenko went to the spinning backfist again, but Tokov grabbed ahold of him and pressed him against the fence. Shlemenko broke free and landed a multi-strike combination that backed up Tokov, who clinched once more against the fence before the end of the round.
The fighters came out swinging to begin Round 2, and Shlemenko landed the first clean shot. His power didn’t seem to be causing too many problems for Tokov. Shlemenko landed a groin kick on Tokov which caused a brief break in the action. The action resumed and another missed spinning attack from Shlemenko allowed Tokov to clinch up and work his takedown game. He picked Shlemenko up and slammed him to the ground, but he again failed to keep him there for any significant amount of time. Shlemenko broke free and took a pair of left hands from Tokov. Tokov began to find success with his punches with Shlemenko rushing in, and Shlemenko decided to clinch and force the fight against the cage, where he landed multiple stiff knees to the body. The clinch exchanges kept going, and Shlemenko found more success in that area in the latter stages of the round. Tokov insisted on forcing it again and again, though, even though he didn’t land much damage or get takedowns.
Tokov opened the final stanza with a flurry of aggression and landed multiple times on Shlemenko. Tokov clinched up again, and Shlemenko used a standing headlock to control his opponent and get out of the clinch. Shlemenko went for the spinning backfist again, but his range just wasn’t there. Shlemenko pounded Tokov’s body with a kick before he clinched up yet again. A lot of fighting against the fence occurred in this fight, but it failed to lead to anything truly meaningful for either combatant. The pace of the fight slowed in the last two minutes and both men looked fatigued. The clinch grappling and punching output took a lot of energy, and with 90 seconds left Tokov scored a foot sweep that briefly ground Shlemenko, who used the fence to climb up with zero warning from referee Dan Miragliotta. Tokov had Shlemenko’s back from the clinch for much of the final minute, but he didn’t do much other than hold on until the final bell. He did, however, control much of the fight and got 30-27 scorecards across the board.
Tokov remained unbeaten in Bellator with the victory, while Shlemenko has lost three-straight for the first time in his lengthy career.
The latest Bellator 208 results include:
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