Bellator's season-five middleweight tournament kicks off on Sept. 17, and the eight-man field will begin their journey at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla.
Bellator officials today announced that the Sept. 17 Bellator 50 card will feature all four opening-round contests in the upcoming season's 185-pound field.
The four matchups include Bryan Baker (15-2 MMA, 5-1 BFC) vs. Jared Hess (11-2-1 MMA, 4-2 BFC), Zelg Galesic (10-5 MMA, 0-0 BFC) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (39-7 MMA, 4-1 BFC), Sam Alvey (15-2 MMA, 1-0 BFC) vs. Vitor Vianna (10-1-1 MMA, 0-0 BFC) and Victor O'Donnell (10-2 MMA, 0-0 BFC) vs. Brian Rogers (7-2 MMA, 0-0 BFC).
) previously reported the Galesic vs. Shlemenko contest. The four fights are expected to make up Bellator 50's MTV2 main-card broadcast.
"Our 185-pound division is filled with an awe-inspiring group of fighters who have great talent," Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney stated in today's official release. "Baker's story of battling back from leukemia is inspiring, and Hess' comeback after a devastating knee injury is an incredible story. Vianna is one of the most-talked-about prospects in the middleweight division.
"Shlemenko's one of the division's most explosive strikers, and Alvey showed tremendous heart at Bellator 45. Rogers and O'Donell should be an incredibly exciting fight. Then you add Zelg – one of Europe's top middleweight strikers – to the list, and this should be a hugely entertaining tournament."
Baker returns to the cage after falling to Shlemenko in the finals of Bellator's season-two tournament. Baker has since rebounded with Bellator non-tourney wins over Joe Riggs and Jeremy Horn and is 9-1 in his past 10 fights.
Meanwhile, Hess enters a Bellator tournament for the third time. In the company's debut season, he lost in the finals to now-champion Hector Lombard in a brutal four-round war. In season two, Hess lost to Shlemenko in the semifinals.
Galesic recently snapped a two-fight losing streak with a first-round knockout win over Lee Chadwick following a 16-month layoff while recovering from injury. Galesic had previously dropped back-to-back fights to Japanese legend Kazushi Sakuraba and current Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza.
Meanwhile, Shlemenko has proven victorious in nine of his past 10 outings. "Storm" debuted for the promotion in April 2010 and promptly dispatched of Bryan Baker, Jared Hess and Matt Major to claim Bellator's season-two tournament crown. Shlemenko then came up short in a hard-fought, 25-minute decision loss to Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard.
Alvey earned his way into the tournament with a May victory over Karl Amoussou. The 25-year-old carries on overall four-fight win streak, though the past two wins (Amoussou and Jason Guida) have both come via split decision.
A Wanderlei Silva protégé, Vianna carries a three-fight win streak into his Bellator debut. Eight of Vianna's career wins have come via stoppage, and his lone loss came to UFC veteran Thiago Silva in a 2006, when a broken arm forced Vianna to quit.
An Ohio-based submission specialist, O'Donnell makes his Bellator debut. The Team Vision fighter is 4-1 in his past five contests and has eight submission wins in 10 career victories.
He'll face fellow Buckeye Rogers, who is currently riding a six-fight win streak. All six results came via first-round knockout.