There weren't too many positives Alexander Shlemenko could take from his fight against Tito Ortiz this past weekend at Bellator 120.
The middleweight champion went up a weight to fight the MMA legend at Ortiz's regular stomping grounds in the light heavyweight division, and, when the two men stepped into the cage, the size difference was jarring. "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy" looked massive compared to the Russian striker, and it didn't take long for the former long-reigning UFC champion to latch onto the "Storm" and take the action to the canvas.
Once on the mat, Ortiz's size and power advantage kicked in, and he secured a head-and-arm choke that marked the beginning of the end for the 185-pound title holder. Yet, despite a defeat via submission being imminent, Shlemenko chose not to tap and allowed himself to lose consciousness. Once Shlemenko was out on the canvas, the referee intervened and Ortiz's victory was official.
While coming up short in a high-profile fight is never a good thing, Shlemenko's loss to Ortiz damaged a few additional elements of his current status in MMA.
His loss to the 39-year-old MMA pioneer brought Shlemenko's 13-fight winning streak—one that stretched all the way back to 2010—to an abrupt and lackluster end. For the past three-plus years, the 29-year-old had put together an impressive run where he steamrolled every opponent put into the cage with him as only four men over that time managed to make it to the judges' scorecards. Shlemenko scored finishes in the other nine fights, with the majority of them coming of the highlight-reel variety.
On the strength of those performances, the talented striker started to build support for his place among the best 185-pound fighters in the world. This is a difficult task for fighters competing outside of the UFC to accomplish, but Shlemenko was well on his way to solidifying that status. That is until he challenged a much larger Ortiz to a fight at Bellator 120 and was promptly submitted for his efforts.
Nevertheless, Shlemenko is choosing to see the positives in the situation in the aftermath of his loss to Ortiz. The notoriously short-worded middleweight spoke to MMA Junkie via translator after the fight to share his thoughts on the situation.
“I have nothing to say. It’s just too bad, and I’m sorry that I wasn’t able to win this fight. Congratulations to Tito for this win, and it was a very, very good experience for me.”
While Shlemenko will return to the middleweight division for his next fight and look to continue his reign as champion, his status as one of the top 185-pound fighters in the game certainly took some damage on Bellator's first pay-per-view card. Every outing at the highest level comes with consequence on the line, and his bout with Ortiz was no exception.
While the Ortiz fight took place at light heavyweight and not Shlemenko's normal weight class, the UFC Hall of Fame fighter had been out of action for nearly two years while he recovered from injury and had not had his hand raised in victory since July 2011.
Duane Finley is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes are obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.