At Bellator 57, the next middleweight title challenger will be decided as Alexander Shlemenko takes on Vitor Vianna.
For Shlemenko, the road to this fight has looked rather simple, finishing Zelg Galesic in the first round via guillotine choke and Brian Rogers by TKO in the second round of the semi-finals.
Vianna has looked just as impressive, coming back from a close split decision win over Sam Alvey in the first round to destroy Bryan Baker in 54 seconds in the second round and clinch a spot in the final.
Shlemenko has been in this situation before, winning Bellator's middleweight tournament in season two, only to fall to Hector Lombard in October 2010.
The road to redemption runs through Orillia for him as Lombard still stands tall as the middleweight champion, awaiting the winner of this fight.
Let's take a look at a few things going into this fight.
Shlemenko (42-7) and Vianna (12-1-1) have been fighting professionally since 2004. For Shlemenko, most of his fights have been tournaments in Russia, where one would fight up to three times a night.
For example, in his first seven fight cards, Shlemenko fought a total of 17 times, accumulating a record of 15-2 along that stretch.
Vianna has taken extended time off on two occasions, once, after his first loss to Thiago Silva in November 2006, because he sustained a broken arm, he didn't fight again until May 2008, a span of 18 months. After that fight, a win over Gatta Tjaad, he would take another 15 months off.
Shlemenko holds all the cards in the experience game, though it's not what you've done that counts, it's what you've done lately but for now, chalk one up for the Russian.
Advantage: Alexander Shlemenko
This is another component that Shlemenko might have the advantage on. He has intense power and you can't ignore his 26 wins by way of knockout.
Vianna is well rounded and has good striking skills, not to mention he trains with Wanderlei Silva, one of the most prolific knockout artists in MMA, but despite all that, Shlemenko has gone 11-1 in the last two years, including seven of those wins by knockout or TKO.
Shlemenko will throw everything at you on the feet, including spinning back fists, hooks and even deadly muay thai knees.
There's not much more to say on this one and no offense to the Brazilian, but if this fight remains standing, it's Schlemenko that will win by either knockout or decision.
Advantage: Alexander Shlemenko
If Vianna hopes to get a victory in this fight, he must do it on the ground. He might have good knockout power but he is more deadly on the ground.
Vianna learns from one of the best in Wanderlei Silva and we can be sure that Silva has prepared his training partner well for what has to be Vianna's biggest fight to date.
The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt will be looking for takedowns early but overall, needs to respect the one punch knockout capability of his opponent.
When you add up the experience that Vianna holds in various jiu-jitsu competitions and the multiple world championships he holds and combine it with Schlemenko's wrestling, it's going to be interesting to see who grabs the momentum early in this bout and how long it will take before we see the ground game utilized but for now, give this one up to Vianna.
Advantage: Vitor Vianna
What do you think?
Mark Pare is a Featured Columnist. Mark will be live at Casino Rama for Bellator 57 so stay tuned for more fight analysis and previews. You can follow him on Twitter and don't forget to check out his sportswriter page.