(Shlemenko in action. Image by Esther Lin, courtesy of EliteXC)
Russian Alexander Shlemenko has long been heralded by the MMA community as one of the greatest middleweight prospects in Europe, if not the world. At just twenty-five years old, the Bodog, M-1 and EliteXC veteran has compiled a venerable 25-4 record; his losses compiled by two decisions at the hand of Jose Landi-Jons, a submission courtesy of Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza and a knockout to UFC veteran Jordan Radev.
Shlemenko notched up a phenomenal fifteen fight win streak at the start of his career, and holds another streak of nine wins, but he will be looking to take bigger scalps in the future and that starts with his upcoming bout with Sean Salmon at Fight Festival 27 in Helsinki this weekend.
Salmon has featured in the UFC and Strikeforce, albeit sometimes on the wrong end of highlight reel knockouts, but his wrestling ability and experience makes him a dangerous foe at middleweight. The name value would be a great addition to Shlemenko’s win list and set him in good stead for his Shine Fights debut later in the year, therefore ‘Storm’ is preparing hard for the encounter.
“I prepare for this fight the same way I do every time,” Alexander told FIGHT! of his training. “I train in my city, Omsk, with my regular training partners. They are my students, Alexander Sarnavskiy – he started his professional career one year ago, and already has 9-0 record, finishing 8 of his fights – and Andrey Koreshkov who’s going to start fighting pro this summer.”
Training in his home city has its positives and negatives though, as Alexander admits,
“They are both lighter than me. Unfortunately I don’t have sparring partners in my weight class of high level in my city. Now we mostly work on developing my physical condition.”
He is looking forward to the fight, however, and although Salmon’s unflattering record of eight wins and five losses since exiting the UFC isn’t awe-inspiring on paper, the American is a gritty veteran and no walkover.
“Sean is very experienced, tough fighter. He fought in the UFC, and I think that only good fighters get in there,” noted ‘Storm’, assessing his adversary’s strengths and weaknesses. “He is pretty big for the middleweight category, has a very good wrestling base and he is also a southpaw, which causes additional problems. Speaking about weaknesses, everybody has them. I think I found some of his weak points, and I’ll try to use them to my advantage in our fight. We’ll see. Only the fight will show who’s better prepared.”
With Salmon having been on the receiving end of some heavy knockouts in his career and fifteen of Alexander’s twenty-five wins coming by T/KO, should we expect to Russian to be looking to separate his opponent from his senses?
“Of course. I try to win every fight by KO, no matter who my opponent is. Unfortunately it doesn’t always go the way I want to, so if I get a chance to win by submission I’ll try to do it. But, my goal in every fight is to KO my opponent.”
It is this aggression and power that has made Shlemenko somewhat of an icon in the eyes of hardcore fans. The fact that he knocks opponents out for fun and is still improving makes it surprising that he his skull-crunching services have never been acquired by a major organization. He is hoping a win here is the next step towards that. “I hope that if this fight will be successful, it would become a step up for me. I know that my manager Alexei Zhernakov has some interesting plans for me, we’ll see what happens,” Shlemenko said.
A rematch with Radev is of interest to him, but he revealed that it looked unlikely he would get a chance to redeem himself.
“Yes, I thought of a rematch,” Shlemenko told us. “More than that, it was offered to Jordan, but he didn’t want it because he moved to welterweight. Speaking about the fight, I think Radev got lucky, that I made that unspeakable, terrible mistake and I paid a very high price for it. I think it was a good lesson for me, which will help me to avoid such mistakes in the future.”
Moving forward, he has inked a deal with the fledgling promotion Shine Fights though and, although he is disappointed that his debut has been postponed several times, he is looking forward to putting on a show in the up-and-coming organization
“I only know that they postpone their events because they want to sell PPV of their events, so they have to find a good time slot for that. I’m very interested in fighting for Shine Fights; I really look forward to it so it is a little disappointing for me that my fight there keeps getting postponed.”
With several big name signings such as former WBA and WBC boxing champion Ricardo Mayorga and ADCC champion Braulio Estima, he is excited to join a solid roster but will reserve his judgement on those acquisitions until he sees them in action. “Both of these guys are very respected and famous in their respected sports,” Shlemenko said. “But frankly speaking I haven’t thought about how their careers would look like in MMA, because it is absolutely different world.”
Alexander ‘Storm’ Shlemenko is young, talented and aiming for the top. He noted that he ‘wanted to become champion in the number one organisation’ and he has the potential to do so. First though, he must take care of business this weekend and all eyes will be on the Russian as he looks to take end Sean Salmon’s night early and take another step up the ladder.
The impressive Fight Festival 27 card features Marcus Aurelio vs. Niko Puhakka and Jake O’Brien vs. Toni Valtonen amongst many other great battles. More information can be found at fightfestival.com.