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Beyond the Octagon: Former Bellator champs Shlemenko, Minakov, Volkov victorious

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Your weekly update on what UFC vets, plus former talent out of Bellator, Strikeforce, and Dream, are up to on the regional circuit.

Last weekend saw a foursome of Russian champions take to the ring in regional MMA action, the most prominent of which was former PRIDE FC heavyweight kingpin Fedor Emelianenko. But while he was certainly the most popular of his cohort, "The Last Emperor" also wound up being the most underwhelming, barely staking a claim for a majority decision win over former UFC light-heavyweight Fabio Maldonado (an opponent hand-picked by Fedor over the likes of heavyweights Oli Thompson and Karol Bedorf). The victory improves Emelianenko to 36-4-0 overall but may quell enthusiasm for a lasting return to competition. Meanwhile, Maldonado, in his first fight since being released from the UFC, suffers his first loss outside the Octagon in almost nine years.

Overshadowed by that main event was the continuing dominance of Vitaly Minakov (18-0, 5-0 Bellator). In 2013, Minakov delivered a first-round knockout of Alexander Volkov to became Bellator's heavyweight champion, but he would only get the chance to defend it once, in the form of a unanimous decision win over Cheick Kongo. Following that victory, Minakov sat on the shelf for over a year before being allowed to take fights with EFN, where he has found great success, last weekend included. Minakov, who was recently stripped of his heavyweight title, made short work of fellow Bellator veteran Peter Graham (11-10, 1-2 Bellator, 0-2 Sengoku), submitting the kickboxing stylist with an armbar just over a minute into Round 1. Minakov improves to 4-0 since his departure from Bellator, while Graham slips to 2-3.

You can watch Minakov vs. Graham here.

As luck would have it, last weekend also saw former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov (26-6, 6-3 Bellator) return to action, as he faced former Bellator light-heavyweight champion Attila Vegh (29-7-2, 5-1 Bellator) in the co-main event of M-1 Challenge 68. Volkov, who went 0-2 in his latest campaign through Bellator, had a prodigious size advantage, but Vegh remained undeterred, closing distance and using superior speed to frequently outland his Russian opponent. However, Vegh's bloodlust would get the better of him--backed into a corner, he committed to a brawl, only to be dropped by a straight right. Vegh, face-down on the mat, absorbed a handful of follow-up punches before the referee called it. Volkov thus improves to 2-0 since his latest parting with Bellator; Vegh slips to 0-2, having also lost to former UFC talent Goran Reljic this year.

Check out Volkov vs. Vegh here. Recommended viewing.

In the night's main event, Alexander Shlemenko (53-9-1NC, 11-3-1NC Bellator) took to the ring for a rematch with Vyacheslav Vasilevsky (28-5, 1-1 Bellator). Shlemenko, who captured a majority decision over Vasilevsky in their first meeting, may have hoped to silence any doubters, but "Slava" would once again push the former Bellator middleweight champion to the breaking point, appearing to nearly finish him in the third with ground-and-pound before Shlemenko reversed position and locked up a guillotine for the come-from-behind win. Shlemenko is 2-0 since a positive steroid test saw him out of Bellator; Vasilevsky drops to 2-2 in his last four.

Watch Shlemenko vs. Vasilevksy here. Frighteningly intense electric violinist at 5:30, action at 9:45.

Also on that card, Anthony Christodoulou (12-7, 0-2 UFC) stumbled in his first post-UFC contest, submitting to a first-round keylock from Abukar Yandiev (8-1-0). Yandiev has won three straight.

And under the banner of South African promotion EFC, Ruan Potts (9-6, 0-3 UFC) picked up a much-needed win, submitting Vandam Mbuyi (3-5-0) with an armbar in Round 1. This snaps a five-fight skid for Potts, which includes the three TKO losses he suffered in the UFC. "Fangzz" is 1-2 since appearing in the Octagon

Other Results

X Fights 2

- Scott Heckman (21-8, 2-1 Bellator) defeats Ruben Warr (5-8-0) by unanimous decision.

WFT 3: Madrid

- Celine Haga (10-13-0) upsets Karla Benitez (13-9-1-1NC, 0-1 Dream) via first-round submission. During her career, Benitez has faced Aisling Daly, Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and Almost Hall of Fame member Megumi Fujii.

RFA 39

- Jordan Johnson (5-0-0) defeats Shaun Asher (11-3-1, 0-1 Bellator) by rear-naked choke in Round 3. 
- Bobby Nash (7-1-0) makes short work of Deray Davis (7-3-1, 0-1 Bellator, 1-0 EliteXC), putting him away with strikes in the opening minute of Round 1. Davis is 2-2 since an appearance in Bellator. 
- Adam Ward (16-9, 0-1 WSOF) defeats Douglas Deback (5-3-0) by unanimous decision, halting a three-fight skid.

Fury FC 11

- Jon Kirk (18-12, 1-1 Bellator, 0-2 Elite XC) defeats Rocky Long (21-36-1, 0-1 Strikeforce) by first-round TKO. Kirk has won two straight following a five-fight slump; Long has dropped four in a row and is 1-7 since 2013.