Two-time entrant Alexander Shlemenko knows how to clinch an All-V berth. | Photo: Keith Mills
2011 All-Violence Third Team
• Heavyweight: Konstantin Gluhov
• Light Heavyweight: Alexander Gustafsson
• Middleweight: Alexander Shlemenko
• Welterweight: Douglas Lima
• Lightweight: Shinya Aoki
• Featherweight: Patricio Freire
• Bantamweight: John Dodson
• Flyweight: Jussier da Silva
Heavyweight: Who? That’s right, V-lovers. Latvian kickboxer Konstantin Gluhov isn’t on the radar of many fans, and he’s not exactly a top shelf talent. But, in 2011, Gluhov posted a 6-3 mark, with a six-fight winning streak in which he stopped all half dozen foes. Three crippling body punch stoppages, and two toe holds, plus he battered one of Poland’s best fighters in Michal Kita into quitting. Do yourself a favor, get on YouTube, and bask in one of the most lovely left hooks to the liver you’ll ever see. In the heavyweight division, this kind of diverse, highlight-making ability deserves acknowledgment.
Light Heavyweight: Valkommen, Mr. Gustafsson. The other 24-year-old at 205 pounds quietly had a fantastic year, emerging as a present-and-future standout in the division. More importantly to this list, Gustafsson showed a well-rounded violence game this year, using his ground-and-pound and top game to choke out big-hitting Kiwi James Te Huna before using his already nasty yet rapidly improving boxing to knock out respected vets Matt Hamill and Vladimir Matyushenko. It was Gustafsson’s handling of Hamill that led the TUF alum to finally decide to hang up his gloves. Besides, you had to imagine that a talent prospect nicknamed “The Mauler” would end up on this list eventually.
Middleweight: In 2011, Alexander Shlemenko only managed a 7-0 record. He only stopped four of those opponents and -- can you believe the nerve? -- he didn’t even finish anyone with a flying or spinning something-or-other. However, like so many men with Ph.D’s in V, it’s easy to critique a fighter based on a previously insane standard they established. Shlemenko was dominant, he was entertaining, and he even power guillotined Zelg Galesic off of his feet in September. Any other doubts can be addressed to victims Brian Rogers and Nick Wagner, who can attest to this Russian’s penchant for punishment.
Welterweight: At 2011’s outset, Douglas Lima was a good prospect with great grappling skills. By the year’s end, he was one of the sport’s hottest prospects, quickly gaining a rep as a dangerous puncher. His 74-second blowout of veteran Terry Martin was a teaser of his developing boxing, which would show up in the Bellator Season 5 welterweight tournament, where he used his brilliant counter right hand to clobber both Chris Lozano and Ben Saunders and earn a crack at Ben Askren’s title in 2012. And, like so many violence heroes, Lima doesn’t seem to get really nasty until he gets dropped himself.
Lightweight: Us violence lovers are equal opportunists, but fact is, it is the fistically gifted who so often end up on this list. Shinya Aoki, however, remains a shining example of how cutthroat and violent a dynamic submission game can be. In 2011, Aoki beat four good lightweights. He tapped three of them -- talented grappler Lyle Beerbohm, UFC vet Rich Clementi and former WEC champion Rob McCullough -- with little more than a crossface. Against Satoru Kitaoka on New Year’s Eve, Aoki smashed his foe’s nose with knees whilst constantly trying to choke him out from back mount, leading to the crimson-masked Kitaoka gasping for breath while choking on mouthfuls of his own blood. That’ll get you on this list almost any year.
Featherweight: In just nine weeks, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire took apart two sturdy, skilled fighters in Georgi Karakhanyan and Wilson Reis, stopping both with his heavy punching in the third round. Though he was unable to stop the underrated Daniel Straus in the Season 4 featherweight tournament final, his offensive ability was still on firm display. A broken hand nixed a Bellator title rematch with Joe Warren, but in just a few short weeks, “Pitbull” showed off why he is one of MMA’s foremost instances of controlled-but-brutal, well-rounded aggression.
Bantamweight: Does this deserve an asterisk? TUF 14 bantamweight winner John Dodson only has one official win on the books in 2011, cracking T.J. Dillashaw in under two minutes to win the season. However, that victory was the culmination of an impressive exhibition run on the reality show, in which Dodson, more natural as a 125-pounder, moved up 10 pounds and developed a more consistent, focused attack. Gone were days of Dodson on his back pedal, now a predator with a monster lead left hook. Brandon Merkt, John Albert and Johnny Bedford all got whooped before Dillashaw, and with three impressive stoppages on the year, Dodson belongs on this, exhibition bouts or not.
Flyweight: Jussier da Silva brings a different kind of violence to the table. Though he’s a competent striker, he doesn’t use much of it in his fights. Like 2011’s hottest fad animal, the honey badger, da Silva is single-minded in his MMA focus: he wants your back. He took flyweight king Ian McCall’s back in February and rode it for almost five minutes until falling in the final two frames. May? Three full rounds on flyweight legend Mamoru Yamaguchi’s back. Solid Brazilians Michael William Costa and Rodrigo Santos? Rear-naked chokes. Da Silva is out for one prize in every fight, and even good opponents can scarcely stop him from taking it. That, folks, is pure V.