Three things to watch for: Bellator 88

Maiquel Falcao. Photo courtesy of Bellator MMA.

Another week gone by and another offering from Bellator is on the docket for this Thursday night as the promotion will feature a middleweight championship bout as well as the start of the season eight featherweight tournament.

Maiquel Falcao and Alexander Shlemenko, the last two fighters to win a middleweight tournament, will clash for the vacant Bellator middleweight title, left behind by Hector Lombard after signing with the UFC. In addition, Marlon Sandro and Mike Richman will headline an eight-man field vying for a shot at the belt at 145 pounds.

After the jump, check out three things that you should watch for during tomorrow night's telecast.

Can Alexander Shlemenko finally get over the hump?

With the exception of Eddie Alvarez's most recent run, Shlemenko might be the best fighter in Bellator to not be holding a belt. His lone loss under the Bellator banner is to Hector Lombard over two years ago and it was a competitive fight at that.

Now after recovering from injuries related to a car accident and a tune-up fight against Anthony Ruiz, Shlemenko finally has a long-awaited second chance at Bellator gold against one-time UFC vet Maiquel Falcao. Will "Storm" continue his dominant Bellator run?

Will Maiquel Falcao live up to his potential?

Ever since Maiquel Falcao decimated Gerald Harris over there rounds at UFC 123 two years ago, fans have had high expectations for the heavy-handed striker. Following an abrupt release from the UFC due to legal problems, Falcao has won five of his six, including three straight to clinch the season six middleweight tourney.

The seasoned Brazilian veteran will find himself standing across from another skilled stand-up artist in Shlemenko, and the matchup should make for an entertaining fight. Shlemenko may also pose as Falcao's strongest opponent to date. Can Falcao rise to the jump up in competition?

Will the same be said for Marlon Sandro?

After a devastating stint as one of Japan's biggest draws, Marlon Sandro returned to earth in Bellator, falling short in runs for the featherweight title in losses to Pat Curran and Daniel Straus. The Nova Uniao product has looked good in all of his Bellator wins, but has struggled against top competition and seems to be missing the aggressiveness that made him a household name while with Pancrase and Sengoku.

Now in his third Bellator featherweight tournament, Sandro faces a do-or-die situation. Bellator traditionally does not keep fighters that come up short in tournaments time and time again. Can Sandro regain his past form and leave a path of destruction en route to his firs tournament win?

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