Bellator 244: “Bader vs. Nemkov” comes to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., tomorrow night (Fri., Aug. 21, 2020), streaming on DAZN (watch it) and airing on Paramount Network. It’s the first Bellator MMA card since the global pandemic hit the United States to be headlined by a title defense.
Let’s break it down:
205 lbs.: Ryan Bader (27-5, 1 NC) vs. Vadim Nemkov (11-2)
Ryan “Darth” Bader hasn’t lost a fight in eight straight bouts (including one no contest). That’s pretty impressive. Vadim Nemkov hasn’t lost in six straight bouts (including all four in Bellator). That’s equally impressive. Even before the pandemic the two seemed to be destined to collide inside the cage. With his second round submission of former Middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho, Nemkov was clearly setting the table to face a current champion in his next fight. After an unfortunate accident in his last Heavyweight bout, Bader was undoubtedly looking forward a return to his most dominant weight class.
How do the “champ-champ” and his challenger stack up? Bader stands 6’2” with a 74-inch reach while Nemkov is 6’0” with an estimated 75.5-inch reach, making the protege of Fedor Emelianenko a fighter who can easily close the gap on taller, lankier opponents. He’s also finished 91 percent of his wins (eight knockouts, two submissions) so there’s no doubt about his killer instinct. His only losses to date are a split decision and a technical knockout against recent UFC sensation Jiri Prochazka, so there’s no shame in his game especially given how much he’s improved over the last five years.
Bader possesses one quality none of his opponents have other than Phil Davis, and the fact he’s beaten Davis every time they’ve met suggests even there he holds an advantage — his outstanding wrestling ability. He was a three-time PAC-10 champion and two-time All-American, and as a champion in two weight classes it’s hard to argue anybody has translated a wrestling background to MMA better save perhaps for Henry Cejudo or Daniel Cormier. His 12 knockouts make him a difficult chess match to win. If you try to stuff the takedowns and keep it standing you’re in danger, and if he gets the takedown you’re screwed. It’s very hard to beat Bader unless you land a cleaner harder shot first.
Final prediction: Ryan Bader via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Julia Budd (13-3) vs. Jessy Miele (9-3)
It has been a long road back for “The Jewel” Julia Budd since a one-sided loss to Cris Cyborg, her first defeat in almost a full decade. The intrigue surrounding how the former champion will respond to that loss is palpable, as is “The Widowmaker” Jessy Miele’s desire to play spoiler on Budd’s road to redemption. She upset Talita Nogueira via split decision for her fourth win in a row in her Bellator debut and would love to do it again here. She also hails from Waterbury, Conn. which under different circumstances would make her the home town favorite in front of a roaring crowd. Ah well … what are you going to do?
You’re going to have a scrap in the Bellator cage, that’s what. Miele has finished 66 percent of her wins (two knockouts, four submissions) while Budd has finished 54 percent of hers (six knockouts, one submission). It’s not surprising that Budd rarely goes for jiu-jitsu given her kickboxing background, and being 5’8” with a 70-inch reach makes her a very long dangerous fighter at Featherweight. Miele stands 5’7” with a 69-inch reach, though, so Budd doesn’t have a huge advantage in this fight. What she does have is a decade of dominance facing every top women available to her in and out of Bellator. In short, Miele has a huge mountain to climb here.
Final prediction: Julia Budd via second round knockout
265 lbs.: Roy Nelson (23-19) vs. Valentin Moldavsky (9-1)
We all like “Big Country” Roy Nelson. Okay, some of us like Roy Nelson. Wait, that’s an exaggeration — a few people like Nelson. His star power has faded significantly with losses in four straight Bellator fights, and dating back to 2013 he’s 4-11 over his last 15 bouts. That’s “no bueno.” Having exhausted the interesting rematches they could do with Nelson in the promotion, we’re now left with feeding him to the up-and-coming Heavyweight starts. Over the same four fight span, Moldavsky is 4-0 in Bellator with dominant wins over Linton Vassell and Javy Ayala. If you can’t see the writing on the wall put on some glasses.
Final prediction: Valentin Moldavsky via first round submission
185 lbs.: John Salter (17-4) vs. Andrew Kapel (15-6)
Having won nine of his last ten fights dating back to 2013, with his only loss coming via submission to eventual (and brief) Middleweight champion Rafael Lovato Jr., John Salter is almost uncontested among Bellator’s 185-pound division. Andrew Kapel is a sleeper though as he has won seven of eight dating back to 2015, including his last five in a row, punctuated by knocking out King Mo in Lawal’s retirement fight. He’s actually better known for submissions than strikes though, getting 66 percent of his wins (10 of 15) via his jiu-jitsu game. Far from presenting a problem to Salter though, that style of fight would play right into his hands. He might not have been able to out grapple Lovato, but short of a world champion BJJ gold medalist, there’s not a fighter at 185 pounds who can give Salter fits. If Kapel wants to play human chess Salter will checkmate him before long.
Final prediction: John Salter via second round rear-naked choke
That’s a wrap!
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