Does Bellator have a better light heavyweight division than the UFC?

UFC, Dana White

Last week, Bellator President Scott Coker made some pretty bold statements about his promotion’s light heavyweight division. He said that they had the best light heavyweight division in the world after Jon Jones vacated his UFC light heavyweight title to move to heavyweight.

After Vadim Nemkov knocked out Ryan Bader at Bellator 244, Coker doubled down on his claim that they were better than the UFC. “When Jon Jones moving up to heavyweight, clearly we have the best division.”

Bellator’s claim

The UFC also had an event this weekend. After the event, the media asked UFC President Dana White about Coker’s claims that Bellator had the better light heavyweight division. With a big smile, White replied to the media, “Isn’t he cute?

Bellator has some very solid guys in their light heavyweight division. Nemkov, Phil Davis, Corey Anderson, Lyoto Machida, and others. You can throw Bader in too although I’m sure he’s going to be sticking to heavyweight after that fight.

Those are all very solid fighters, but the UFC president made a point that rings very true about their light heavyweight division. He stated, “Everyone they have in their light heavyweight division, we let go of. That’s like the dumbest f–king thing I’ve ever heard.”

Anderson, Machida, Bader, and Davis were all former members of the UFC that the promotion let walk. I understand what Scott Coker is trying to do with making his statement. However, I’m not sure the statement holds a lot of weight.

The UFC is better at the top

The UFC doesn’t have the same stacked light heavyweight division they once had, but it’s still the best game in town. Corey Anderson was ranked fourth in the UFC prior to him being signed by Bellator, but he was just starched earlier this year by Jan Blachowicz.

I believe that Dominick Reyes is better than anyone in Bellator. I also believe that the best version of Anthony “Rumble” Johnson is better than anyone inside of Bellator’s light heavyweight division.

If the four best UFC light heavyweights (Reyes, Blachowicz, Johnson, Thiago Santos) fought the four best Bellator light heavyweights (Nemkov, Anderson, Davis, Bader), would you favor any of the Bellator guys?

The answer to that question is probably no. Bellator has a good light heavyweight division, but it is not better than the UFC‘s. This round goes to Dana White and the guys in the UFC.

Vadim Nemkov knocks out Ryan Bader to become Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion

Bellator 244 featured the return of double champion, Ryan Bader (27-6, 1 NC). He returned to the light heavyweight division for the first time in almost three years to defend his title against Vadim Nemkov (12-2).

Early on, it appeared that Bader was really struggling to deal with the speed of Nemkov. Bader was clearly used to the speed of the heavyweights. In the second round, Nemkov landed a massive head kick that spelled the end of Bader’s title reign.

Bellator’s New Champion

The win tonight was Nemkov’s seventh straight victory. He’s 5-0 since joining Bellator back in 2017. Only one of his Bellator fights have gone to the scorecards.

Nemkov just turned 28 years old, and it’s clear that he could become a new face for Bellator. He’s exciting to watch, very dynamic on his feet, and he’s got a great killer instinct. He trains under the great Fedor Emelianenko.

After this victory, Nemkov might be taking on for UFC top contender Corey Anderson in his first title defense. Anderson recently just signed with Bellator after asking for his release. That should make for an excellent matchup. Nemkov really looks like he can become a star for Bellator. I’m excited to watch his career progress.

For Bader, he’s still the Bellator heavyweight champion. I wondered how this cut back to 205 would impact his performance tonight. It was clear from the start that he wasn’t comfortable in there. I think tonight was the last time you’ll ever see Ryan Bader at light heavyweight.

There are plenty of exciting options for Bader in the Bellator heavyweight division. He could always run things back with Cheick Kongo after the way their last fight ended. The eye poke robbed fans of a really good fight. Bader is not done, but it’s clear he’s not at his best in the light heavyweight division.

Bellator 244 Preview: Ryan Bader looks to continue his reign against Vadim Nemkov

Ryan Bader

Bellator makes it’s return tomorrow night with another Friday night fight night. In the main event of the evening, double champ, Ryan Bader (27-5), will be defending his light heavyweight crown against Vadim Nemkov (11-2). Let’s take a dive into the four main card fights that will be on the Paramount Network.

Ryan Bader looks to continue Bellator dominance

Since getting knocked out by Anthony Johnson in the UFC back in early 2016, Ryan Bader has been on an incredible run. He knocked out two straight opponents before jumping to Bellator. Since joining his new promotion, he’s gone 5-0, 1 NC on his way to capturing two titles.

This will be Bader’s first fight back at light heavyweight since 2017 when he kncoked out Linton Vassell in his only title defense. Bader is incredibly strong with very good power and good wrestling. I’m very curious to see how he looks back at 205 pounds.

Vadim Nemkov is no joke. He trains under the great Fedor Emelianenko and he comes into this contest riding a six fight winning streak. He’s 4-0 since joining Bellator with wins over Liam McGeary, Phil Davis, and Rafael Carvalho.

There is really not a spot in the fight where Nemkov won’t be comfortable. He’s got good grappling, he’s got good submissions, and he has solid power. I think this is a very dangerous matchup for Ryan Bader.

The public sees this as an easy Bader win, but the odds are close for a good reason. Nemkov can easily win this, and I’m wondering just how much the cut to 205 will hurt Bader. I think this fight goes the distance and the judges won’t be unanimous, but I think Bader keeps the belt.

Prediction: Ryan Bader by Split Decision

Julia Budd vs Jessy Miele

In the co-main event of the evening, we see a women’s featherweight contest between Julia Budd (13-3) and Jessy Miele (9-3). Budd is coming off a title loss back at Bellator 238 against Cris Cyborg.

Prior to the Cyborg loss, Budd was completely dominant in the promotion. The former featherweight champion was 7-0 with a few finishes. Budd is a very solid overall fighter, she just got overwhelmed by Cyborg.

In this contest, she will look to get back to a Cyborg rematch. I don’t see an incredibly deep talent pool at 145 in Bellator, but I believe that a rematch between Budd and Cyborg would garner some attention.

Jessy Miele is going to look to spoil the party. Miele is a very solid grappler who comes into this contest riding a four fight winning streak. She won her Bellator debut over Talita Nogueira.

Miele has got to make this an ugly fight. I think she needs to make it a grappling heavy contest and get the better of the positions if she hopes to take it. I think the winner is next in line, and I think ultimately we are going to secure the rematch tomorrow night.

Prediction: Julia Budd by Unanimous Decision

Roy Nelson vs Valentin Moldavsky

The second fight on the main card pairs “Big Country” Roy Nelson (23-18) against Valentin Moldavsky (9-1). Nelson is looking to turn things around in his Bellator career.

Since making the jump from the UFC, things have not been smooth sailing for Big Country. Nelson is just 1-4 since joining Bellator and that one win came in his debut.

Nelson is still as tough as they come, but he’s just been outworked for the most part. The 44 year old veteran seems to be a one trick pony these days trying to land his signature overhand right. The problem for Nelson is he hasn’t knocked anyone out in four years.

The Fedor protege, Moldavsky, enters the cage tomorrow night riding a four fight winning streak. At 4-0 in the promotion, Moldavsky might only be a win or two away from getting the shot at the heavyweight crown.

Moldavsky has very good overall skills, but really does a good job of using his grappling and good pace to outwork his opponents. I think both of those things are really going to help him here. As long as he avoids that massive right, I think this is pretty easy to predict.

Prediction: Valentin Moldavsky by Unanimous Decision

John Salter vs Andrew Kapel

Kicking off the main card is a middleweight matchup between John Salter (17-4) and Andrew Kapel (15-6). Both of these men come into this Bellator middleweight contest riding multiple fight win streaks.

This is your classic striker versus grappler matchup. For Salter, he’s won two straight and he’s 7-1 since joining the promotion back in 2015. Out of his 17 victories, only one of them has gone to the scorecards. Salter is slick on the ground and has nine submissions.

Kapel comes into the fight riding a five fight winning streak that includes his knockout over King Mo Lawal back in November. That knockout came in Kapel’s Bellator debut. Kapel has very smooth striking skills due to his muay thai background. He does have ten submissions, but those are usually setup through hurting his opponents standing.

This is a very good matchup, and I think the winner could be close to a middleweight title shot. I’m going to go with John Salter in this one. I think it’s back and forth, but Salter catches a late submission to secure the win.

Prediction: John Salter by Submission (Rear-Naked Choke) – Round 3

Bellator Outlook

Bellator is really starting to pick up some momentum after returning. They have put together a few solid cards and this week they announced some big fights for September. I think this every other week cadence. I think you’ll see Bellator really do some big things the rest of the year.

Ryan Bader – Vadim Nemkov targeted for Bellator 244

Ryan Bader

Bellator‘s light heavyweight champion is picking right up where he left off before the pandemic threw everything off in 2020. Ryan Bader (27-5, 1 NC) will be defending his light heavyweight title against Vadim Nemkov (11-2) per ESPN.

These two men were initially scheduled to fight at the original Bellator 242 which was scheduled for May. However, once Bellator shut down operations due to COVID-19 the fight was scrapped.

Now that Bellator has held it’s first successful event in Connecticut, they are ready to resume action. Bader will be defending his light heavyweight title for the first time in three years.

Bader’s Bellator Journey

Ryan Bader was always one of the best fighters in the UFC, but he was one that couldn’t quite climb all the way to the top. After winning back-to-back fights in 2016 by knockout, Badar left for Bellator.

Once in Bellator, Bader defeated Phil Davis to become the Bellator light heavyweight champion. Bader would defend the title once against Linton Vassell. Since then, Bader has competed at heavyweight.

Bader would go on to become Bellator‘s heavyweight champion, and a double champion in the promotion. Now, Bader will move back down to his original weight class and defend his title.

If Bader is able to defeat Nemkov in August, I’m expecting him to defend his heavyweight title towards the end of the year. Perhaps defending it against a former UFC heavyweight champion.

Nemkov is coming into this fight riding a six fight winning streak with wins over guys like Phil David and Rafael Carvalho. Nemkov is looking to prove to the world that he’s one of the best on August 21st.