At Bellator 206 on Sept. 29, former Bellator MMA welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov will seek revenge against a familiar foe in Douglas Lima. The Russian has designs on putting to rest any questions of who the better fighter is, as they compete in the first round of the Bellator welterweight grand prix.
Koreshkov does not look back on his November 2016 loss to Lima with self-pity but with frustration, as a night filled with mental lapses that cost him the title he worked hard to earn. “In our second fight I went away from the game plan by allowing him to land a lot of leg kicks,” Koreshkov told Sherdog.com.
He admits the clubbing low kicks -- for which Lima has earned a reputation -- affected his mindset throughout the bout. “Since my left leg got kicked so many times I tried to rush forward, which was also against the game plan we had,” he said.
This impulse to respond aggressively to the pain in his leg turned out to be a double-edged sword for the “Spartan.” In the third round, he landed an overhand right he believed had the Brazilian hurt. With his opponent reeling, Koreshkov sensed an opportunity to finish the proceedings.
“I got that thought in my head that I should finish him quickly,” Koreshkov said.
However, “The Phenom” was not as damaged as Koreshkov had assumed. “I was thinking one uppercut would finish the fight and that was the moment that he hit me,” he said.
The thought was a serious miscalculation. As Koreshkov attempted his uppercut, Lima let loose with a massive left hook that had the champion unconscious before he landed to the canvas. It taught the Rusfighters Sports Club combatant a valuable lesson: Do not deviate from the predetermined strategy. “The most important thing is to follow the game plan, because if I am able to do that I will beat him [at Bellator 206],” Koreshkov said.
The 28-year-old has bounced back in impressive fashion since he relinquished his title to Lima. In August of 2017, Koreshkov ended Chidi Njokuani’s nine-fight unbeaten streak by technical knockout after four minutes of action. Then he followed that up with a spinning back kick that felled Vaso Bakocevic in just over a minute.
This is why he heads into the SAP Center in San Jose, California, with confidence and excitement. When the welterweight grand prix was announced by the promotion, the Omsk, Russia, native only had one question.
“The first question that came to my mind was if I was going to take part in it?” Koreshkov said. His inclusion was an inevitability, considering his standing in the division and 21-2 record. When the opening round match-ups were made, Koreshkov had mixed emotions on being paired up with Lima for a third time.
“When it was announced that I was fighting Douglas Lima I cannot say I was disappointed because I wanted to fight someone else,” he said. “[On the other hand] I cannot say I was super happy [either].” After some reflection, Koreshkov realized the bout offered something no other match-up could: redemption. “Since I lost to him before it is a chance to redeem myself and win this trilogy,” he said.
In the recent past, Lima has stated that he lost their first outing because of a pre-existing knee injury, and that he took the fight only for the paycheck. When asked if those comments fuel his fire, Koreshkov said, “You know what, it really doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t take away anything from my win.”
For Koreshkov, his motivations to win what he considers the biggest fight of his career are clear. “It is a very important fight for two reasons. First, because it’s the end of the trilogy, and [second], because it is the opening round of the tournament,” he said. “And no fighter wants to lose in the opening round.”
Also of note is the boost he receives representing Russia. “It’s a great honor and responsibility for me to represent my country whenever I fight,” Koreshkov says, “It also gives me huge motivation for my fights.”
If he defeats Lima at Bellator 206, Koreshkov would face the winner of the bout between Paul Daley and Michael Page. He respects both men’s striking acumen. In particular, he admires Daley’s explosiveness and experience at the highest levels and enjoys watching him compete. On the other hand, he questions the hype surrounding Page. “I think that the level of opposition he’s faced [was not up to Page’s own level],” he said.
Koreshkov mentions Page’s Bellator 165 bout with Fernando Gonzalez as an example of what can happen when an opponent does not fall for the Brit’s flashy antics. Page won the bout via split decision, and Koreshkov viewed it as “not good and pretty boring.” He added, “Gonzalez was able to shut down all of Page’s fancy stuff.”
When asked to pick a winner, the Russian pointed to Daley’s experience as the attribute that should help decide the bout. “I think in this fight, the question is if Paul Daley would be able to overcome the weird things Page is doing,” he said. “I think he will be able to do it just due to his experience and I think he has an edge in this fight.”