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There was a shift atop the Bellator MMA light heavyweight division, and it was seismic in nature.
Vadim Nemkov cut down Ryan Bader with a head kick and follow-up punches in the second round of their Bellator 244 headliner on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, as he became the seventh 205-pound champion in company history. Bader (27-5, 5-1 Bellator) succumbed to blows 3:02 into Round 2, suffering his first setback in nearly four years.
Nemkov (12-2, 5-0 Bellator) conceded a takedown in the first round but was responsible for virtually all of the meaningful offense. He stung Bader with a straight right hand in Round 2, reset after an inadvertent eye poke paused the action and floored “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 winner with a perfectly placed high kick. Nemkov chased the fallen champion to the floor, showered him with punches and allowed him to stand before one final left hand forced referee Kerry Hatley to act.
In the co-main event, former Bellator women’s featherweight champion Julia Budd rebounded from a Jan. 25 defeat to Cristiane Justino with a unanimous decision over Jessy Miele. Budd (14-3, 8-1 Bellator) swept the scorecards with 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27 marks from the judges.
The outcome was never in doubt. Miele (9-4, 1-1 Bellator) landed on occasion but was physically and tactically outmatched. Budd doubled up on right hands, scored with clinch knees and peppered the body with front kicks. She also executed takedowns in all three rounds and even achieved full mount on Miele—a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt—late in the third round, making a pass at an arm-triangle choke before settling for the decision.
Budd has won 12 of her last 13 fights.
Meanwhile, Rizin Fighting Federation veteran Valentin Moldavsky leaned on clean combination punching and a stifling clinch, as he captured a unanimous decision from former International Fight League champion Roy Nelson in a three-round heavyweight feature. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 30-27 for Moldavsky (10-1, 5-0 Bellator).
A shell of his former self, the now 44-year-old Nelson (23-19, 1-5 Bellator) was painfully inept. Moldavsky operated behind a potent jab at range but did the majority of his heavy lifting in close quarters. The 2018 combat sambo world champion pinned Nelson to the fence repeatedly and occupied him with knees to the body and short punches to the head while depleting his already-suspect gas tank.
Moldavsky, 28, will enter his next assignment on the strength of five consecutive victories.
Elsewhere, Gym-O export John Salter submitted Andrew Kapel with an arm-triangle choke in the third round of their middleweight showcase. Kapel (15-7, 1-1 Bellator) conceded defeat 3:11 into Round 3, his career-best five-fight winning streak at an end.
Salter (18-4, 8-1 Bellator) was methodical in his pursuits. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt struck for takedowns and achieved full mount in all three rounds, wearing down Kapel with suffocating top control and sustained ground-and-pound. Salter exploited his exhausted opponent in the third round, where he cinched the arm-triangle choke while still in mount, tightened his squeeze and forced the tapout.
The 35-year-old Salter has rattled of 10 wins across his last 11 appearances.
In other action, Yaroslav Amosov (24-0, 5-0 Bellator) forced a cut-induced doctor stoppage against Mark Lemminger (11-2, 1-1 Bellator) in between the first and second rounds of their catchweight confrontation at 175 pounds; Sidney Outlaw (15-4, 3-1 Bellator) edged Adam Piccolotti (12-4, 8-4 Bellator) by split decision—29-28, 28-29, 29-28—in a three-round lightweight encounter; Josh Hill (20-3, 2-0 Bellator) cruised to a unanimous decision over Erik Perez (19-8, 0-2 Bellator) in a three-round bantamweight scrap, earning 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 scores from the judges; Weber Almeida (4-0, 3-0 Bellator) cut down Salim Mukhidinov (7-5, 1-2 Bellator) with punches 3:57 into the first round of their catchweight tilt at 147 pounds; John de Jesus (11-8, 1-0 Bellator) took a unanimous verdict from Vladislav Parubchenko (15-2, 0-1 Bellator) in a three-round catchweight clash at 150 pounds, sweeping the scorecards with 29-28, 30-27 and 29-28 marks from the judges; Christopher Gonzalez (5-0, 4-0 Bellator) eked out a split decision—29-28, 28-29, 30-27—over Vladimir Tokov (5-1, 2-1 Bellator) in a three-round lightweight affair; and Lucas Brennan (3-0, 3-0 Bellator) put away Will Smith (3-2, 0-1 Bellator) with punches 4:14 into the second round of their featherweight pairing.
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