Bellator 180’s main event featured a rematch between light heavyweight champion Phil Davis and Ryan Bader, from their UFC days. It wasn’t the most explosive fight back then — could they put on a better show at the fabled Madison Square Garden?
With the first fight being a close split decision win for Bader, there was no doubt that both fighter would be looking for a definitive win.
Ryan Bader took the center of the cage early and looked to maintain control, backing Davis up. “Darth” got the jab going early, while Davis looked to change levels with his eye on the takedown. Ducking under a Bader punch he went for it, but Bader was able to stay on his feet and push the champ off of him. Bader looked comfortable on the feet, switching to a southpaw stance to mix things up. Davis’ second takedown was stuffed as well — could there be trouble with the game plan?
Oddly enough, the fight seemed to slow, rather than pick up, towards the end of the first, with each fighter seeming a little tentative.
Round two wasn’t quite a carbon copy of the first, but it certainly started that way. Davis was a little more active, mixing in front kicks and controlling the cage while Bader circled out of danger. Bader seemed content to throw single punches and two-punch combos rather than put anything together. Davis, meanwile, still couldn’t manage to get his wrestling game going as Bader once again stuffed a takedown prior to the ninety second mark.
Towards round’s end Bader came over the top with a solid punch that connected, but that was all she wrote for the second.
In the third, Davis scored the best combination of the fight thanks to a superman punch that took Bader by surprise. However, beyond that, it was another plodding round with the two unable to find an opening. Davis seemed to have mostly given up on his takedowns, while Bader opted to continue throwing until he finally found an opening and shot in, scoring a takedown of his own very late in the frame. That, however, likely gave him the round.
At the start of the fourth round, ref Big Dan warned the pair to start engaging, which should give you some idea of the level of action at that point. Bader focused on his counters, landing an uppercut, while Davis later connected with a head kick. The pair would trade kicks, with Davis continuing to press the action.
The fifth round got underway with a big question hanging in the air: just who was up in the bout? Not a single round had been decisive to that point. A finish would certainly come in handy, otherwise this was looking to be a crap-shoot for both fighters.
Bader pressed the action early in the fifth, while Davis targeted the body with his jab, which allowed him to surprise Bader when he later came over the top. Bader, however, managed to score a takedown with just over two minutes left in the fight, but could not keep Davis down.
They’d stay on the feet to the end, turning it up at little in the final moments, with Davis touching Bader’s chin but neither men really taking much damage. They went to the scorecards, with Bader getting a split decision once again! Bader finally gets the title he’s sought after for so long, albeit in a fight reminiscent of their first meeting.
Ryan Bader def. Phil Davis by split decision (49-46, 48-47, 49-46)