Austin Vanderford overcame a slow start to finish strong in the opening bout of the Bellator 234 main card.
Middleweight prospect Austin Vanderford returned to the Bellator cage at Bellator 234. The undefeated Vanderford had been snubbed of a UFC deal on the Contender Series, but to date had made the most of it in Bellator. In Tel Aviv, Israel on Thursday, Vanderford faced a tough out in Grachik Bozinyan. The fight aired on Paramount Network Friday via tape delay.
Opening at center, Vanderford fired off a leg kick, which Bozinyan answered with a kick upstairs. Vanderford was showing superior movement early, but he would slip off a punch and shoot for a leg to recover. Bozinyan fired some powerful short blows, while Vanderford continued to circle, relying on movement and attacking with his leg kicks. Plenty of feeling out in the first round, with not a ton of action in the end.
Round two had Vanderford falling back on his leg kick once again. He then fired another kick off, to the midsection this time. Another of those followed in a brief exchange. Within the first minute, the pace and output from both fighters was vastly improved from the opening frame. Another well-placed leg kick by Vanderford tripped Bozinyan up. The pair would trade, each landing grazing blows; the kick was still there for Vanderford, and Bozinyan was starting to show the effects.
Vanderford began leading with his hands, opening up a takedown which he landed with a minute twenty left in the round. Working from guard, he’d land blows to the body but didn’t have time to make much happen.
The third round had Vanderford landing a takedown early, in a key round that would likely decide the winner. Eating up time on top, Vanderford controlled from guard, working his way to half-guard briefly. He’d work his way back there by the end of the round, doing enough to stay in the position without fear of a stand-up, finishing strong en route to a unanimous decision win.
Now 9-0 as a pro, Vanderford likely will get a step up in competition next.
Official Results: Austin Vanderford def. Grachik Bozinyan by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)