Roy Nelson was badly in need of a win heading into Bellator 244 on Friday night. The rotund knockout artist and fan favorite was mired in the worst skid of his career, having lost four straight. Just 1-4 in Bellator overall. His opponent, Valentin Moldavsky, was a rising prospect on the opposite trajectory — one looking for a signature win over a high profile fighter.
Nelson, even at 44 and on a losing streak, certainly brought name value with him. A victory over “Big Country” could easily launch Voldavsky into the upper tier of Bellator’s heavyweight division, especially with names like Mir, Fedor, and Mittrione aging out.
In recent years, Nelson’s tendency to hunt for a fan-friendly knockout had failed him more than once. Ahead of Bellator 244, he suggested that with fans absent, he’d be solely focused on the win — and he showed it with an immediate level change. However, Nelson couldn’t land the takedown, and Moldavsky reversed. Back at range, Moldavsky was able to get his hands moving, forcing Nelson to cover up. Moments later, a crisp right hand landed for Moldavsky, followed by a knee that just missed.
The Russian picked things up right where he left off in round two, utilizing his speed to fire leg kicks and move in and out. Despite a 30lb weight differential, Modavsky was able to out-muscle Nelson as well. In the clinch, he landed short punches and elbows, not giving Nelson any room to work. Nelson would get off an elbow and knee here and there, but Modavsky was doing far more and controlling the fight. Headed into the third, Nelson was well behind and in need of a finish.
Moldavsky was on his bike in the third. And Nelson’s 265lb frame struggled to catch him. When they did come together, it was Moldavsky closing the gap and putting Nelson against the fence. He finally got off the cage with 90 seconds remaining, but couldn’t get the right hand off, and wound up right back where he started. They’d trade a couple more times to the bell, with Moldavsky cruising to a one-sided decision.
You’d have to imagine, that with five straight losses, Nelson’s days as a Bellator heavyweight are over. Moldavsky acquitted himself well, and has likely earned a step up in competition for his next appearance.
Official Result: Valentin Moldavsky def. Roy Nelson by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)