As far as rematches go, Vadim Nemkov vs. Phil Davis wasn’t anticipated quite the way something like McGregor vs. Poirier 3 was. What mattered more than the men in the cage on Friday at Bellator 257, however, was what was on the line. The light heayweight title, for one. A spot in the light heavyweight grand prix, for another.
Bellator seemingly has grand prix tournaments down to a science, and their 205lb offering, which kicked off last week when Ryan Bader defeated Lyoto Machida in another rematch, was a promising one. With Anthony Johnson vs. Yoel Romero still to come, no matter who won each quarterfinal bout, massive fights were set to be made moving forward.
There was no shortage of action early in Nemkov vs. Bader 2. Arguably, Nemkov struck with something meaningful first, a punch that knocked Davis off-balance, but didn’t seem to do too much damage. The back-and-forth would continue, with Nemkov breaking out his calf kick later in the round.
Round two saw the pair trade high kicks early. Davis landed a right hand flush, getting the champ’s attention. A counter right would hit home for Nemkov moments later, but it was Nemkov that was showing damage, with a cut by the left eye leaking blood down the side of his face. The champ would fire a combo; Davis fired a kick, and both men were picking their spots. At the two minute mark, Nemkov dropped Davis, and tried to move in, but Davis quickly reverted back to his wrestling, attacking a leg, looking for the takedown and driving Nemkov into the fence. Davis switched to a double-leg, which Nemkov deftly defending via guillotine. As the round wore on, both men were loading up on their punches and swinging for the fences.
Throughout the third, Nemkov’s jab/cross combo and looping right hand were his best weapon. He’d finish combos with kicks, while Davis tended to load up on his strikes, with less output overall. That activity advantage for Nemkov was allowing him to get the better of Davis more often than not. As the round wore on, Davis found himself on the backfoot more and more frequently. And then, the shock takedown from Nemkov at the end of the round, adding insult to injury given Davis’ wrestling background.
Vadim Nemkov hit home with a combination almost immediately in round four. The longer the fight progressed, the more he seemed to have the edge against Davis. As the round wore on, however, Davis finally found some success with his right hand. He finished the frame walking forward, stalking the champion. Which was likely to make the fifth and final round very interesting.
Nemkov fired a spinning kick to open the fifth round. He followed that up with a combination, and while Davis might have been the fresher fighter, he was more than likely down on the scorecards and in need of a finish. Davis continued to pick his spots, with Nemkov landing three times, seemingly, for every Davis strike. A low blow by Davis paused the action almost exactly at the midway point of the round, but Nemkov took just a few seconds to recover. Davis would later have to stuff a Nemkov takedown attempt, and fend the champ off in a scramble. As time wound down, Davis managed to latch onto the champ with a bodylock, but the challenger was unable to find any path to a finish.
Nemkov, in earning the unanimous decision win on Friday, not only defended his title — he also moves on in the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix. Nemkov will meet the winner of Yoel Romero vs. Anthony Johnson this summer.
Official Result: Vadim Nemkov def. Phil Davis by unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)