Bader vs Moldavsky Title Unification Bout Set for January 29 in Phoenix

Valentin Moldavsky, Bellator 261
Valentin Moldavsky, flanked by Vadim Nemkov and Fedor Emelianenko, Bellator 261 Credit: Bellator MMA

Bellator will be kicking off 2022 with a heavyweight title unification bout between Ryan Bader and Valentin Moldavsky on January 29 in Phoenix.

Bellator will be kicking off 2022 with a title unification bout as heavyweight champion Ryan Bader returns to the division to face interim champion Valentin Moldavsky on January 29. The fight is scheduled to take place at the  Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

After spending roughly a year and a half back at light heavyweight, Ryan Bader (28-7) will be returning to heavyweight to attempt to defend his title for the second time.  “Darth” won the heavyweight strap in 2019 after he moved up to participate in Bellator’s inaugural Grand Prix.  He notably took virtually no damage throughout the tournament, absorbing few strikes between first round finishes of Fedor Emelianenko, Muhammad Lawal, and a lopsided decision over Matt Mitrione.  Bader enters the bout on a 1-2 skid at 205 pounds where he lost his title to Vadim Nemkov and then split fights with Corey Anderson and Lyoto Machida in the light heavyweight Grand Prix.

Valentin Moldavsky (11-1) is looking to build on his assertive victory over Tim Johnson which capped off the six fight win-streak that brought him to the interim title in Bader’s absence from the division.  A part of MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko’s team in Russia, Moldavsky is looking to continue the momentum of his aforementioned mentor and reigning light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov who are also coming off impressive victories in 2021.  Besides the victory over Johnson in June, Moldavsky also has notable wins over veterans Roy Nelson, Javy Ayala, and Linton Vassell.

The event in Phoenix will be Bellator’s second event in the city since the global pandemic forced them to remain primarily in Uncasville, Connecticut since 2020.  Apart from the heavyweight title fight, the card will also feature former bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell taking on Enrique Barzola in the co-headliner.