Bellator 277: Nemkov and Anderson Seek Career Defining Validation in Grand Prix Final

Bellator 277 Vadim Nemkov and Corey Anderson
Vadim Nemkov and Corey Anderson face off ahead of Bellator 277. Photo: Lucas Noonan/Bellator

Bellator champion Vadim Nemkov will look to cement his status as an elite fighter with a victory over perennial contender Corey Anderson in the Grand Prix final at Bellator 277.

Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov is not in the bigger conversation of the world’s elite talents, but he should be.  Riding a nine fight win-streak, the 29 year-old has run roughshod over some of the promotion’s best in then two-division champion Ryan Bader, ranked contender Julius Anglickas, and former champions Phil Davis, Liam McGeary, and Rafael Carvalho.  Along the way, he has ascended to the elite level and taken the mantle from his legendary teammate Fedor Emelianenko as Russia’s next great champion in the higher weight classes.

But the court of public opinion in the MMA world can at times be an unfair one.  Nemkov’s resume is as respected as any contender’s could be if they’re looking to make their mark, but he lacks that signature victory that would propel him over the top in the mind of casual fan.  To his great advantage, Bellator’s light heavyweight division is currently lined with several contenders who would serve to propel his brand upwards if he can continue on his trajectory.

Corey Anderson has come close to such a moment before.  Just 24 years-old when he arrived at 4-0 in the UFC as a winner of The Ultimate Fighter, “Overtime” struggled to break through on the timeline that the promotion was looking for.  After kicking off his UFC career at a respectable 5-2, Anderson was seemingly poised for the proverbial step up when he came up short to Jimi Manuwa in 2017.  Three years later and in the best stretch of his career, he suffered a setback again to future champion Jan Blachowicz, who he had previously defeated.  Months later, Anderson would create headlines after being granted an immediate release from the UFC and signing with Bellator for more money and more immediate opportunities.

Now a 32 year old veteran of the fight game, Anderson’s career has blossomed in Bellator as several of his UFC victories have aged like fine wine. Though a rubber match is not in the cards, he does hold a decision victory over Blachowicz from earlier in their UFC careers and is the last man to have defeated current champion Glover Teixeira.  While his former foes have impressed, Anderson is riding a string of impressive performances himself with stoppages of Bader, Melvin Manhoef, and Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov.  Finally in a championship bout, Anderson is looking to come through on the promise he showed nearly a decade ago.

The key for an Anderson victory will be to make Nemkov defend takedowns early.  The champion is an explosive and well-rounded athlete, but Anderson’s experience and ability to drag the fight into deep waters with his wrestling could be the key to reduce the danger early.  Getting the fight to the ground where he can work from top position, as per most of his bouts, is his best route to victory.  For Nemkov, using his kicks to hamper Anderson’s mobility early will be his best option as it will make him a more stationary target and create opportunities to deliver more damage later on.

Looking ahead, a Nemkov victory is expected to set up a rematch with Swedish contender Karl Albrektsson who is the last man to defeat the champion in a RIZIN bout back in 2016.  An Anderson victory could see Albrektsson or a bout with former champion Phil Davis who rides a two fight win-streak going into his next bout.  Also looming is the prospect of current middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi moving up should he defend his title in June.