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Bellator 244: Bader vs. Nemkov fight card preview

Check out the rundown of Friday’s Bellator 244 main card, including Ryan Bader defending his light heavyweight belt against Vadim Nemkov in the main event.

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It’s time for another dose of Vicom’s version of MMA as Bellator 244 kicks off this Friday (August 21st) from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The card’s featured matchup will be for the light heavyweight crown when two-division ruler, Ryan Bader, defends his 205-pound crown against surging contender, Vadim Nemkov. In the co-main event slot, Bellator’s former women’s featherweight queen, Julia Budd, will be getting back on the horse after losing her crown earlier this year to face the ever-game Jessy Miele.

The main card will also get a heavyweight tilt between Roy Nelson and Valentin Moldavsky, and open the show with lethal middleweights John Salter and Andrew Kapel. The preliminary card has some notable names as well. You’ll see welterweight contender Yaroslav Amosov getting rounds against Mark Lemminger, and world-class bantamweights Erik Perez and Josh Hill paired up. The Bellator 244 main card can be seen live tonight on the Paramount Network at 10:00 PM ET, with the prelims streaming online at 7:15 PM ET.

Since his departure from the UFC, Ryan Bader has successfully scaled the mountain top of two different divisions (205-pounds and heavyweight) under the Bellator banner. The 37-year-old champ champ seems to be pretty close to his athletic prime, and his technique is clearly better than it ever was. The striking of Bader has come such a long way from the collegiate wrestler that first bursted onto the scene way back at TUF 8 in 2008. The king is powerful, durable, and battle-tested... the king is in full form.

A legitimate threat to the crown is definitely Vadim Nemkov. He’s a surging up and comer who is quite well-rounded and trains under the likes of heavyweight great, Fedor Emelianenko. Nemkov has been steadily collecting the scalps of former Bellator champs on his march to the title. In succession, the Russian fighter bested the likes of Liam McGeary, Phil Davis, and former 185-pound champ Rafael Carvalho.

So the narrative is there. Nemkov beats a bunch of past champions before dethroning the defending king, and then he lived happily ever after. Too bad this is real life and rarely do those types of storylines play out in such a way. The reality is that Nemkov will have to fight a perfect fight if he wants to win, and he might even need to get a finish over someone like Bader that has never lost a decision in 33-fights. Nemkov pushes such a frenetic pace that it seems almost impossible for anyone of his size to sustain it for 25-minutes. We’ve seen five-hard rounds out of Bader before, but will the challenger be able to keep up his youthful exuberance if the water starts to get deep?

For the Bellator 244 co-main event, Julia Budd will be looking to rebound against Jessy Miele after dropping her featherweight title to Cris Cyborg back in January of this year. Budd owned 145-pounds for a few years, defending her crown three-times with a blend of sharp technique and unmatched physicality... and then Cyborg happened. There is no shame in losing to a legend, so Budd should be able to shake it off and get right back to business — which is being better than everyone else in the division that isn’t the champ.

This could be a Joseph Benavidez kind of situation for her, but make no mistake, Miele is no slouch and will not be rolling over just to give Budd a boost. No, she will come forward behind her strikes and she is willing to pump out some volume. In her last fight with Talita Nogueira, Miele proved that she is an effective grappler against other highly skilled ground tacticians. So, we know she has the technique to compete everywhere with Budd, but will it be enough to overcome the unquestionable physical advantage that the former champ possesses?

Before that, surging Russian heavyweight prospect, Valentin Moldavsky, will collide with the skidding veteran Roy Nelson. Moldavsky bested all-four of his Bellator opponents so far, getting him to his biggest name fight to date. He’s well-rounded and aggressive, but he does make a few rookie mistakes here and there that a salty vet could potentially capitalize on. Speaking of salty vets, Nelson has had a rough go with Bellator, winning his debut but then losing four-straight. Nelson has always fought the best, many a losing efforts. Does Nelson have one last big right hand hidden somewhere, or can he pull out some crafty old-school tricks to get over on someone less experienced? Or, will Nelson flounder again and pass the baton to some new blood that could actually make a run at the title?

Opening up the main card, we’re getting a contest between two proven finishers in middleweights John Salter and Andrew Kapel. Salter is a gritty grappler with a mean squeeze. He’s got armbars, sure, but strangulation seems to be his strength. As for Kapel, he has a fluid Muay Thai base that helped him retire King Mo last November. This is an interesting clash of styles with either man seeming capable of finishing the other in their respective worlds. Salter might be better-known, but Kapel is every bit as dangerous.

Main card:

  • Ryan Bader vs. Vadim Nemkov: Light Heavyweight Title
  • Julia Budd vs. Jessy Miele: (W) Featherweight
  • Valentin Moldavsky vs. Roy Nelson: Heavyweight
  • John Salter vs. Andrew Kapel: Middleweight


  • Erik Perez vs. Josh Hill: Bantamweight
  • Adam Piccolotti vs. Sidney Outlaw: Lightweight
  • Yaroslav Amosov vs. Mark Lemminger: 175-pounds
  • Vladimir Tokov vs. Chris Gonzalez: Lightweight
  • Lucas Brennan vs. Will Smith: Featherweight
  • Weber Almeida vs. Salim Mukhidinov: Featherweight
  • John de Jesus vs. Vladyslav Parubchenko: 150-pounds