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Ryan Bader to defend heavyweight title vs. interim champ Valentin Moldavsky at Bellator 273

Bellator’s first main event of 2022 is set.

Ryan Bader knocking out Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator 214.
Ryan Bader knocking out Fedor Emelianenko at Bellator 214.
Photo by Hans Gutknecht/MediaNews Group/Los Angeles Daily News via Getty Images

Yes, the Bellator heavyweight title will actually be defended in 2022.

On Monday, the promotion announced that Ryan Bader will take on interim champion Valentin Moldavsky in the main event of Bellator 273 on January 29th in Phoenix, Arizona. This is a home fight for Bader, who wrestled at Arizona State and trains in Chandler.

Bader (28-7) became Bellator’s heavyweight king when he quickly knocked out the great Fedor Emelianenko to wrap up the eight-man tournament in January 2019. He was already light heavyweight champion at the time he moved up to heavyweight, and after the Fedor fight he went to a no contest with Cheick Kongo due to an eye poke. Bader returned to 205 lbs last year and lost his belt to Vadim Nemkov, entered the light heavyweight tournament this year and beat Lyoto Machida before a knockout loss to Corey Anderson in October’s semifinal.

Moldavsky (11-1) is a perfect 6-0 inside the Bellator cage, most recently winning the interim title with a unanimous decision over Tim Johnson at Bellator 261 in June. The 29-year-old also holds wins over Linton Vassell, Roy Nelson, and Javy Ayala, with his only defeat coming against former Greco-Roman wrestling world champion Amir Aliakbari in 2016’s RIZIN FF Grand Prix semifinals.

Also confirmed for Bellator 273 is a bantamweight clash between former champion Darrion Caldwell and UFC veteran Enrique Barzola.