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It hasn’t been smooth sledding for Ryan Bader the past couple years.
Bader lost Bellator’s light heavyweight title in August 2021 when he was knocked out by Vadim Nemkov. It left the former two-division champion with just the heavyweight belt.
After a win over Lyoto Machida in the light heavyweight tournament in a quest to get the title back, Bader was knocked out in just 51 seconds by Corey Anderson this past October.
Out of the title picture for now at 205 pounds, Bader will put his heavyweight belt on the line for the first time since September 2019, when he kept the championship after an accidental eye poke left Cheick Kongo unable to continue.
At Bellator 273 at the end of the month, Bader (28-7 MMA, 6-2 BMMA) meets challenger Valentin Moldavsky (11-1 MMA, 6-0 BMMA) in Bader’s home city of Phoenix. Bellator president Scott Coker thinks the stakes are high for Bader, especially considering a loss will be his third in four fights – but will leave him without any titles after a long run with two.
“”I feel like Ryan is top-tier. He’s right up there,” Coker recently told MMA Junkie. “The issue for Ryan has been we’ve just been adding to our roster, and the roster is growing. This is the healthiest, best roster we’ve ever had in Bellator. We just keep signing other guys and developing other guys to come in and fight him. It’s been tough for Ryan.”
Coker said he expects the fight to play out as a clash of styles between the natural light heavyweight in Bader and Moldavsky, who typically weighs in around 235 pounds.
Coker thinks Bader being a lighter heavyweight in fights against Muhammad Lawal, Matt Mitrione and Fedor Emelianenko played to his advantage – but the speed edge was nullified at light heavyweight.
“Ryan at heavyweight, to me, has a speed advantage,” Coker said. “At light heavyweight, he didn’t have the speed advantage with the two fights that he lost. Let’s see what happens. But Moldavsky is no joke. This guy is big. He’s strong. He’s a heavy puncher and he’s going to try to come and instill his will on Ryan. It’s going to be speed vs. power, and that’s what I think is going to unfold here.
“If Ryan stays on his toes and keeps moving and takes him down and controls him, and basically outworks him – speed is going to be key here – I think he’ll do very well. And Moldavsky’s going to be looking to knock him out. He’s going to be fighting a different kind of fight. I think he’s slower than Ryan, but he’s a heavy puncher and if he connects, I think it’s going to be trouble. But that’s my prediction for the fight. I think it’s going to be speed vs. power. It’s going to be the bull vs. the matador.”