The Bellator Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix continues with another rematch. Last week saw Ryan Bader avenge his loss against Lyoto Machida to move on to the semifinals. This Friday, Bellator Light Heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov (13-2) rematches former champion Phil Davis (22-5).
Nemkov edged Davis in their fight last year and will be a sizable online sports betting favorite at -210 for this rematch. He has won seven in a row and is unbeaten (5-0) in Bellator coming off a scintillating head kick knockout of Bader. Davis has won three straight and his only two losses in the last six years have come against Nemkov and Bader.
While I think Davis will be competitive in this fight, I like Nemkov to put a stamp on this rivalry and win in a bigger margin.
- Date: Friday, Apr. 16, 9 p.m. ET
- Venue: Uncasville, CT, United States
- Watch on: Showtime
Vadim Nemkov (c) vs Phil Davis II
Weight Class: Light Heavyweight (205)
Rounds: Five (Main Event Title Fight)
Odds: Phil Davis +165, Vadim Nemkov -210
Nemkov and Davis first fought in 2018 for Bellator 209. At this time, the MMA odds were flipped. Davis was the -210 favorite and Nemkov was a +160 underdog when it opened. When all was said and done, Nemkov won as a +250 underdog.
The Russian used an all-around MMA game to neutralize the more predictable Davis. Even if he edged that decision out, the familiarity here should help him further impose his style on Davis. But both fighters each have a path to victory here.
Davis: Counter the Kicks and Wrestle
Only through MMA did we finally figure out that leg kicks are the greatest weapon any fighter can utilize. That’s how Nemkov beat Davis and several of his opponents. Heading to this fight, Davis made sure to drill against Nemkov’s onslaught of kicks.
“He’s a really good kicker and preparing for this fight, we drilled a lot of kicks and just stopping his kicks, making sure we had good counters on deck,” Davis told MMAJunkie at a media availability during Bellator’s press conference following the fight announcement.
Davis, despite getting taken down, is still also the better wrestler. The NCAA Division I All-American has rarely been outwrestled in a fight and while Nemkov did take him down, he hardly dominated him. It’s Davis’s turn to go aggro on Nemkov and neutralize him with his wrestling.
Nemkov: Pick Apart Davis
As Davis will be training to counter his kicks, Nemkov will surely be training his wrestling. The protege of Fedor Emelianenko may not be as decorated as the American but he showed he is great wherever the fight goes. Most importantly, he’ll be the aggressor.
In an MMA fight, judges tend to lean towards the more active fighter. That’s why Nemkov beat Davis in the first bout. Davis can be too hesitant and has been known to dislike getting hit.
Nemkov will keep utilizing his leg kicks. He can also attack Davis’s body and use his jabs to keep him at a distance. But most importantly, he can’t allow Davis to wear on him like a blanket as he will need to press the attack.
Nemkov won the first bout and he needs to do more of the same: keep pressing Davis, hitting him with leg kicks, and keeping him at distance while mixing things up with his wrestling to throw him off.
Davis can win this fight if he manages to make Nemkov think twice about his leg kicks. If Davis can catch them and hurt him or throw him to the mat and keep him there, he’ll be able to neutralize Nemkov’s offense.
But overall, Nemkov is younger, fresher, and a much more aggressive fighter. Davis can get too tentative and tends to shy away the moment things get hot. Nemkov will realize that and pour it on to put a more convincing victory.