After winning the Ultimate Fighter 8, Ryan Bader was on a fast-track to the upper-echelon of the light heavyweight division. Sitting at 11-0 it was time for one of the rare prospect versus prospect matchups that had fans buzzing. Ultimately, Jon Jones was too much for Ryan Bader and their careers went in opposite directions. “Darth” would never go on to fight for a title in the UFC, however almost 12 years later he’s a two-division champion of the second biggest promotion in North America. Bader headlines Bellator 244 Friday evening against the #1 contender in Bellator’s light heavyweight division, Vadim Nemkov.
After competing at heavyweight in his last four bouts, Bader returns to defend the 205lb championship he won in 2017. One of the main questions leading up to this bout is, whether or not dropping back down in weight will affect the champion. Bader will possess the size and reach advantage, but Nemkov has also fought professionally at heavyweight.
Vadim Nemkov, like Ryan Bader, is on an impressive win-streak of his own. Nemkov has been victorious in his last 6 bouts, with impressive wins over Liam McGeary and Rafael Carvalho. A disciple of Fedor Emelianenko, Nemkov has a Sambo background with excellent grappling. One of the more underrated aspects of Nemkov’s game is his kicking. He was able to finish McGeary by leg kicks and that is unusual for a fighter with a background like his.
Ryan Bader has shown an improved stand-up to compliment an already elite wrestling game. The former Arizona State Sun Devil has knockout power in both hands as well as a relentless top game. Bader’s time in Bellator has been very dominant, however, most of his opponent’s best days were behind them.
The Age Difference
This should be Ryan Bader’s toughest matchup to date. At just 28 years old, Vadim Nemkov is the youngest fighter he’s faced since the Jon Jones bout in 2011. That is one of the key factors in this matchup that hasn’t been discussed enough. The dominance of Bader since signing with Bellator has been prevalent, however, the average age of Bader’s opponents in the promotion to date is 40. Bellator has added another younger contender in the division with the addition of Corey Anderson.
The experience factor will certainly go Bader’s way, with Nemkov gaining the edge being the younger and fresher fighter. With Bellator lacking in the depth of fighters in their divisions, this is arguably one of, if not, the best stylistic matchup that could be made across the promotion.