Bellator has found a way to ace the MMA Grand Prix format ever since Scott Coker took over, and their latest one involving the light heavyweight division is rolling on this weekend with its semi-final matchups.
The semi-finals will be missing Anthony Johnson as he continues to recover from his unknown illness but stepping in for him is a veteran of the Dana White’s Contender Series and LFA in Julius Anglickas. Everyone is comparing this situation to when Daniel Cormier stepped in to fight Antonio Silva back in 2011 with the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. Across from him will be the next Russian juggernaut of combat sports in the form of Vadim Nemkov, who looks every bit the monster that he is being hyped up to be, which will make this a big fight for his legacy going forward.
On the other side of the bracket is a unique matchup of former training partners in former light heavyweight champion and current heavyweight champion Ryan Bader against fellow former UFC contender Corey Anderson. Both men have strong wrestling backgrounds, but both have shown a renewed focus on their striking. Anderson has two finishes since joining the promotion last year, and Bader is looking to get to the finals and get revenge on Nemkov, who knocked him out to take the title last year.
Also on the main card is a super fun matchup between former WEC and UFC champion Benson Henderson and former Bellator lightweight champion Brent Primus. Both men are used to action-packed fights and could make fireworks happen whether it stays on the feet or heads to the ground. Most importantly, though, both men have eyes on the Bellator lightweight title, so an impressive win for either man may set up a title opportunity.
Last but not least, kicking off the main card will be the always-fun Henry Corrales and the fun prospect who is looking for his first Bellator win in Vladyslav Parubchenko. An absolutely fun night of MMA action is in store for everyone tomorrow.
Vadim Nemkov vs. Julius Anglickas Preview
Fighting out of Stary Oskol, Russia, the protege of Fedor Emelianenko is looking to carve out his own legendary career and that starts with defending his Bellator light heavyweight title for Nemkov.
Russian MMA stars have always done well in the sport of MMA, from Fedor to Khabib Nurmagomedov. The sport has shown it can rally around great fighters regardless of nationality or language variances. Nemkov is on an absolutely insane run right now for Bellator, collecting wins over Ryan Bader, Phil Davis two times, Liam McGeary, Rafael Carvalho, and Philipe Lins. He is undefeated in Bellator with a record of 6-0 with four finishes, and it is those finishes that paint the picture of the complete fighter that is Nemkov. Head kicks, leg kicks, ground and pound finishes, and a rear-naked choke are all ways he has found ways to finish fights, so not only does he look good in wins, but he looks impressive.
For Anglickas, this fight at Bellator 268 could alter his entire career because he could go from just being a potential Grand Prix alternate to winning the belt and winning the Grand Prix, so the aforementioned Daniel Cormier storyline is not that far off.
Fans need to know Anglickas is not just a chew toy being thrown into the rising star in Nemkov; he is a dog himself with a nasty bite and has a real chance at winning this fight. As previously mentioned, he was on the Dana White Contender Series, and he won on the show via a rear-naked choke submission, but he was not picked up by the UFC after. This allowed him to fall into Scott Coker’s lap, something that shockingly does not happen more often, and now he has a chance to show his complete game as well.
He has submissions clearly, but his best asset is his gas tank and that may be the key to beating Nemkov. While Nemkov can be dangerous for 25 minutes, it is the volume that Anglickas can provide in those five rounds that may be enough to sway the judges in a close fight.
Ryan Bader vs. Corey Anderson Preview
In a matchup of former training partners, Corey Anderson continues his revenge tour against the former Bellator champ Ryan Bader, who he claims to have had the best of when the two trained before. In the buildup to this fight, Anderson has taken the leash of this story and just ran with it. He says Bader knows what Anderson can do to him, while Bader has been very upfront in stating that he is horrible in training and is more of a primetime performer.
Bader has looked very good since coming over from the UFC. He entered the promotion by making his debut at Bellator 180, where he got a win over Phil Davis and followed that up with an impressive run by defeating names like Linton Vassell, Muhammed Lawal, Matt Mitrione, and Fedor Emelianenko. Bader has gone back to utilizing his boxing and wrestling in a complete form that we have not seen since his early UFC days. It is that combo of skill sets that has Bader on the brink of being Bellator’s biggest star as a two-division champ again. The keyword is again, because without getting that title back, that will be a steep mountain to climb back up for the 38-year-old Bader.
With Corey Anderson, he is looking to continue making his presence felt in the Bellator light heavyweight division after two impressive ground and pound finishes, one against former middleweight title challenger Melvin Manhoef and the other against Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov in the opening round of the Grand Prix. Anderson has shown a renewed focus on his striking game and also on his overall energy and gas tank on the ground. He has always had the wrestling pedigree, but he has lacked the killer instinct at times.
Anderson seems to be of a free mind, almost born again as a fighter because since leaving the UFC. He has boasted the financial freedom he has, making more money in two Bellator fights than in his entire UFC career, even as a winner of The Ultimate Fighter. With so much focus on mental health, a mentally healthy Corey Anderson is a very real threat to everyone in the Bellator light heavyweight division.