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Bellator 244 breakdown: How much of a threat is Vadim Nemkov to Ryan Bader?


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Bellator 244 breakdown: How much of a threat is Vadim Nemkov to Ryan Bader?

em>MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the Bellator’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for Bellator 244. Bellator 244 takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The main card airs on Paramount following prelims on MMA Junkie. Ryan Bader (27-5-1 MMA, 5-0-1 BMMA) Staple info: Height: 6’2″ Age:…

Bellator 244 breakdown: How much of a threat is Vadim Nemkov to Ryan Bader?

em>MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the Bellator’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for Bellator 244.

Bellator 244 takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The main card airs on Paramount following prelims on MMA Junkie.

Ryan Bader (27-5-1 MMA, 5-0-1 BMMA)

Staple info:

Height: 6’2″ Age: 37 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 74″
Last fight: No contest with Cheick Kongo (Sept. 7, 2019)
Camp: Power MMA (Arizona)
Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ Bellator light heavy and heavyweight champ


+ 2x Division I All-American wrestler


+ 3x Pac-10 champion


+ 12 KO victories


+ 3 submission wins


+ 10 first-round finishes


+ KO power


+ Good cardio and conditioning


+ Improved striking and footwork


^ Accurate left hand


+ Excellent wrestling ability


^ Explosive power-double takedown


+ Strong inside the clinch


+ Good transitional grappler


^ Solid positional awareness and rides

Vadim Nemkov (12-2 MMA, 4-0 BMMA)

Staple info:

Height: 6’0″ Age: 28 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 76″
Last fight: Submission win over Rafael Carvalho (Oct. 12, 2019)
Camp: Fedor Team (Russia)
Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:

+ Multiple combat sambo championships


^ World, Russian and European titles


+ Judo black belt


+ 8 KO victories


+ 2 submission wins


+ 8 first-round finishes


+ KO power


+ Aggressive pace and pressure


+ Fast hand and foot speed


+ Solid boxing ability


+ Hard leg kicks


+ Strong inside the clinch


+ Excellent takedown ability


^ In the open or inside clinch


+ Good transitional grappler


^ Accurate ground strikes

Point of interest: Left hands and leg kicks

Vadim Nemkov (blue gloves).

The main event for Bellator 244 features a fantastic matchup for the light heavyweight title between two men who use different tools to punctuate their presence standing.

Despite coming from a strong base in combat sambo, Vadim Nemkov offers a lot more than the casting punches that are typically associated with stylists from his side of the world.

Unlike his mentor, Fedor Emelianenko, Nemkov utilizes a lot more jabs and straight punches in his repertoire – though he is not beyond unleashing power shots from the rear once establishing his timing and rhythm. Taking a more western boxing approach also allows Nemkov to have a lot more level-changing opportunities in the takedown department (something that I’ll address in the next section of the breakdown).

When feeling in stride, the Stary Oskol product will continue to break regional stereotypes by attaching hard, Thai-style leg kicks to his combos and advances. Although Nemkov does offer the traditional competencies off of the lead side that a lot of Russian and Eastern European kickboxers show, it’s clear that the 28-year-old reserves most of his damaging efforts for power-sided attacks.

Nemkov might be able to change the course of this contest early with leg kicks (picking up where Linton Vassell left off), but he’ll still need to mind the left hands and level-changing threats coming his way.

Initially stepping onto the scene as a heavy-handed wrestler, dual champ Ryan Bader has slowly evolved into a well rounded stick-and-move stylist. Since his time spent working with striking coach Chaz Turner, we’ve seen legitimate fight-to-fight improvements in Bader’s techniques.

With a focus on opening up Bader’s hips and stance, the two-time All-American wrestler has shown to more fluidly hit and move while stringing his strikes together.

Quietly developing an active and accurate left hand, Bader has been able to bludgeon the eyes of both Phil Davis and Rashad Evans with jabs, as well as drop Fedor Emelianenko and Muhammed Lawal with authoritative left hooks en route to winning the promotion’s heavyweight grand prix. That said, leaning on your left hand often means you’re leaning on your lead foot – something that could lead to some costly leg kicks.

Even though Bader has the ability to hold his own on the feet, do not be surprised to see the champ look for level changes early.

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Point of interest: Sambo vs. wrestling?

Ryan Bader (blue gloves)

Given both fighters’ bases, many, including myself, will be very curious to see how the grappling exchanges shake out.

Indoctrinated into sambo since the age of 7, Nemkov has gone on to earn European, Russian and World titles in combat sambo as an adult. Though the judo black belt is obviously competent with clinch takedowns given his experience with gi jackets, Nemkov appears to have a bit of a preference for more traditional wrestling shots in the open.

Nemkov seems to have a rock-solid first layer of defense for takedowns, often looking to hit inside or outside trip reversals after hoisting opposition off of his hips. And even against acclaimed wrestlers, Nemkov shows no fear in regards to shooting doubles to ensure a strong close to the frame.

That said, I’m not sure how much of the wrestling traffic Nemkov will be directing in this matchup.

A Pac-10 champion who carries a takedown defense rating in MMA that’s north of 80 percent, Bader (outside of combustions opposite Jon Jones and Anthony Johnson) has been able to dictate the wrestling warfare that takes place in his fights.

Bader has an explosive power double-leg takedown that he always keeps in his back pocket and is more than capable of scoring or reversing from the clinch (as the American is not beyond hitting hip tosses of his own). And if Bader is able to establish any variation of top position, then it could spell trouble for Nemkov, who is not exactly a bottom player or armbar specialist.

Nevertheless, Nemkov is an athletic scrambler who offers a serious striking acumen and transitional savvy from topside – something Bader will need to keep a lid on at all costs.

Luckily for the champion, his collegiate wrestling base translates nicely to MMA in regards to control.

An excellent positional player, Bader likes to earn control time through punishing rides that allow him to put on beatings that make some opponents look like a video game character whose operator momentarily stepped away from the controller.

Utilizing cross-wrist rides (or “Dagestani handcuffs”) to secure UFC wins well before Khabib Nurmagomedov was popularizing these techniques inside of the octagon, Bader has been quietly continuing to sharpen his ground game under the care of fourth-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Jair Lourenco.

If Nemkov isn’t able to create scrambles or score takedowns of his own, then I suspect that the young Russian will be forced to answer the tough questions that Phil Davis started to force upon him by the end of their fight.

Point of interest: Odds, opinions and prediction

Ryan Bader (left) and Vadim Nemkov at Bellator 244 weigh-ins.

Despite the champion opening as a moderate favorite, money has been steadily coming in on the younger man, listing Bader -125 and Nemkov +105 as of this writing.

Considering that I’ve been calling Nemkov this division’s dark horse for over a couple of years now, then I guess it shouldn’t shock me to see support come in for the young Russian.

If Nemkov is able to come out and either starch Bader with a counter or disable him with leg kicks after shutting down a shot or two, then none of us should really be too surprised. Nemkov, who has always been a good grappler, has spent time ahead of this contest training with freestyle wrestling talents like Magomedkhan Magomedov (2018 junior world champion in men’s 97.0 kg.), as I expect him to come in as prepared as possible to challenge for Bader’s belt.

That said, given the stylistic differences between freestyle and folkstyle wrestling, I will be curious to see how much Nemkov has to offer when it comes to secondary wrestling layers (defensively or offensively).

I would argue that Bader’s folkstyle base and riding preferences offer him more options in regards to control positions within the wrestling roadmap of MMA. And whether or not you agree with my stylistic opinions, I would also warn anyone who is overlooking the stamina section of this matchup.

Not only has Bader seldom shown to tire in professional competition (which is pretty crazy considering the divisions that he competes in), but the 13-year pro has proven that he can both wrestle and strike throughout an entire five-round affair. Whereas Nemkov, who has made efforts to improve his pacing, still shows signs of a suspect gas tank when forced to grapple.

For that reason, I’ll somewhat reluctantly side with Bader to beat the prospect whom I’ve been high on. Unless Nemkov can either catch the champ clean or make him uncomfortably combust early, then I see Bader slowly breaking down the challenger, smartly wrestling his way to a fourth-round stoppage.

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