The highly-anticipated Vadim Nemkov vs Phil Davis 2 is set to headline this Friday’s Bellator 257. It’s been nearly three years since their first meeting, which Nemkov took by split decision. This time, stakes are raised as the Russian’s light heavyweight strap is on the line.
Their first encounter took place at Bellator 209, in November of 2018. The opening round was a feeling-out process as both looked to execute their respective game plans. Nemkov utilized a leg-kick-heavy approach, while Davis searched for powerful overhand counters. Over the course of three rounds, neither guy ever had the other badly hurt. Since then Nemkov has gotten even better, which was exemplified in his TKO finish of Ryan Bader to win the light heavyweight belt. Meanwhile, Davis bounced back impressively, winning three consecutive bouts. It’s all lead up to this rematch at Bellator 257, between two of the world’s top light heavyweights!
Vadim Nemkov (13-2, 5-0 Bellator)
Nemkov is fairly young at 28 years old, but he’s already accomplished a lot in the world of mixed martial arts. For starters, he’s a 4x gold medal winner for Russia in Combat Sambo. In 2013, Nemkov made his pro-MMA debut prior to turning 20 years old. He took off from there, earning five consecutive finishes before signing to RIZIN in 2015. Overall he’d go just 2-2, but it was enough to earn him a spot on Bellator’s roster.
Then, in 2017, Nemkov made his debut for Bellator with an opening-round finish over Philipe Lins. Remarkably, it took the Russian powerhouse just five fights to secure championship status. In fact, the lone bout that was decided by the scorecards was the one against Davis. Despite being fairly short for the division at 6’0″, Nemkov possesses a 76″ reach to go along with incredible strength both in striking and grappling. He’s undoubtedly thought of as one of the best light heavyweights on the planet, and only getting better.
Phil Davis (22-5, 9-2 Bellator)
Davis has one of the more underrated resumes in the sport. Since 2010, “Mr. Wonderful” has beaten Alexander Gustafsson, Tim Boetsch, Antonio Rogerio Noguiera, Lyoto Machida (x2), and Glover Teixeira. Not to mention he’s fought those names plus Anthony Johnson, Rashad Evans, Ryan Bader, and others while never being finished. That’s right, in 27 pro fights the only times Davis has lost were via decision.
Since transitioning from the UFC to Bellator in 2015, Davis’s two defeats were to Nemkov and Bader both by split decision. The 36 year old is still a freak athlete, standing at 6’2″ with a 78″ reach, Davis has elite explosiveness. Additionally, he won gold in 2008 for Penn St. at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships. The light heavyweight contender always has that skillset in his back pocket.
Vadim Nemkov vs Phil Davis 2 Breakdown
On the surface, the champ likes to pressure while he works his jab and throws nasty leg kicks. Yet, he has the Sambo background which allows him to seemingly ragdoll opponents at times. The two most important words when describing the former champ and current challenger are athletic and explosive. He combines those two attributes to create one dangerous individual. In their first meeting, Nemkov slowed down Davis’s attack by chopping him down with kicks to the body and legs. Honestly, Davis didn’t seem all that interested in checking the leg kicks, but they clearly stifled his athleticism to a degree.
In Vadim Nemkov vs Phil Davis 2 at Bellator 257, expect a more aggressive “Mr. Wonderful”. He was able to land a couple of heavy overhands in the first fight, but they came few and far between. On the flip side, Nemkov will likely try to inflict a similar approach which entails chopping at the legs. Their grappling may never be tested because they both respect each other’s to such an extent.
Expect another match on the feet for however long it lasts. This time they’ll be locked in the cage for five rounds if need be. Nemkov stressed the need to be faster than Davis before they first fought, and the same will be said for this time around. Avoiding the big shots from Davis is the key to beating him because catching just one on the chin could be too many versus someone that powerful.
Predicting Vadim Nemkov vs Phil Davis 2 is admittedly difficult. Yet, the first fight is really the best evidence we have at our disposal to examine. The Russian and his team built a clear path to victory against this particular foe, and it worked. Of course, Davis will bring a different approach this time and it will be interesting to see Nemkov’s counter (if he has one).
Nevertheless, Nemkov has improved mightily since 2018. Not to say Davis hasn’t gotten better, but not to the extent of the current light heavyweight champ. It’s an extremely close call as are most title fights, but sticking with the champ here seems like the wise option.
You can catch Bellator 257: Vadim Nemkov vs Phil Davis 2 this Friday exclusively on Showtime. The main card kicks off at 9 pm (ET) and the LHW championship is on the line in the headliner.
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