Vadim Nemkov and Phil Davis were not strangers coming into the main event of Bellator 257 on Friday night. Nemkov edged Davis by split decision in their first meeting in 2018. He entered the rematch as Bellator light heavyweight champion and once again outworked Davis for a decision victory, retaining his championship and advancing to the semifinals of the Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix.
In the week leading up to the event, Davis had vowed to use his wrestling throughout the fight, a weapon that had helped him win the third round of the first meeting with the Russian champ. Instead, Davis committed to a striking battle, and that decision was ultimately his undoing as Nemkov was quicker to the punch and far more accurate in every round.
Nemkov worked behind a stiff jab that he used to set up clean overhand rights. With Davis content to move backward and allow Nemkov to lead, the champion picked his spots to connect with his strikes and move out of danger as he built up a lead on the scorecards through pressure and pacing.
"It's very hard to knock out Phil Davis, so I was getting ready for a five round fight," Nemkov said after fighting five full rounds for the first time in his career. "I knew it was going to go the distance."
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Nemkov connected with a heavy flurry in the second round, briefly dropping Davis, who tried to respond with one of the few takedown attempts of the fight. But Nemkov was able to muscle his way out, effectively shutting down any chances that Davis would return to attempts to force the fight to the floor.
After five rounds, it seemed clear Nemkov had done enough to move forward in the tournament and pick up the first successful defense of his title. The final scores were closer than expected, with Nemkov retaining his title by unanimous scores of 48-47.
In the night's co-main event, Corey Anderson picked up a big statement victory, advancing to the semifinals of the tournament with a TKO victory over Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov. With the victory, Anderson advances to face former champion Ryan Bader.
Nemkov will find out his semifinal opponent on May 7 when Yoel Romero faces Anthony Johnson in the final quarterfinal fight of the tournament.
CBS Sports was with you throughout the evening for the latest updates, highlights and results from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut with our live blog below. Stay tuned for updates all night long.
Bellator 257 card, results
- Vadim Nemkov (c) def. Phil Davis via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
- Corey Anderson def. Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov via third-round TKO (punches)
- Veta Arteaga def. Desiree Yanez via majority decision (28-28, 29-27, 29-27)
- Paul Daley def. Sabah Homasi via second-round TKO (punches)
- Julia Budd vs. Dayana Silva via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Julius Anglickas def. Gregory Milliard via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Steve Mowry def. Shaun Asher via first-round TKO (punches)
- Grachik Bozinyan def. Demarques Jackson via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
- Raymond Daniels def. Peter Stanonik via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-26)
- Lance Gibson Jr. def. Marcus Surin via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Karl Albrektsson def. Viktor Nemkov via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
- Mads Burnell def. Saul Rogers via second-round submission (rear-naked choke)
- Jay-Jay Wilson def. Pedro Carvalho via second-round TKO (punches)