Ryan Bader says he considers himself a "hybrid" heavyweight, big enough to exchange with the power punchers while elusive enough to maintain an edge in athleticism over his opponents. The Bellator heavyweight champion believes his versatility will be the deciding factor when he faces interim champion Valentin Moldavsky for the unified title Saturday in the main event of Bellator 273. The championship fight anchors the MMA showcase from the Footprint Center in Phoenix, with the main Bellator 273 fight card set for 10 p.m. ET. Bader hasn't fought at heavyweight in more than two years because he was busy competing in Bellator's light heavyweight tournament, and says he looks forward to punctuating his return with a dominant performance. However, the well-rounded Moldavsky seeks a signature victory to unify the heavyweight crown.
The latest Moldavsky vs. Bader odds from Caesars Sportsbook lists Moldavsky as a -335 favorite (risk $335 to win $100), while Bader is priced at +275. In the co-main event, lightweight contenders take center stage when Islam Mamedov (-410) takes on former UFC champion Benson Henderson (+330). Before making any Bellator 273 picks, make sure you check out the MMA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine expert Andrew Gombas.
Gombas is a former NCAA wrestler who taps into his experience on the mat to dissect the X's and O's of MMA matchups in a manner that sets him apart from other MMA analysts. He started the MMA handicapping service MMA Knockout Bets in 2018 and has shown a profit every year since.
With more than 1,400 selections tracked by the third-party monitoring service Bet MMA, he has shown a 6 percent return on investment for his followers. Over the past two years, his followers have netted a profit of more than $10,000.
Two weeks ago, Gombas kicked off the 2022 UFC season by telling SportsLine members to back underdog Calvin Kattar (+200) against Giga Chikadze (-240) in the featherweight main event. Kattar dominated from the opening bell to win a lopsided decision and give Gombas' followers an easy winner. Anyone who has followed him already has seen massive returns.
Now, with Bellator 273 in sight, Gombas has studied the card from every angle and released his top MMA picks. You can only see Gombas' Bellator 273 picks at SportsLine.
Bellator 273: Bader vs. Modalvsky preview
Bader (28-7-1) is arguably one of the most accomplished light heavyweights in MMA history. He joined the UFC as an undefeated prospect in April 2009 and would go on to post a 14-5 record in more than seven years with the promotion. All of his UFC losses came against future or former champions or title contenders.
Bader suffered back-to-back losses against Jon Jones and Tito Ortiz in 2011, but rebounded to win seven of his final eight fights with the promotion. Even so, he eventually left the UFC for Bellator after failing to secure a title fight against former champion Daniel Cormier and never fought for the belt in the UFC.
The Arizona-based fighter immediately became one of Bellator's biggest stars and won the light heavyweight title with a split decision over Phil Davis in June 2017 to begin a six-fight unbeaten streak with the promotion. He went on to win the heavyweight title in January 2019.
However, the 38-year-old has lost two of his last three while competing at light heavyweight and is coming off a first-round stoppage loss to fellow former UFC contender Corey Anderson in October.
Moldavsky (11-1), 29, caught the attention of MMA observers with a strong run through the Rizin promotion, with his lone defeat coming by split decision. The Russian fighter has shown a daunting blend of submission skills and striking while winning all six of his Bellator fights.
In August 2020, he outlasted perennial contender Roy Nelson before defeating Timothy Johnson for the interim belt in June of last year. The matchup with Bader is widely believed to be one of the best fights the promotion could make in 2022. You can only see who to back at SportsLine.
Bellator 273 predictions
We'll reveal one of Gombas' Bellator 273 predictions here: He is going with Jaleel Willis (-240) to get the best of Sabah Homasi (+200) in a battle of welterweight sluggers on the main card.
Willis (15-3) is a versatile talent who has shown speed and punching power while excelling in promotions such as the Summit Fighting Championships and Legacy Fighting Alliance. The 29-year-old Memphis native signed with Bellator in late 2020 and has gone 2-1 with the promotion. Willis saw a six-fight winning streak come to an end in his last performance when he was submitted by Mukhamed Berkhamov in October.
Homasi (15-10) is a 13-year MMA veteran who has a reputation as a fearless brawler and is known for action-packed fights. The 33-year-old New Jersey native was cut from the UFC following an 0-3 mark with the promotion, but his resume includes a victory over former UFC contender Curtis Millender. Homasi has gone 3-2 in Bellator but dropped both of his fights in 2021.
"Sabah Homasi is a dangerous striker, but he is at a cardio and wrestling disadvantage. Jaleel Willis is athletic and does a good job of mixing wrestling into his game. I believe he has the perfect style to grind Homasi out," Gombas told SportsLine.
How to make Bellator 273 picks
Gombas also has strong picks for Bader vs. Modalvsky and other fights on the Bellator 273 card. He's expecting one fighter who is a "strong grappler who looks to establish top control" to earn a dominant victory. Those Bellator 273 picks are only available at SportsLine.
Who wins Bader vs. Modalvsky? And what other picks do you need to see at Bellator 273? Visit SportsLine now to get detailed top picks on Bellator 273, all from the insider who's up more than $10,000 on MMA picks the past two years, and find out.
Bellator 273 odds, fight card, top contenders:
Valentin Moldavsky (-335) vs. Ryan Bader (+275)
Islam Mamedov (-410) vs. Benson Henderson (+330)
Henry Corrales (-125) vs. Aiden Lee (+105)
Jaleel Willis (-240) vs. Sabah Homasi (+200)
Enrique Barzola (-130) vs. Darrion Caldwell (+110)
Chris Gonzalez (-265) vs. Saad Awad (+225)
Sullivan Cauley (-210) vs. Ben Parrish (+180)
Nikita Mikhailov (-800) vs. Blaine Shutt (+550)