The first fight between Phil Davis and Ryan Bader didn’t go down as a classic. Bader earned a split decision over Davis in the UFC in Sweden two years ago after a cautious battle.
The rematch isn’t likely to be remembered as a classic, either.
Davis and Bader squared off again on Saturday night, this time with the Bellator light heavyweight title on the line. The bout was a technically sound affair, but the impatient crowd at New York’s Madison Square Garden jeered its way through it.
In the end, though, the result was the same: Bader won the title on a split decision in the featured Bellator 180 prelim bout, getting a pair of 49-46s and a 48-47 on the scorecards.
In the opening round, Davis used kicks to the leg and body to keep Bader from getting untracked. Bader picked things up in the second, using an effective jab to stymie Davis.
Davis had the fight’s most interesting moments in the third round, as he landed a sweet Superman punch with his right hand and followed up with a big left. Bader landed a late takedown, but Davis managed to quickly reverse position before Bader could take advantage.
Early in the fourth, referee Dan Miragliotta warned both fighters for inactivity, but another tight and cautious round ensued.
In the fifth, Bader broke through with a takedown around the midway point, but Davis, a former NCAA champion wrestler at Penn State, scrambled to his feet and regained his composure. Bader shot for another takedown with 30 seconds left in the bout’s final moment of note, but Davis sprawled the attempt.