Ryan Bader made his hometown fans happy and retained his heavyweight title. Plus, he booked his next title defense.
Bader took on interim champ Valentin Moldavsky in the main event of Saturday night’s Bellator 273 fight card at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, and took home a hard-fought unanimous decision, earning scores of 48-47 across the board to keep the belt.
Bader came out swinging, stunning Moldavsky with a big right hand in the opening frame. After a great recovery, the interim champ landed a takedown, but Bader was able to get back to his feet, and got some space to work on his feet. Bader landed a big right hand and got a takedown of his own to end the stanza on top.
Clinch work against the fence started the second round before Bader landed an unintentional knee to the groin. When the action resumed, he landed a right hand before Moldavsky earned a takedown. Bader got back to his feet and was dumped back on the mat immediately, and Moldavsky maintained control until the bell sounded.
Moldavsky continued his grueling pace throughout the third with Bader not being able to mount any offense. Halfway into the fourth, however, Bader secured a takedown and took Moldavsky’s back. Moldavsky tried to grab the fence to get back up and referee Mike Beltran slapped his hand away. The champ scored another takedown and ended the round in top position.
With the fight likely even through 20 minutes, both men traded punches in the fifth after a grappling stalemate. Bader landed a right hand that clipped Moldavsky momentarily. A competitive scramble commenced, which was won by Moldavsky, taking the back of the champion. Bader returned to his feet and landed a flurry of short elbows to thwart another Moldavsky takedown attempt.
In the final seconds, Moldavsky hoisted Bader up on his shoulder and slammed him to the mat, but it wasn’t enough to win the final frame.
After Bader was declared the winner, Cheick Kongo entered the cage and Bellator announced the champ will defend his title in a rematch, which is set for May 6 in Paris.
Benson Henderson snaps career long skid with upset win
Former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson entered the co-main event on the longest losing streak of his career, taking on Islam Mamedov, who was riding a 19-fight winning streak. For over half of the first round, the action stayed on the feet, with Henderson finding success with kicks to the legs and body of Mamedov. The first grappling exchange ended with Henderson on top and locking in a tight guillotine choke. Mamedov was able to fight out of it and ended up in top position landing some strikes before the horn sounded.
The second round saw the protegé of Khabib Nurmagomedov take the back of Henderson, nearly locking in a rear naked choke. Henderson was able to get out of danger and worked for a heel hook and Mamedov was warned several times about grabbing the fence. Mamedov locked in a standing rear naked choke, but Henderson slammed down to the mat to break the grip to survive the round.
Henderson fired up his hometown crowd at the start of the third and stayed at range landing kicks. Mamedov closed the distance halfway through and scored a big takedown. Henderson, to his credit, avoided any real damage before rolling for a leg. Mamedov landed short punches on top, while Henderson battled off of his back. Mamedov ended the round on top, but it wasn’t enough as Henderson got a big upset win via split decision.
Accidental eye poke leads to technical decision win for Henry Corrales
It was an anticlimactic ending to a high-paced matchup in the featherweight division between Henry Corrales and Aiden Lee.
As expected, both fighters came out fast and furious, firing off leg kicks. Corrales would catch a Lee kick and followed up with a big left hand that sent his opponent to the canvas. The battle waged on into the third round where things ended in an unfortunate way.
With the fighters battling in close, Corrales accidentally landed a nasty eye poke that caused a stop to the action, leaving Lee in an incredible amount of pain. The five-minute recovery period passed and led to the fight being stopped, going to the judges’ scorecards. All three scored it for Corrales, who earned his second straight win in what he said was the final fight of his contract.
Homasi uses submission skills for quick finish
In the opening main card bout, the always-exciting Sabah Homasi — who had former UFC interim champion Dustin Poirier in his corner — ran through a promising up and comer in Jaleel Willis en route to an arm-triangle choke less than two minutes into their welterweight bout.
Check out full Bellator 273 results below:
Ryan Bader def. Valentin Moldavsky via unanimous decision (48-47, 48-47, 48-47)
Benson Henderson def. Islam Mamedov via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Henry Corrales def. Aiden Lee via unanimous technical decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
Sabah Homasi def. Jaleel Willis via submission (arm-triangle choke) - R1, 1:42