The Bellator Light-Heavyweight Grand Prix rolls on at Bellator 257 where two quarter-final bouts take place in one night.
First,in the co-main event, we have Corey Anderson looking to continue his winning ways against Bellator newcomer Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov. In the main event, the Bellator Light-Heavyweight championship is on the line when Vadim Nemkov makes his first defense against Phil Davis in a rematch of a closely contested 2018 bout.
While a four-fight main card might seem strange, remember that each leg of the Grand Prix is a five-round bout, so we will have no shortage of MMA action come Friday night.
Let’s take a close look at the main card!
Flyweight: (#7) Veta Arteaga vs. Desiree Yanez
Veta Arteaga (5-4, 4-4 Bellator) is an athlete out of Combat Fitness in Boise, Idaho. She has been in Bellator for almost her entire career and has been a 50/50 fighter. She is a former championship challenger in a losing effort against Ilima-Lei Macfarlane. What Arteaga brings to the table is toughness and wrestling, but mostly toughness. Her hands are a bit too low and she sometimes leads with her face, but she keeps coming. She’s not afraid to throw strikes either, often willing to throw herself in the fire if it means she’s able to do damage.
Desiree Yanez (5-2, 0-0 Bellator) is an athlete out of the Blitz Sport MMA team in Texas. She has fought across XKO, LFA, and Combate in her young MMA career. She is primarily a striker, but she does some good work in the clinch. Just like her opponent Arteaga, Yanez is down to throw down. That said, Yanez is rather hittable, especially as she wears down. She has good boxing, good head movement, and decent footwork, but she does back straight up at times. Yanez can pull out some wrestling too when she needs to mix things up.
What to Expect: Both women are down to exchange, and I think we will see that on Friday. While I don’t think their wrestling is even (I think Arteaga has the edge), I think it is even enough that takedowns won’t be easily available either way. Yanez’ striking is a bit more refined, but the gas tank of Arteaga is a huge factor in this fight. Yanez is known to wear down over 15 minutes, so look out for that.
Welterweight: Paul Daley vs. (#8) Sabah Homasi
Sabah Homasi (15-8, 3-0 Bellator) is an athlete out of American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida. He is a striker and a former UFC athlete. Unfortunately for Homasi, he went 0-3 in the promotion, getting stopped in all three showings. He has since rebounded and is on a four-fight winning streak heading into his bout against Paul Daley. There’s reason to believe that Homasi is going to keep on rolling through the soon-to-retire Daley. Homasi is not the most refined striker, but he has some seriously dangerous weapons. He is super active with calf kicks and kicks to the body. In terms of his boxing, Homasi jabs decently well, but his main punches are an overhand right and a solid counter-left hook. I’m interested in seeing if Homasi goes for a takedown because he does have that skill.
Paul Daley (42-17-2, 9-4 Bellator) needs very little introduction to the veteran fans of MMA. He trains out of Team Rough House in Nottingham, England and has fought just about everywhere in the sport since 2003. He has competed in both kickboxing and MMA in the time since his pro debut. While he has rounded out his game over the years, the blueprint to (safely) beat Daley has been out for some time: take him down and look for the tap. If he can avoid the takedown, Daley is a ferocious striker and a wild finisher. He will go for broke if he feels his opponent is hurt which puts him at risk at times. Daley’s left hook is probably his most lethal weapon, but all of his striking arsenal is dangerous.
What to Expect: So, normally I’d break down how each man wins or loses, but the game plan is roughly the same for both men: hit first and hit hard. Both athletes have stopping power and I predict the fight will end via strikes one way or another. As stated, Homasi has some good wrestling that might mix things up, but I think he will ultimately look to hurt Daley with strikes. Should be a really fun fight to watch, so I recommend you tune in.
Light Heavyweight: (#3) Corey Anderson vs. Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov
Corey Anderson (14-5, 1-0 Bellator) is an athlete out of Kennel Fight Club in Rockton, Illinois. Anderson is a former mainstay of the UFC’s light-heavyweight division where he went 10-5, ending his UFC tenure on a knockout loss to current UFC champion Jan Blachowicz. He rebounded in his Bellator debut with a second-round TKO over Melvin Manhoef. Anderson has been on the biggest stages of MMA since he was only 3-0, so people often remember his failures more than his accomplishments. That’s unfortunate, because Anderson deserves much more respect than he typically gets. While he started his career as an almost pure wrestler, Anderson has put together a pretty respectable striking game that is now able to compliment his already awesome wrestling.
Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov (18-5-1, 0-0 Bellator) is an athlete out of Branibor Team in Kharkiv, Ukraine. While Yagshimuradov has a name I need to triple-check to make sure I’m not misspelling it, he could be one to remember in this Bellator Light-Heavyweight Grand Prix. He is undoubtedly the most unknown commodity in the tournament and that makes him uniquely dangerous. He is the former ACA Light-Heavyweight champion, defending the title twice before leaving to make his US and Bellator debut this Friday. He has not lost since 2015 and has strung together 8 straight wins heading into this fight against Anderson. Yagshimuradov is a smaller light-heavyweight at only 5’11”, but he makes up for it with great lateral movement and striking speed with his hands and kicks . He switches stances quite often, and he has solid head movement.
What to Expect: I think Yagshimuradov should be faster than Anderson, and the speed at which his punches connect could be a real problem for Anderson’s connection to consciousness. Anderson should be looking to wrestle and Yagshimuradov’s tendency to circle along the fence line should help him do that. Yagshimuradov moves well, but he is flat footed from time to time and he will stand still with his back to the fence to look for strike counters. It is in Yagshimuradov’s flat moments that Anderson should be looking to get his grappling going. Yagshimuradov is not much of a volume striker, so look for him to pick smaller shots like leg kicks and circle the outside of the cage before exploding into more lethal strikes. I think that Yagshimuradov’s tendency to voluntarily put his back to the cage will most likely cost him against Anderson, but his power striking and unorthodox technique and timing makes this an interesting contest to gameplan.
Bellator Light-Heavyweight Championship: (C) Vadim Nemkov vs. (#2) Phil Davis 2
Vadim Nemkov (13-2, 5-0 Bellator) is an athlete out of Team Fedor in Stary Oskol, Russia. He is undefeated in Bellator and is coming off a stoppage win over Ryan Bader which also earned him the Bellator Light-Heavyweight Championship. This will be his second bout against Phil Davis, the first contest was a split-decision win. Nemkov is undoubtedly a well-rounded fighter, but he is especially good on his feet. He is surprisingly mobile for a light-heavyweight, constantly moving and picking away on his opponents with leg kicks and jabs. In addition to opening attacks, Nemkov has powerful head kicks and a quick straight-right. In terms of wrestling, Nemkov is pretty solid on both the offense and defense. In fact, Nemkov was able to take Davis down multiple times in their first bout, and he was able to stop former Bellator MMA Middleweight champion Rafael Carvalho via rear naked choke. His takedowns are tricky and his top game is mobile.
Phil Davis (22-5, 9-2 Bellator) is an athlete out of Alliance MMA in San Diego, California. While Davis initially broke onto the world stage through the UFC, he has now been a Bellator fighter for a longer amount of time than he was with the UFC. Davis has also been quite successful in his Bellator run, only losing twice in 11 bouts and only by split-decision. The name of the game for Davis has always been the same: wrestle. While he has enhanced his standup game, he usually seems risk-averse on the feet. That’s to be expected given his recent run of opponents, but Davis is sometimes a frustrating watch in that respect. Davis likes to strike from the outside with long, straight punches and heavy leg kicks. Also in his striking arsenal are big overhand rights and long counter-hooks. He has a good chin on him too having never been finished in his almost 30-fight career.
What to Expect: I expect something similar to the first fight between Nemkov and Davis. I think Nemkov is a bit more comfortable in the Bellator cage than when he first faced off against Davis. I think that Nemkov will probably be a bit more aggressive earlier on. I also think that Davis’ standup is more refined than the first contest, but he will not be faster than Nemkov which is important. Davis should drag Nemkov into deep waters and wrestle early and often. While Nemkov is a fantastic athlete, he is known to wear down over the course of a fight, especially over five rounds. For Nemkov, I think he should almost treat this like rounds four through nine and just carry on what he was doing when they first fought. Use his jabs and leg kicks, keep it simple and just out-technique Davis. He should be careful not to overreach and expose himself to the takedown.
And that’s it! Thanks for reading, and enjoy the fights!
Feel free to reach out in the comments below!