For the first time in nearly two months, we had a major Bellator event last weekend. Bellator 273 was the first Bellator promotion since early December and it lived up to the expectations after several weeks of hype. Champion Ryan Bader held on to his Bellator Heavyweight Championship against interim champion Valentin Moldavsky with a unanimous decision victory that was scored 48-47 in favor of Bader by all three judges. That wasn’t the only entertaining fight at Bellator 273 though.
Ryan Bader Defends His Bellator Heavyweight Title Against Valentin Moldavsky
It had been 28 months since the last time Ryan Bader fought at heavyweight ahead of his title fight against Valentin Moldavsky. Bader originally won the Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship at Bellator 180 in June 2017 with a split decision win over Phil Davis and successfully defended the belt at Bellator 186 with a second-round TKO of Linton Vassell. That led to him entering the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix in 2018, and Bader successfully beat Muhammed Lawal, Matt Mitrione, and the legendary Fedor Emelianenko in the span of eight months to win the title.
Bader hadn’t fought as a heavyweight since his controversial No Contest against Cheick Kongo in September 2019. After that tussle, he returned his light heavyweight roots and lost to Vadim Nemkov and Corey Anderson in the span of 14 months to lose his belt and a shot to regain it in the Bellator Light Heavyweight World Gand Prix. Those defeats led to most observers picking Moldavsky to get the win, but Bader was able to rock his opponent in the first round and kept the pressure up to the point where he won a narrow unanimous decision.
Moldavsky might have done enough to win the fight if it wasn’t for the first-round knockdown. He was able to get the better of Bader on several exchanges, and he looked better in the clinch for long stretches.
Immediately after the fight, it was announced that Bader will defend his title against Kongo on May 6 in Paris. Bader did get the better of Kongo throughout the first round of their previous fight, but it was called a No Contest after an inadvertent eye poke. Bader has contended that there was no evidence of an eye poke, and that will be an underlying story in the run-up to this rematch.
Benson Henderson Halts His Losing Streak
Veteran Benson Henderson had lost three straight matches before finally getting in the win column again with a split decision victory over Islam Mamedov on the undercard. This is Henderson’s fourth fight that was decided by split decision in his last ten bouts, so you can count on him to keep things close against most of his opponents.
This was a more stunning result than Bader beating Moldavsky, as Mamedov had not lost a fight in over a dozen years. Mamedov had won 20 consecutive bouts before falling to Henderson on Saturday night. Henderson used his ground game to get Mamedov into uncomfortable positions, and that was enough for the judges to give him the win.
Sabah Homasi Secures His First Submission Win in More Than Seven Years
Jaleel Willis has now lost two straight fights after starting his Bellator career with back-to-back wins. He will need to work on his ground game, as he was submitted in the first round for the second time in three months. Sabah Homasi is not known for his ground game, and his last submission victory before this fight came in September 2014.