Ryan Bader returns to the heavyweight division.
The Bellator Champion hasn’t fought at heavyweight since a no-contest back in 2019. Since then, the former double-champ has lost his light heavyweight belt and suffered another loss last October against Corey Anderson.
He looks to rebound in his title unification bout against Valentin Moldavsky.
In Bader’s heavyweight absence, Moldavsky would defeat Tim Johnson to become the interim champion last June. He now looks for undisputed gold in the first Bellator main event of 2022.
Valentin Moldavsky pours on the pressure. Ryan Bader throws a beautiful haymaker to stun Moldavsky early on. Bader swarms in on Moldavsky with a flurry of punches. Two punches in the follow-up almost put the Russian down. Moldavsky looks to recover as he clinches up Bader. He takes him down with ease. Moldavsky gets top control of Bader.
Bader gets up but Moldavsky drags the champ back down. Bader works his way back up but Moldavsky controls him in the clinch against the cage. They separate for a moment and Bader looks to get his hands going. Moldavsky clinches up once again, but Bader gets the takedown this time. Bader closes out the round in top position.
Bader gets clipped by Moldavsky as he swings wildly. Bader rushes in on Moldavsky getting a waist lock in the clinch. He attempts to take down Moldavsky but he defends very well. Bader drops Moldavsky with a knee to the groin. Fight is paused momentarily.
Fight starts again. Bader goes for a level change and the two are stuck in the clinch. Bader tries a judo sweep on Moldavsky but he isn’t swept off his feet. Moldavsky uses this to get on top of Bader. Moldavsky drives knees into the thighs of Bader. He drags Bader down as he tries to get up. Moldavsky finishes the round controlling the back of Bader.
Moldavsky starts the round looking for another takedown of ‘Darth’. Moldavsky tries to get it by controlling the back of Bader but is unsuccessful in keeping Bader on the mat. Moldavsky finally gets the takedown of Bader nearing the last minute of the round. Bader is relentless in his attempts to get back up. Not much occurs in the final minute as Moldavsky rides Bader out, throwing a few punches.
The two get after it on the feet. They both look for a knockout, with both landing in the pocket. Moldavsky dives in for a takedown but is stuffed by Bader. They reset on the feet but the Russian is determined to get ‘Darth’ back on the mat. Bader fires back, getting a double-leg takedown on the interim champion. Bader controls him to the last minute. Moldavsky looks to get back up only to be taken down by Bader. The champion finishes the first championship round on top.
The two get into the clinch in a battle of gritty wrestling exchanges. They separate and trade on the feet. Bader hurts Moldavsky with a crisp combo as he gets the better of the boxing exchanges. The clinch and separate again. Bader attempts another takedown but is ultimately stuffed by the Russian. Moldavsky gets the back of Bader for a moment. He takes him down to the mat. The crowd cheers for the American as his adversary Moldavsky attempts another takedown. Moldavsky controls Bader in the clinch. He gets a big slam of Bader to finish the fight.
Official result: Ryan Bader defeats Valentin Moldavsky via unanimous decision (48-47 x3)