Vadim Nemkov had the biggest win of his career in April. The Bellator light heavyweight champion earned his first title defense by beating Phil Davis, the former Bellator champ and UFC stalwart at 205 pounds, via unanimous decision.
It was a victory that made it impossible for the greater MMA world to ignore the quiet Russian fighter. Nemkov is now firmly established as one of the best light heavyweights on the planet, regardless of promotion. ESPN ranks Nemkov No. 5 in the weight class worldwide.
Yet, despite the significance of the victory, Nemkov was unhappy about the sheer aesthetic of the fight.
“The way my last fight with Phil Davis unfolded was completely unexpected, and it didn’t go according to my plan at all,” he said in an interview with Bellator this month. “I couldn’t relax. This is why the fight was so slow.”
Nemkov is promising a different story this time around. He puts the title on the line against Julius Anglickas in the main event of Bellator 268 on Saturday in Phoenix. That bout will double as a semifinal in the Bellator Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix. Nemkov’s original opponent, two-time UFC title challenger Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, withdrew due to “serious” illness.
That Nemkov will be a more than 3-to-1 favorite against Anglickas suggests there is no longer doubt surrounding the 29-year-old champ, a protégé of the legendary Fedor Emelianenko. Nemkov already had a win over Davis coming into the April bout, but it was by split decision in a fight many thought Davis won. Nemkov left no doubt in the rematch. And now, with that five-round fight under his belt, he believes he’ll have an even better approach.
“The most important lesson I was able to take away from that fight was that now I know I can fight five rounds at a high speed,” Nemkov said. “It gave me a lot more confidence in my cardio.”
He will need those things in this tournament, even if not against the replacement Anglickas. If Nemkov wins Saturday, he’ll defend his title in…
Source : espn