In the co-main event, the first semifinal pits onetime champ Ryan Bader against former Ultimate Fighting Championship contender Corey Anderson. One man will advance to the final, and either Bader will earn a shot at regaining the belt or Anderson will continue to prove the UFC’s folly in letting him go as a Top 5 fighter.
The other semifinal presents a slightly more complicated storyline, as reigning champ Vadim Nemkov had been scheduled to take on Anthony Johnson, before “Rumble” was forced to withdraw due to illness. Into the place of the fearsome knockout artist steps 10-1 Julius Anglickas, who will have the opportunity to shock the world — as Nemkov’s title is on the line each time he appears in the tournament, Anglickas could actually enter the final as the defending champion.
While Anglickas will be a prohibitive underdog in that endeavor, such an upset would be emblematic of the very interesting place Bellator’s light heavyweight division has become. When Nemkov dethroned Bader at Bellator 244 last August, it felt like the thaw after an ice age. The title had finally changed hands after being defended only once in the previous three years, as Bader made an extended foray into the heavyweight division. Better yet, Nemkov himself has been a breath of fresh air; while the light heavyweight division worldwide is perceived to be aging and lacking in depth, Nemkov is Bellator’s only champion under 30.
Here is the 10-year history of the Bellator light heavyweight title and the times it was won, lost or defended. It tells the story of a division breaking out of a long period of stagnation and experiencing a dynamic new age with a young champion at its head.
Ben Duffy/Sherdog.com illustration