Vadim Nemkov still wears the target on his back and does so proudly.
The Fedor Emelianenko protégé retained his undisputed 205-pound title and advanced to the semifinals of the Bellator MMA light heavyweight grand prix with a unanimous decision over Phil Davis in the Bellator 257 headliner on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. All three judges scored it the same: 48-47 for Nemkov (13-2, 6-0 Bellator), who improved to 2-0 in his head-to-head series with Mr. Wonderful.
Davis (22-6, 9-3 Bellator) struggled to get in gear, and the slow start did him no favors. Nemkov built a commanding lead on the strength of a crisp jab, well-timed punching combinations and occasional kicks to the lower leg. Davis had his moments—he cut the Russian near his left eye with an overhand right in the second round and enjoyed some success in the clinch—but failed to give the champion true pause.
Nemkov will carry an eight-fight winning streak into the tournament semifinals, where he will face either Anthony Johnson or Yoel Romero.
In the co-main event, “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 19 winner Corey Anderson disposed of Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov with third-round punches and elbows to advance to the semifinals of the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix. Yagshimuradov (18-6-1, 0-1 Bellator) bowed out 2:15 into Round 3.
Anderson (15-5, 2-0 Bellator) used the first round to get his bearings, then went to work. He struck for a takedown in the second, advanced to full mount and dropped elbows on Yagshimuradov. With that, the course was charted and the message was sent. Anderson executed another takedown inside the first minute of the third round, climbed to full mount and cut loose with punches and elbows until referee Mike Beltran felt compelled to rescue the battered and bloodied Turkmenistan native.
The loss was Yagshimuradov’s first since Sept. 20, 2015 and closed the book on his career-best eight-fight winning streak.
Meanwhile, Veta Arteaga rebounded from back-to-back losses to Ilima-Lei Macfarlane and Alejandra Lara with a majority decision over promotional newcomer Desiree Yanez in a three-round women’s flyweight showcase. Judges Ron McCarthy and Dave Tirelli struck 29-27 scorecards in Arteaga’s favor, while Eric Colon scored it a 28-28 draw.
Arteaga (6-4, 5-4 Bellator) controlled a majority of the standup exchanges with thudding right hands, jabs and occasional kicks. She received a one-point penalty in the second round after she landed an illegal knee on the grounded Yanez (5-3, 0-1 Bellator). The foul erased a knockdown earlier in the period and put Arteaga in peril she might not have otherwise experienced. Yanez executed two takedowns in the match but failed to consolidate them with positional control or ground-and-pound, and while she opened a small cut on her counterpart’s left eyebrow, her efforts ultimately fell short.
Yanez, 31, now finds herself on a two-fight losing streak.
Elsewhere, former Cage Rage champion Paul Daley cut down Sabah Homasi with punches in the second round of their catchweight feature at 175 pounds. Homasi (15-9, 4-3 Bellator) succumbed to blows 1:44 into Round 2, suffering his first defeat in more than three years.
Daley (42-17-2, 9-4 Bellator) withstood a ferocious assault from the American Top Team export in the first round. Homasi had the brick-fisted Brit reeling with overhand rights on more than one occasion, assumed top position and racked up damage with his ground-and-pound. Daley survived the assault and managed to turn the tide by the end of the period. Early in Round 2, “Semtex” floored Homasi with one of his patented left hooks, trailed him to the mat and closed the deal with unanswered punches.
The 38-year-old Daley has rattled off three straight victories.
In other action, Julia Budd (15-3, 9-1 Bellator) eked out a split decision—29-28, 28-29, 29-28—over promotional newcomer Dayana Silva (9-6, 0-1 Bellator) in the featured women’s featherweight prelim; Julius Anglickas (10-1, 3-0 Bellator) took a unanimous decision from Gregory Milliard (12-6, 1-2 Bellator) in a three-round light heavyweight battle, drawing 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 marks from all three cageside judges; Steve Mowry (9-0, 5-0 Bellator) put away Shaun Asher (13-4-1, 0-2 Bellator) with a knee strike and follow-up punches 55 seconds into the first round of their heavyweight clash; Grachik Bozinyan (11-4, 1-1 Bellator) was awarded a unanimous decision over Demarques Jackson (11-5, 1-1 Bellator) in a three-round welterweight scrap, sweeping the scorecards with 30-27, 29-28 and 29-28 marks from the cageside judges; Raymond Daniels (3-1, 3-0 Bellator) captured a unanimous decision over Peter Stanonik (4-5, 0-1 Bellator) in a three-round welterweight encounter, carrying the cards with 30-26, 30-27 and 30-26 scores from the judges; Lance Gibson Jr. (4-0, 2-0 Bellator) took a unanimous verdict from Marcus Surin (6-3, 2-3 Bellator) in a three-round lightweight confrontation, earning 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 nods on the scorecards; Karl Albrektsson (11-3, 1-1 Bellator) laid claim to a unanimous decision over Viktor Nemkov (30-8-1, 0-1 Bellator) in a three-round light heavyweight tilt, drawing 30-27 marks from all three judges; Mads Burnell (15-3, 2-0 Bellator) submitted Saul Rogers (14-4, 2-2 Bellator) with a rear-naked choke 4:08 into the second round of their featherweight affair; and Jay-Jay Wilson (8-0, 7-0 Bellator) put away Pedro Carvalho (11-5, 4-2 Bellator) with punches 53 seconds into the second round of their featherweight pairing.