NEW YORK -- #RyanBader made good on his first opportunity to fight for a major MMA title.
Taking on incumbent champion #PhilDavis in the #Bellator180 headlining prelim, Bader bested “Mr. Wonderful” for the second straight contest, more than two years after their first mixed martial arts bout, taking the split decision: 49-46, 47-48, 49-46.
The bout got off to a slow start, with both Bader and Davis using the first two rounds, and the majority of the third, to gauge distance and timing. Neither Davis nor Bader were able to land any significant strikes, as the two parried and paced around the circular cage.
Midway through the third, Davis connected on a superman punch that landed flush to Bader’s jaw, but the strike did minimal damage as the Bellator rookie came right back to convert on a takedown at the end of the round.
Coming out for the fourth round, Davis and Bader returned to their conservative game plans, racing around the cage looking for non-existent openings.
With minimal action throughout, the contest was briefly halted, with referee Dan Miragliotta ordering both fighters to engage. The instructions did little to change the result; however, as Davis and Bader continued to evade each other.
The result did not come without controversy, as it appeared that Davis landed strikes at a higher volume, favoring the superman punch while throwing a bevy of high kicks that never quite hit the mark.
In the final round, Bader converted on a crucial takedown, briefly bringing Davis to the mat for the second time. And while the bout played out predominantly on the feet, it was the wrestling that made the difference.
With the victory, Bader has now won three-straight contests overall, while Davis drops his first bout under the Bellator banner, falling to 4-1 in the circular cage.