The 28-year-old Russian dropped Bader with a head kick before a swarm that produced two more knockdowns, the latter of which came as the champ ran away. After Bader’s legs went limp and he slumped to the canvas, the bout was mercifully called off at the 3:02 mark of the second round.
“I was actually more surprised that the referee wasn’t stopping the fight,” said Nemkov, who picked up his fifth straight win under the Bellator and his first title in a major MMA promotion. “I sent him to the canvas three times, but I did what I had to do to stop the fight.”
From the outset, it was clear Nemkov had an advantage in speed and technique. He kept Bader guessing with varied attacks that were timed to maximum effect, going downstairs to the body before sniping upstairs with right and left hands. A pair of kicks late in the first nearly made full connection, providing a preview of coming attractions.
“When we studied film, we saw he doesn’t do very well when he’s backing up, getting bullied,” said Nemkov, who was flanked inside the Bellator cage by his mentor, Fedor Emelianenko, who was stopped by Bader in the finals of the promotion’s heavyweight grand prix. “Obviously, it paid dividends.”
Bader appeared out of stop and overly reliant on his trademark right hand, which he wound up and threw like he was looking for the knockout. He managed to connect once, and his other best weapon, a double-leg takedown, appeared to provide a path to victory. But it was a short-lived success.
Shortly after the start of the second frame, Nemkov cracked Bader with a straight right that had an immediate effect. The head kick that produced the first knockdown led to more punches, and referee Kerry Hatley did not step in despite a flurry of follow-ups as Nemkov pounced on Bader. Somehow, Bader managed to get up, only to be dropped again and mounted. The final escape attempt wrested the belt from the UFC veteran and put it around his Russian counterpart