Five for Fighting: Bellator 268 / UFC Vegas 40

Vadim Nemkov vs. Julius Anglickas – Bellator 268

Vadim Nemkov will put his light-heavyweight title on the line in the Bellator 268 main event. Julius Anglickas will step into this fight on short notice as a replacement for Anthony Johnson who was forced to pull out as result of an injury. As well as being a title fight, this contest will also serve as a semi-final of the 205-pound Grand Prix with either Ryan Bader or Corey Anderson waiting in the wings. Since beating Ryan Bader for the strap, Nemkov will make the defence of his title for the second time. The Russian phenom has looked unstoppable in his Bellator tenure and is undefeated with the promotion. Nemkov has picked up six wins since making his Bellator debut at Bellator 182 in 2017, four of those wins have come by stoppage including his knockout victory over Ryan Bader which won him the title. Phil Davis failed to cause the champ any issues in his last outing with Nemkov taking home a unanimous decision on all three scorecards.

Julius Anglickas will be the next challenger and Lithuanian fighter really has very little to lose in this battle. Anglickas was not meant to be apart of this tournament but was happy to step in after Rumble Johnson’s injury. Anglickas fought and won on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2019 but he did not do enough to win himself a contract. Soon after the light-heavyweight signed for Bellator and made his debut at Bellator 233 in 2019. Three fights and three wins later and he finds himself in a title fight. A lot of people will say its too soon, or it’s undeserved, I think back to the old Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix. The winner of that tournament was Daniel Cormier, who stepped in at short notice, as an alternate and won out the entire thing. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Anglickas gets his hand raised in this main event but it will be an absolute massive task.

Nemkov is a huge puzzle for his opponents to try and solve. He’s got one-shot knockout power, great wrestling defence but also is comfortable on the mat which we seen against Rafael Carvalho who the champ submitted by rear-naked choke. Anglickas is very good on the feet, he hits hard and can be successful if he comes in here with a solid gameplan. I don’t see the Lithuanian getting a finish but if he can go in there and fight an all out technical stand-up kinda fight, he may very well be able to get the job done. That will be easier said than done as after all he is going to be locked inside a cage with Vadim Nemkov for at least 25-minutes, if he is to make it all 25 I would see that as somewhat of a win for the challenger. Overall I think the champ takes this fight inside the distance.

Ryan Bader vs. Corey Anderson – Bellator 268

Ryan Bader is on a mission to claim back his 205-pound title and Corey Anderson will be the man standing in his way. Anderson has an air of confidence surrounding him since his arrival to the Bellator light-heavyweight ranks. Two wins over Melvin Manhoef and Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov must have helped that confidence tremendously. I feel we seen the best version of “Overtime” in his last out vs. Yagshimuradov and that performance showed that the former UFC contender is coming into his prime as a competitor. Both Bader and Anderson would have a similar set of skills but i would give the speed advantage to Anderson ever so slightly. The power advantage must go to Bader and the former champ boasts 12 wins by way of knockout.

It can’t of been easy balancing two titles, and that was an issue Bader had to deal with until he met Vadim Nemkov. Bader chose to fight fire with fire and in the second round he was finished by his Russian rival. Bader picked up a decision win over Lyoto Machida in the opening round of this Grand Prix. Bader didn’t look super impressive against the aging Brazilian but got the job done nonetheless. Sometimes after a big knockout loss that’s what you’ve got to do. Bader will have to be at the races when he goes up against Anderson on Saturday night, I’m curious to see if he mixes up his striking and grappling a lot more that he has been doing in recent fights. Going tit-for-tat on the feet with Anderson will not be the recipe for success, I think Bader is stronger and more powerful of a grappler and he needs to show that in this fight. I think that if Bader gets control and implements his gameplan in this fight he will be the victor. I think Anderson needs to be technical on the feet, not leave himself open for the takedown and he doesn’t need to be hanging around in the clinch with a guy as strong as Ryan Bader. This fight will be in interesting affair between two well established warriors. I think this fight will be fought over five rounds and I think Ryan Bader will leave the cage as the winner. Really excited to see how this fight unfolds.

Norma Dumont vs. Aspen Ladd – UFC Vegas 40

Aspen Ladd will step in at short notice to take on Norma Dumont in the UFC Vegas 40 headliner. Ladd, and her weight cutting issues, has been a hot topic over the past two week. She looked terrible on the scales the last two times she has tried to hit the 135-pound weight limit. She jumps up to 145 pounds for this fight and fingers crossed that there are no hiccups this time around. Ladd last stepped foot inside the octagon way back in 2019 when she stopped Yana Kunitskaya in the third round. The only person to defeat Ladd, apart from the scales, is Germaine de Randamie. That nothing to be ashamed about for a woman that is only 10 fights into her career. Aspen Ladd is a good powerful striker, her grappling and her ground and pound is next to none. All those facets of her game can only improve with her not having to cut that extra weight.

Norma Dumont has been on a steady rise throughout her young career. She fell victim to a straight right hand from Meagan Anderson which is the only defeat of her career so far. The Brazilian primarily likes to strike and she gets off some powerful shots but also can hold her own on the mat. That was clear to see when she beat Felicia Spencer earlier this year. This is an intriguing matchup as both fighter are so alike and have a similar set of skills. This will be an evenly matched fight that I feel both featherweights will be looking to finish. It’s hard to get a read on hoe Ladd will do at 145-pounds because we haven’t seen compete at this wait. It’s hard to know how badly that tough weight cut will affect her come Saturday night, a 100 percent Aspen Ladd has the skills to get the job done. Dumont will want to have her say, I think both women are going to come out swinging and this fight should be fireworks. I think that Dumont has had a clear run at this fight, she was supposed to fight Holly Holm and won’t really have to change much of her preparations as Ladd will likely want to stand and bang. As this fight progresses I think that it will suit Dumont more so than Ladd and I think the Brazilian will get the job done in her first UFC main event.

Manon Fiorot vs. Mayra Bueno Silva – UFC Vegas 40

Manon Fiorot was beaten by Leah McCourt on her debut in 2018, since then the French woman has been an absolute tear. Fiorot made her name on the African circuit at EFC where she won the flyweight title. Her next stop was Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fiorot joined the UAE Warriors promotion where she put a run together which seen her claim another title at 125 pounds. Manon’s UFC career started in January 2021 when she landed a big head kick and followed up with a flurry of punches to stop Victoria Leonardo in round two. Very impressive octagon debut. Tabatha Ricci stepped in a short notice in Fiorot’s last outing, she was disposed of in the second round also. “The Beast” has ferocious striking, she’s nasty and mean and love to finish fight. That’s everything I love to see in a fighter.

Mayra Bueno Silva will provide the next challenge for the flyweight prospect. A Dana White’s Contender Series alumni in 2018, Silva locked in a first round ninja choke sealed the deal and won her a UFC contract. On her UFC debut, the Brazilian snatched and armbar over Gillian Robertson before dropping a decision to Maryna Moroz which resulted in her first professional defeat. Mara Borella was next to be submitted by Silva which moved her to 1-1 in 2020. Silvia went up against Montana De La Rosa in her last trip to the cage, the judges could not separate both flyweights as the fight ended in a majority draw. This landscape of this fight is quite simple. If Fiorot can keep this standing, Silva will be in for a long evening. If this fight hits the mat, well, that’s where things will get interesting. We have not seen much of the grappling from Fiorot and I’m excited to see how she matches up with a grappler like Silva. I think Fiorot has enough to get the job done and I’m excited to see the progression in her career.

Lance Gibson Jr. vs. Raymond Pina – Bellator 268

Lance Gibson Jr will take on Raymond Pina on the undercard of Bellator 238. Gibson Jr. is the son of fromer UFC competitor Lance Gibson Sr, who was a finalist in the old school Superbrawl Tournaments Stateside and also competed in the UFC for a brief spell. Gibson Jr. has his dad and his stepmom, and former Bellator featherweight champion Julia Budd in his corner so he is well looked after in that regard. The Canadian was undefeated in his short amateur career and has continued to remain undefeated in his first four professional bouts. The 26-year old opened with two finishes on the regional scene before moving over to Bellator’s lightweight division. Gibson Jr. snacthed another finish when he secured back mount on Dominic Jones and hammered him with elbows, forcing the ref to take action and fight was waved off in the very first round. Marcus Surin fell short again Gibson Jr. when they met at Bellator at 257, that win ensure he maintained his undefeated streak coming into this tussle with Pina.

Raymond Pina will step into the cage as the more experienced competitor on Saturday night and he will also make his second debut under the Bellator banner. At 3-0 Pina competed at Bellator 126 and was submitted in the second round. He went and picked up a couple of wins on the regional scene and will be looking to kick off his second stint with a win. Out of Pina’s 9 wins four have come by submission and two have come by knockout. You would have to feel that getting this fight to the ground early to try and Gibson Jr. is Pina’s best chance at success. Gibson Jr. will have other ideas and I do feel that he is the better, more well rounded guy entering this fight and I expect to see his hand raised at the end of this battle.

Ian O'Neill is the host of the SevereMMA UFC Preview show and one of the co-hosts of The Auld Triangle - Irish MMA podcast. You can find more of Ian's work on the SevereMMA Patreon where he co-hosts The Chasing Pack and The Contender. Follow him on Twitter and on Instagram @ioneillmma

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