Bellator 288 Recap

Photo Credit: MMAjunkie.USAtoday

Two world titles were on the line at Bellator 288 in Chicago with Usman Nurmagomedov putting on a masterful performance dethroning Lightweight champion Patricky “Pitbull”.

Vadim Nemkov vs Cory Anderson

Vadim Nemkov and Cory Anderson had unfinished business to settle in the Main Event of Bellator 288. This was the final fight in the Bellator Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix and a rematch from April, where the first fight ended with an accidental headbutt. In the first matchup, Anderson was able to impose his will through relentless takedowns and effective ground and pound. That is not what happened Friday night, however, as Nemkov’s takedown defense had vastly improved. In the first round, Nemkov connected with Anderson with a beautiful spinning back kick that scored him a knockdown. This was a dominant round for the champion and set the tone for the rest of the fight.

In rounds two and three Anderson was more hesitant to rush in for takedowns but was having good moments with his boxing at times. These were both close rounds that saw Nemkov outland Anderson on the official strike stats. Nemkov was using effective jabs and leg kicks at distance to pull away from Anderson. Anderson attempted 15 Takedowns in this matchup doing all that he could to get the fight to the ground.

This highly entertaining contest was fought at a very high pace. Nemkov fought a brilliant fight, winning the exchanges in the clinch to keep Anderson away then battering his legs with kicks. After five rounds the judges unanimously scored the fight in favor of the champion Nemkov (49-46, 49-46, 48-47).

What’s Next for the Champion

With this victory, Nemkov extended his winning streak to 10 while also coming home with the million-dollar prize money. Vadim is a tremendous fighter who has fought all over the world. He previously fought UFC light heavyweight champion, Jiri Prochazka, in Japan and has not lost since 2016. Nemkov will now face former UFC middleweight title challenger Yoel Romero (15-6) in his next championship defense.

Usman Nurmagomedov vs Patricky “Pitbull” Freire

In Bellator’s Lightweight title fight, Usman Nurmagomedov (16-0) put on a mixed martial arts clinic dethroning champion Patricky “Pitbull” in a one-sided matchup. Coming into this fight the 24-year-old Nurmagomedov had never faced competition inside the Bellator top 5 rankings. Some thought this would be too much too soon for the highly touted Russian phenom. However, it was quickly apparent that Nurmagomedov was more than ready for the moment.

Every round of this contest was controlled by Nurmagomedov who took this fight wherever he wanted. On the feet, he showed incredible kickboxing technique that you rarely see out of a European wrestling prospect. Through three rounds Nurmagomedov had out-landed his opponent 115-13 on the total strike statistics. Nurmagomedov entered this fight as a -700 favorite over the champion Freire, making him one of the largest betting favorites of any challenger in a world title bout.

Nurmagomedov showed tremendous poise and patience on the feet avoiding the powerful punches of Pitbull the entire fight. It seemed like the younger contender had the seasoned champion stuck in the mud. Pitbull had no answer for the lateral movement and speed of Nurmagomedov. Usman showed incredible creativity in the striking exchanges, throwing spinning techniques to keep Freire thinking and confused. After 5 rounds the judges unanimously scored the contest in favor of Nurmagomedov, two even awarding him 10-8 rounds (50-45, 50-44, 50-44).

How Good can Usman Nurmagomedov Be?

Being the cousin of former pound-for-pound king Khabib Nurmagomedov, Usman has a tremendous last name to live up to. The Numagomedovs are now a combined 60-0 between the family and some think that Usman could be the best of them all. Coming from the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, Nurmagomedov trains with the absolute best-sparring partners in the world.

Usman is now the first Dagastani champion in Bellator history at just 24 years old. If Nurmagomedov continues his pattern of hard work and continues to physically mature, he may turn into the best fighter on earth. Nurmagomedov is well from his prime and is making veterans of the sport look lost at times. He is a tremendous talent that will sell many tickets for Bellator in the future. In his first title defense, he may be matched up against Aj Mckee (19-1), depending on how Mckee’s contest on New Year’s Eve in Japan turns out.


Bellator’s Prelims were live on Youtube and featured some entertaining matchups. Tyrell Fortune took on Daniel James in a fun heavyweight fight. Fortune imposed his will in the first round taking the fight to the ground and controlling his opponent. However, James flipped the script in round two landing a big right-hand uppercut that put Fortune out. This was a back-and-forth contest that saw the Chicago native score a big knockout in front of his hometown fans. Also, on the prelims, Archie Colgan scored a 50-second knockout in his lightweight fight. Next for Bellator will be a big card from Mohegan Sun featuring Danny Sabatello vs Raufeon Stots in the Featherweight World Grand Prix.

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