Ryan Bader took a narrow decision victory over Phil Davis in the Bellator 180 headliner on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York, taking the now-former light heavyweight champion’s belt in the process.
Davis and Bader first met under the UFC banner in 2015. Bader won that bout via a split decision. Davis made the move to Bellator following that fight and won his first four bouts for the promotion, including capturing the light heavyweight championship.
Bader eventually followed Davis to Bellator and it didn’t bode well for the champion in their rematch.
Bader and Davis each had moments where the momentum seemed to swing to his favor, but neither committed to the multi-part combinations that could mount some serious damage. Both had difficultly getting out of the mode of throwing one and two-part attacks that, while at times stinging, never did much damage.
A difficult fight to score, Davis appeared busier throughout most of the fight and landed a superman punch followed by a left hook early in round three that was the combination of the fight. Bader, however, turned up his output late in the fight and scored on a couple takedown attempts, while stuffing all of Davis’ attempts, leading the judges to split their scorecards.
While one judge scored the bout 48-47 for Davis, the other two scored it 49-46 in Bader’s favor. Bader again bested Davis by split decision, but this time he took his belt in the process.