Ryan Bader will finally defend his Bellator heavyweight championship again for the first time in more than two years.

On Monday, the promotion announced that Bader will put his title on the line against top contender and Fedor Emelianenko pupil Valentin Moldavsky at Bellator 273 on Jan. 29 at Footprint Center in Phoenix. The event will air on Showtime following prelims streamed on YouTube.

Bader (28-7 MMA, 6-2 BMMA) hasn’t competed at heavyweight since Sept. 7, 2019 when he retained his title in a no contest with Cheick Kongo after an accidental eye poke ended the fight in the first round. Since then, Bader has focused on light heavyweight.

Upon Bellator resuming events after a hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Bader lost his 205-pound title to Vadim Nemkov at Bellator 244 in August 2020. Rather than defend his heavyweight title following the loss, Bader instead opted to enter the Bellator light heavyweight grand prix where he defeated Lyoto Machida by unanimous decision before most recently losing to Corey Anderson by first-round TKO in the semifinals this past October.

Now Bader will turn his attention back to heavyweight and Moldavsky (11-1 MMA, 6-0 BMMA). During a six-fight Bellator winning streak, Moldavsky has defeated the likes of Linton Vassell, Javy Ayala, Roy Nelson, and most recently Tim Johnson this past June. Five of Moldavsky’s six wins during his streak have been unanimous decisions.

In addition to the heavyweight title headliner, Bellator also announced a bantamweight bout between former champion Darrion Caldwell and UFC veteran Enrique Barzola.

Caldwell (15-5 MMA, 12-5 BMMA) will look to snap a two-fight losing streak, which includes a first-round submission against featherweight champ A.J. McKee in the promotion’s grand prix in November 2020. Caldwell returned to bantamweight this past May at Bellator 259 where he lost a split decision in a rematch with Leandro Higo.

For Barzola (16-5-2 MMA, 0-0 BMMA), the fight will be his promotional debut following his exit from the UFC where he went 6-3-1 from November 2015 to March 2020. Barzola closed out his UFC tenure with a majority draw against Rani Yahya.


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