Riding an almost scary level of momentum, Corey Anderson continues to turn heads in the Bellator MMA cage. Saturday’s first-round TKO of former champion Ryan Bader has him on the verge of his first title shot.
Anderson (16-5) needed just 51 seconds of his Bellator Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix semifinal bout to finish Bader (28-7, 1 NC) in the co-main event of Bellator 268 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The win was Anderson’s third — all by stoppage — since being let go of his UFC contract early in order for him to sign with Bellator as a free agent in 2020.
The victory allows Anderson to advance to the finals of the tournament where he will get both a title shot and a chance to fight for the $1 million tournament prize.
“[Coach] Mark Henry is a mad scientist,” Anderson said. “I sparred with [Bader] and I knew he leans into the jab. When it landed, I knew it was over and he wasn’t getting up.”
The fight was filled with tension for as long as it lasted as both stalked forward with aggression. But a counter right hand from Anderson looped perfectly over Bader’s guard to catch him on the side of the left ear and drop him.
Anderson, 32, swarmed in and let his hands go with fury from top position to force the stoppage by referee Jason Herzog under one minute into the fight.
The victory was validation for Anderson, who spent the majority of the fight’s build bragging about having got the best of Bader in 2017 when he brought Anderson in as a sparring partner for his rematch with Phil Davis. Although Bader had dismissed the notion throughout fight week, Anderson had the last laugh.
“As for my career, it feels amazing,” Anderson said. “For everything I have been through and everything I have done, this is truly a blessing. With Ryan being a friend of mine, I hate that we had to fight each other like this but somebody had to lose.”
Bader, 38, fell to 1-2 with one no contest in his last four bouts. The reigning Bellator heavyweight champion lost his 205-pound title to Vadim Nemkov via first-round TKO in 2020.
Anderson improved to 7-1 since 2018 with his only loss coming via first-round knockout to current UFC light heavyweight champion Jan Blachowicz before coming to Bellator.