Phil Davis defeated Cuban Yoel Romero by split decision (30-27, 28-29, 30-26) on Saturday night at Bellator 266 in San Jose, California, throwing some cold water on Romero’s anticipated debut in Bellator.
Davis edged out Romero on his feet and then used his fight to seal things off in the third and final round.
“He’s a monster,” Davis said. “I felt that power more times than I wanted tonight.”
The fight wasn’t as close as the split decision might have indicated, but the first two rounds were really close. The former was mostly inactive, but Davis landed slightly cleaner shots. In the second, Romero landed some tough combinations and a calf kick that briefly doubled Davis. But at the end of the round, Davis was able to take the fight with a one-two combination that briefly knocked Romero off balance, followed by a kick to the body.
Davis, a former NCAA Division I national wrestling champion at Penn State, went for his bread and butter in the third round, which was a gamble, considering Romero is a former Olympic wrestling silver medalist. But Davis dropped Romero four times in the round, completely stifling any chance that Romero could come back.
Davis (23-6, 1 NC) has won four of his last five fights. He fell to Bellator light heavyweight champion Vadim Nemkov in the quarterfinals of the Bellator Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix in April. Davis, 36, is a former Bellator light heavyweight champion and a light heavyweight grand prize winner. He is 10-3 at Bellator since 2015 after a run as a top contender in the UFC.
Romero (13-5) had not fought since falling to Israel Adesanya in a fight for the UFC middleweight title at UFC 248 in March 2020. Romero left the UFC in December 2020 and signed with Bellator. The Cuban was supposed to be in the Bellator light heavyweight tournament, but had to withdraw because he failed to pass his medical exams earlier this year. Romero, 44, has a win in his last six fights, but has fought elite competition.