Vanderford wins Bellator 251 fight by decision, moves to 10-0
Austin Vanderford of Ninilchik got the win he wanted – he just didn’t win the way he wanted.
The fourth-year pro scored a unanimous decision victory over Brazil’s Vinicius De Jesus at the Bellator 251 main card at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.
Vanderford won 30-26, 30-27, 30-27 on the judges’ scorecard.
“Man, honestly, I wanted to get that finish so bad,” he said. “I feel like I need to finish guys like that. No disrespect to him, but I had him in spots and I need to get the finish there.”
Vanderford, of Ninilchik High fame, improved to 10-0 for his career and 4-0 in the Bellator middleweight division.
This was his first fight in a full year, in large part because in September he tested positive for COVID and had to pull out of Bellator 246.
“I’m really thankful to be back and I’m excited to get back in, honestly,” Vanderford said with a laugh.
At Bellator 251, he was supposed to fight Chris Curtis, but Curtis had to pull out after testing positive for COVID. De Jesus (9-4) filled in as a late replacement.
After the fighters felt each other out a bit at the beginning, Vanderford took control for good and finished the first round pinning De Jesus to the fence and pounding him with blows.
“I got my jab working,” he said. “I need to straight out my right hand a little bit. I’m pretty sure I broke it midway through the first. It was hard to get a grip, but I went out and got the job down.”
Vanderford, 30, came out swinging in the second round and almost immediately landed two lefts and an overhand right before executing a double-leg takedown.
.@AustinV170MMA is looking relentless in the first moments of round 2️⃣.
— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) November 6, 2020
In the third round, Vanderford used a ground-and-pound strategy to wear down his opponent and show off his celebrated wrestling background.
He was a NAIA national champion and two-time All-American at Southern Oregon University. He also won two high school state titles in Alaska.
He can always fall back on his ground game, but he doesn’t want to be known as a wrestler.
“I’m a fighter,” he said.
This fighter continues to climb the Bellator ranks in the middleweight division, earning more respect with each win.
He isn’t talking title shot.
“I still think I got a lot of room to grow to get to that point. When I fight for the title, I want people to know that I deserve this,” Vanderford said.
He believes his trainers at American Top Team will prepare him to take that next step.
“I’ve got some really great guys in my corner. They are going to take me to the next level, for sure,” he said.
MMA wins by notable Alaska fighters
16 Cody McKenzie Cordova
15 Jake Heun Palmer
14 Lauren Murphy Eagle River
13 Jared Cannonier Anchorage
13 Doug Evans Anchorage
10 Austin Vanderford Ninilchik