Bellator will look for an interim heavyweight champion on Friday night, as Timothy Johnson and Valentin Moldavsky will battle for the vacant belt in the main event of Bellator 261.
The fight sits atop a 10-bout card that is set to take place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, USA.
Follow along throughout the evening for live updates.
A preview of the card can be read here.
Preliminary Card (6:30PM EDT) (Youtube)
Bout 1: Soren Bak def. Bobby Lee via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 2: Corey Samuels def. Isaiah Hokit via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 0:10)
Bout 3: Jaylon Bates def. Cody Matthews via Submission, Armbar (RD 2, 4:04)
Bout 4: Taylor Johnson def. Lance Wright via Submission, Rear Naked Choke (RD 1, 2:58)
Bout 5: John de Jesus def. John Macapa via Decision, Split
Main Card (9:00PM EDT) (Showtime)
Bout 6: Christian Edwards def. Simon Biyong via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 7: Daniel Weichel def. Keoni Diggs via Decision, Split
Bout 8: Sidney Outlaw def. Myles Jury via Submission, Rear Naked Choke (RD 3, 4:44)
Bout 9: Liz Carmouche def. Kana Watanabe via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 0:35)
Bout 10: Valentin Moldavsky def. Timothy Johnson via Decision, Unanimous (Vacant Interim Bellator Heavyweight Championship)
Bout 10: Timothy Johnson (15-6) vs. Valentin Moldavsky (10-1) (Vacant Interim Bellator Heavyweight Championship)
Moldavsky Gets Decision Nod Over Johnson, Claims Interim Heavyweight Belt
Valentin Moldavsky became the interim Bellator Heavyweight Champion on Friday night, getting the unanimous decision nod over Timothy Johnson after five rounds of striking action (50-45, 49-46 & 49-46).
Johnson and Moldvasky traded strikes on the feet throughout the 25 minutes of fight time.
Moldavsky spent a large portion of the fight circling the outside of the Bellator cage. He would come close to unload with shots or drive in for a clinch on Johnson.
Moldavsky attempted a few takedowns throughout the fight, although he was only able to get Johnson down to his knees briefly.
While both fighters didn’t take major amounts of damage, a cut opened around the right eye of Johnson in the fourth round.
“I thought it was going to be a little easier [of] a fight, but it is what it is,” said Moldavsky through a translator in his post-fight interview.
The interim title win sets Moldavsky up for a fight against Bellator Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader at a later date. Bader is currently busy with a commitment to Bellator’s eight-man tournament in the light heavyweight division currently.
The win on Friday continued Moldavsky’s undefeated run in Bellator. He has now scored six wins in the promotion, including notable wins over veterans like Linton Vassell and Roy Nelson.
Johnson was placed in the interim title position after stringing together a three-fight win streak last year. The momentum started with a huge upset in early 2020 over then-undefeated Tyrell Fortune.
Bout 9: Liz Carmouche (15-7) vs. Kana Watanabe (10-0-1) (Flyweight)
Carmouche Stops Watanabe Within A Minute, Stakes Claim For Title Shot
Liz Carmouche scored a big win in the co-main event, stopping Kana Watanabe within a minute with fast punches.
Carmouche backed Watanabe up immediately with punches. With Watanabe against the cage, Carmouche strung together a series of hard punches that went unanswered and forced the referee to end the bout eventually.
Carmouche called for a flyweight title fight following the victory.
“I want that belt, and I knew I had to put on a strong finish to show that that’s what I meant,” said Carmouche.
A title fight for Carmouche can’t happen immediately, although she could be one of the next in line for a fight. Bellator Flyweight Champion Juliana Velasquez is currently tied up with a commitment to fight on July 16th against Denise Kielholtz in the main event of Bellator 262.
Carmouche now has three consecutive wins in Bellator. The former UFC title challenger scored a submission win in her promotional debut last year, stopping DeAnna Bennett with a rear naked choke.
She earned a decision win just two months back, defeating Vanessa Porto.
Watanabe was returning after defeating Alejandra Lara via split decision in her U.S. debut.
Bout 8: Myles Jury (19-5) vs. Sidney Outlaw (15-4) (Lightweight)
Outlaw Concludes Strong Showing With Submission
Sidney Outlaw capped off a dominant performance over Myles Jury with a rear naked choke submission in their final minute of action.
Outlaw’s submission came after nearly three rounds of control on the ground.
Outlaw was able to quickly get on the back of Jury in every round of the fight. From that position, he would grind away with punches and rear naked choke attempts.
Outlaw eventually secured the choke under the chin of Jury in the final minute of the bout, causing an eventual tap out.
The grinding win for Outlaw was displeasing for the live crowd, who booed after the result for the fight was read.
Outlaw has now won two straight fights, with his previous outing being a split decision against Adam Piccolotti.
The bout snapped a two-fight win streak that Jury had attained in 2020.
Bout 7: Daniel Weichel (40-12) vs. Keoni Diggs (9-0) (Featherweight)
Weichel Hands Diggs First Pro Loss
Daniel Weichel handed Keoni Diggs his first pro loss on Friday with a split decision (29-28 Weichel, 29-28 Diggs & 30-27 Weichel). The victory went to Weichel after a fast-paced striking battle through three rounds.
Both fighters competed at a hectic pace throughout, often trading in back-and-forth exchanges. At no point did the fight hit the ground, with both featherweights having the intention of keeping it at stand-up range.
Diggs was making the move down to featherweight for the first time in his career after previously being active at lightweight. He had an undefeated record of nine wins heading into Friday’s bout, including two victories in Bellator.
The victory put Weichel back into the win column. He fought for five rounds in his previous bout, losing on scorecards to Emmanuel Sanchez.
Bout 6: Christian Edwards (4-0) vs. Simon Biyong (7-1) (Light Heavyweight)
Edwards Scores Fifth Win, Builds Upon Undefeated Record
22-year-old prospect Christian Edwards advanced his pro record to five straight wins on Friday, fighting to a unanimous decision win against promotional newcomer Simon Biyong (30-27, 30-27 & 30-27).
Edwards showcased his striking skills throughout, landing clean shots throughout and keeping a strong pace. Biyong was hurt in the first round with a knee to the head from a clinch position.
Biyong was warned before the second round that the fight would be stopped if he got hurt more.
Edwards now has five wins as a pro. The victory on Friday was his second time going the distance, with his three other appearances being stoppage victories.
He apologized after his win for not finishing the fight, saying that Biyong was a tough opponent for him.
Biyong, a former EFC Light Heavyweight Champion, was entering Bellator on a four-fight winning streak. His last victory was in late 2019, where he defeated Vitaly Shemetov on a RIZIN card.
The light heavyweights were paired up after both of their original opponents for the card were pulled from the lineup.
Bout 5: John Macapa (23-5-2) vs. John de Jesus (13-9) (Featherweight)
De Jesus Prevails In Stand-Up Battle Against Macapa
John de Jesus prevailed in a close striking battle to close out the prelims, fighting to a split decision over Bellator vet John Macapa (29-28 de Jesus, 29-28 Macapa & de Jesus).
Macapa walked de Jesus down throughout the fight, but de Jesus would explode forward with combinations or singular shots throughout the fight.
De Jesus was stunned late in the fight, getting rocked by a two-punch combo in the final minute of the bout.
De Jesus was returning after being knocked out by Aaron Pico last year. He won his promotional debut earlier in 2020, defeating Vladyslav Parubchenko.
He called out Adam Borics after the fight.
“I’ve been saying this kid’s name since I got to Bellator. Adam Borics … You can’t duck me anymore,” said de Jesus to Borics in his post-fight interview.
Macapa was appearing for the first time in over a year. The Bellator veteran’s previous appearance was in late 2019, where he lost a decision to Mikuru Asakura.
Bout 4: Taylor Johnson (6-2) vs. Lance Wright (5-1) (Middleweight)
Johnson Bounces Back With Quick Submission Win
Taylor Johnson returned to the win column on Friday, securing a rear naked choke submission over Lance Wright in the first round.
Johnson secured the choke a minute after taking the back of Wright during a scramble position. Wright was able to resist a takedown attempt halfway through the round by sprawling out, although Johnson kept with the attempt and eventually got on his back.
After adjusting the choke, Wright eventually submitted to end the fight.
Johnson fought twice in Bellator last year. He entered the promotion in September with a fast first-minute heel hook over Ed Ruth. One month later, he lost a unanimous decision to Johnny Eblen.
Wright was making his Bellator debut in the bout. He was competing for the first time in a year.
Bout 3: Jaylon Bates (2-0) vs. Cody Matthews (1-1) (Bantamweight)
Bates Earns Third Win In Rookie Pro Year
Jaylon Bates earned the third win in his rookie year as a pro, submitting Cody Matthews in the second round with an armbar.
Bates showed his skills on the ground throughout, scoring takedowns and keeping dominant positions over Matthews. He secured the finish victory in the second round after numerous minutes of control over Matthews.
Bates now has three wins in the Bellator cage. His two previous victories saw him score a guillotine choke sub and a unanimous decision win.
Matthews was paired with Bates after earning his first pro win last year.
Bout 2: Isaiah Hokit (0-0) vs. Corey Samuels (2-2) (Lightweight)
Samuels Ends Hokit’s Pro Debut In 10 Seconds
Lightweight underdog Corey Samuels spoiled the MMA debut of Isaiah Hokit, stopping him in just 10 seconds with strikes on the prelims.
Samuels came forward early with punches that backed Hokit up. He dropped Hokit with a left cross, then knocked him out with ground and pound to finish the fight.
Hokit was making his pro debut after a run as a collegiate wrestler. He had not competed as an amateur in MMA before opting to fight as a pro.
Samuels now has a pro record of three wins and two losses.
Bout 1: Soren Bak (14-1) vs. Bobby Lee (12-5) (Lightweight)
Bak Uses Grappling To Defeat Lee In U.S. Debut
Soren Bak won his U.S. debut in the opening bout of the show, using his grappling skills to defeat Bobby Lee via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-27 & 29-27).
Control time and accumulative strikes from Bak was what earned him the victory.
Lee was able to score takedowns early in rounds, although Bak was often able to move to the back of Lee to notch control time.
The final round was the most dominant for Bak, as he landed punches and attempted submissions while on the back of Lee for many minutes.
Bak, a former two-division Cage Warriors Champion, was returning after over a year outside of the cage. His previous bout was in late 2019, where he defeated Terry Brazier in his first Bellator appearance.
Lee lost his Bellator debut in his previous fight, being defeated by Joey Davis via unanimous decision.