Bellator 261: Johnson vs. Moldavsky Preview

Timothy Johnson and Valentin Moldavsky face off with Scott Coker holding a Bellator Championship between them.
Timothy Johnson and Valentin Moldavsky will fight for an interim heavyweight belt on Friday. (Bellator)

With current Bellator Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader busy with duties in the light heavyweight division, Bellator has decided to find an interim champ for the time being. That new champ will be crowned on Friday night when Valentin Moldavsky faces Timothy Johnson.

The fight headlines a 10-bout card that will take place at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, USA.

Here’s a full preview of the show.

Click here to skip to a preview of the main card.

Preliminary Card (6:30PM EDT) (Youtube)

Bout 1: Soren Bak (14-1) vs. Bobby Lee (12-5) (Lightweight)

Former Cage Warriors Lightweight Champion Soren Bak will make his U.S. MMA debut in the opening bout of the prelims, fighting Bobby Lee.

Bak fought in Cage Warriors from 2017 to 2019, where he went undefeated through five fights. This included wins over notable fighters like Morgan Charriere and Paddy Pimblett.

He made the move to Bellator in 2019, defeating Terry Brazier via unanimous decision on a European card.

He now fights Lee, who is returning after losing his Bellator debut last year to Joey Davis. Lee made the move to Bellator in 2020 after earning an interim CFFC belt with a win over Mike Hill.

Bout 2: Isaiah Hokit (0-0) vs. Corey Samuels (2-2) (Lightweight)

Former collegiate wrestler Isaiah Hokit will make his pro MMA debut when facing Corey Samuels on Friday.

Hokit is making the jump to MMA after wrestling at Fresno State University. He enters Friday without any experience in amateur MMA.

His opponent, Samuels, has lost two of four bouts since turning pro in 2018. He snapped a two-fight skid in August, defeating Gabriel Freyre.

Bout 3: Jaylon Bates (2-0) vs. Cody Matthews (1-1) (Bantamweight)

Attempting to score a third win in his rookie year as a pro, Jaylon Bates will fight Cody Matthews in a bantamweight bout.

Bates went the full three rounds against Joe Supino in November to win his pro debut. He returned two months back, submitting Jeffrey Glossner in the second round with a rear naked choke.

Matthews is being matched with Bates after earning his first pro win last year, defeating Israel Galvan.

Bout 4: Taylor Johnson (6-2) vs. Lance Wright (5-1) (Middleweight)

Fighting to come back from a recent loss, Taylor Johnson will meet Lance Wright at middleweight.

Johnson last competed in October, losing a unanimous decision to Johnny Eblen at Bellator 250. The fight came just one month after he made his first appearance in the promotion, stopping Ed Ruth with a heel hook in September.

Johnson, an LFA veteran, was joining Bellator after losing a bout on UFC TV show “Dana White’s Contender Series.”

Wright will be making his Bellator debut in this fight. He last fought over a year ago, defeating Gabriel Mota to earn his fifth win as a pro.

Bout 5: John Macapa (23-5-2) vs. John de Jesus (13-9) (Featherweight)

The preliminary card will conclude with a featherweight fight between John Macapa and John de Jesus. Both fighters are looking to return to the win column after coming up unsuccessful in their last fight.

De Jesus had a three-fight winning streak broken in November, as Bellator star Aaron Pico stopped him in the second round with an overhand right. The fight was three months after de Jesus won his Bellator debut, fighting to a decision victory against Vladyslav Parubchenko.

Macapa, a veteran of Bellator, has not fought since late 2019. His last fight saw him go over to RIZIN, where he lost a decision to Mikuru Asakura.

Main Card (9:00PM EDT) (Showtime)

Bout 6: Christian Edwards (4-0) vs. Simon Biyong (7-1) (Light Heavyweight)

Undefeated light heavyweight Christian Edwards will fight promotional newcomer Simon Biyong in the opening bout of the main card.

Both fighters were originally set to face different fighters on Friday, although they were matched after both of their respective opponents were pulled from the lineup. The new pairing was first announced earlier this week.

Edwards has all four of his pro bouts in the Bellator cage. He scored his first submission win in his most recent appearance, submitting Hamza Salim with a rear naked choke in October.

Biyong, a former EFC Light Heavyweight Champion, will be fighting for the first time since joining Bellator. He enters the promotion on a four-fight streak of finish victories. He last competed in late 2019, where he stopped Vitaly Shemetov on a New Year’s Eve RIZIN card.

Bout 7: Myles Jury (19-5) vs. Sidney Outlaw (15-4) (Lightweight)

Former UFC fighter Myles Jury will fight to continue his recent success in Bellator when facing Sidney Outlaw on the main card.

Jury initially lost his Bellator debut to Benson Henderson, but has since came back with decision victories over Brandon Girtz and Georgi Karakhanyan.

Outlaw returned to the win column in his last fight, scoring a split decision victory over Adam Piccolotti in August.

Bout 8: Daniel Weichel (40-12) vs. Keoni Diggs (9-0) (Featherweight)

Undefeated fighter Keoni Diggs will get a big step-up in competition when fighting Daniel Weichel on Friday night.

Diggs has not lost a fight since turning pro in 2014. His nine-fight record has two wins in Bellator, including a recent rear naked choke victory against veteran Derek Campos.

Weichel, another veteran who will be facing Diggs, is entering the cage with the goal of getting back on the right track. He has struggled as of late, losing three of his last five bouts. He was eliminated from the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix in his last showing, dropping a unanimous decision to Emmanuel Sanchez after five rounds.

Bout 9: Liz Carmouche (15-7) vs. Kana Watanabe (10-0-1) (Flyweight)

In what could determine the next flyweight challenger in Bellator, former UFC fighter Liz Carmouche will take on undefeated talent Kana Watanabe in the co-main event.

Carmouche has won two fights since joining the Bellator roster. She kicked off her promotional run strong in September, submitting DeAnna Bennett. Her last victory came two months ago when she fought to a decision win against Vanessa Porto.

Carmouche is a former UFC title challenger and has competed at a high level of the sport for over a decade now.

Watanabe is coming back shortly after winning her U.S. debut earlier this year. The 32-year-old defeated Alejandra Lara in April, earning her a second win in Bellator and 10th in her career.

Bout 10: Timothy Johnson (15-6) vs. Valentin Moldavsky (10-1) (Vacant Interim Bellator Heavyweight Championship)

With current Bellator Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader busy with a tournament at light heavyweight, Bellator has went ahead and organized an interim belt for the time being. In the main event of Saturday night, Timothy Johnson and Valentin Moldavsky will compete to become the heavyweight class’ interim champ.

Moldavsky has put together an undefeated record of five wins since joining the Bellator roster in 2017. Among the series is victories over veteran fighters Linton Vassell and Roy Nelson.

Moldavksy’s pro career has 11 fights in total and only one loss. That fight was in the finals of a eight-man heavyweight tournament in 2016, where he lost in the finals.

Johnson, an experienced fighter in the promotion, is getting the bout after a strong 2020. After losing his first two bouts in Bellator, Johnson scored a series of wins that put him where he is now.

Johnson scored a huge upset early in the year, stopping undefeated prospect Tyrell Fortune within a round with strikes. He has since defeated two of the more experienced competitors in the heavyweight division, stopping Matt Mitrione and defeating Cheick Kongo.

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