Johnny Eblen had an overwhelmingly dominant performance against legendary fighter Gegard Mousasi to become the new Bellator Middleweight Champion on Friday night.
Eblen’s championship victory headlined Bellator 282 from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, USA.
Eblen succeeded against Mousasi in nearly every part of their fight. During the striking exchanges, it was Eblen that landed the better shots with more frequency. At times, he was even able to wobble Mousasi with shots.
On the ground, Eblen controlled the fight for numerous minutes with his wrestling skills.
All five judges of the fight saw Eblen earn a clean sweep on scorecards, taking all five rounds against Mousasi.
“This feels right. I don’t know what I’m doing right, but god damn it this feels good,” said Eblen in his post-fight interview.
Eblen’s win Friday was the culmination of a flawless climb up the middleweight Bellator ranks.
Eblen first joined Bellator in 2019 with a record of four wins as a pro. He quickly attained seven victories in the promotion, bringing him up through the 185-pound standings gradually.
Eblen set himself up for a championship fight in March, defeating former title challenger John Salter via decision.
Mousasi, an MMA veteran of two decades, entered this weekend amid his second run as Bellator Middleweight Champion. He earned the vacant belt in 2020 with a win against Douglas Lima and defended the title twice before dropping it Friday.
Mousasi was also aiming for his milestone 50th pro victory in his appearance this weekend.
Sabatello Earns One-Sided Decision Over Higo To Earn Grand Prix Semi-Final Spot
Danny Sabatello secured the final spot in the semi-finals of Bellator’s Bantamweight Grand Prix on Friday night, going five rounds against Leandro Higo for a unanimous decision win.
Sabatello’s wrestling allowed him to keep Higo on the mat for a large chunk of their 25-minutes of competition. Sabatello notched numerous rounds on scorecards through his takedowns and ground control, allowing him to have a comfortable scorecard victory in the end.
Sabatello’s performance did not come with the approval of the live crowd. His dominant, yet not explosive performance received boos from the crowd throughout.
Sabatello embraced this reaction, encouraging the crowd to continue booing.
“You wanna do something? Come in here and do something,” said Sabatello to the crowd in his post-fight interview.
Sabatello then had an in-cage confrontation with his opponent in the next round of the tournament, interim bantamweight titleholder Raufeon Stots. The fighters were separated during their face-off, and Stots argued that Sabatello is a one-dimensional fighter.
“All you can do is wrestle,” said Stots following Sabatello’s victory.
Sabatello fought his way into the grand prix earlier this year, winning a wild card bout in April. In that fight, he handed Jornel Lugo his first pro loss with a one-sided decision that was similar to his fight Friday.
Higo entered this weekend following a trio of victories. His previous win was a 2021 performance over former champion Darrion Caldwell.
Magomedov Pulls Guard For Submission Victory Against Barzola, Advances In Bantamweight Bracket
Magomed Magomedov succeeded with a fourth-round submission attempt to stop Enrique Barzola and advance to the semi-finals of the Bellator Bantamweight Grand Prix.
Magomedov pulled guard in the fourth round with a guillotine choke attempt against Barzola. He fully secured the submission as he went to the ground, causing a tap from Barzola shortly after to end the fight.
The fight was quite close prior to the sudden stoppage, with the bantamweights having close exchanges on the ground and on the feet.
Magomedov bounced back from his sole Bellator loss with his appearance Friday. He previously faced Raufeon Stots and lost a unanimous decision in August 2021. A rematch between those fighters could hypothetically happen in the grand final of the bantamweight tournament if they both make it there.
Magomedov is scheduled to face Patchy Mix in the semi-finals of the tournament.
Barzola, a former UFC fighter, took his first Bellator loss in his appearance Friday. He previously defeated Nikita Mihailov and Darron Caldwell earlier this year.
Ward Earns Second Win Since Return
The card opened with a victory for Brennan Ward, who scored his second victory since returning to MMA. In that fight, he picked up a second-round finish win over Kassius Kayne.
Ward rocked Kayne early in the second round with a clean right hook. A visibly wobbled Kayne continued to consume shots against the cage while standing up, causing the referee to step in and end the bout.
Ward controlled most of the opening round against Kayne. He was accurate on the feet early and spent numerous minutes searching for submissions on the ground.
Ward made his return in February, stopping Brandon Bell in the second round of a bout. That fight was his first appearance since 2017 and came after a documented battle with drug addiction.
Kayne entered this weekend with a pro record of 12 wins and seven losses, all of which came on the regional scene.
The Rest of the Card
In the top prelim of the card, Killys Mota worked toward a unanimous decision victory over UFC alum Dan Moret.
Undefeated featherweight prospect Lucas Brennan had another fast victory on Friday night, catching Johnny Soto in the opening round with a rear naked choke submission.
Alexander Shabliy beat Bellator vet Brent Primus, stopping him in the second round with strikes.
Former UFC fighter Cat Zingano kept her Bellator run undefeated on Friday, going three rounds against Pam Sorenson for a unanimous decision victory.
Anatoly Tokov mauled opponent Muhammad Abdullah, finishing him in the opening round with a quick series of ground and pound shots.
Sabah Homasi needed less than a full minute in his grudge match against Maycon Mendonca, stopping him with an overhand right in 58 seconds.
Ilara Joanne picked up a decision victory on Friday’s prelims against Alejandra Lara, using takedowns and ground control for success. On top of that, Lara was given a point deduction in the second round due to an illegal strike.
In the biggest upset of the night, James Gonzalez handed Cody Law his first pro loss with a unanimous decision outcome. Law had a flawless record of six wins before this weekend.
Former CFFC Middleweight Champion Aaron Jeffery won his Bellator debut, catching Fabio Aguiar with a series of punches and knees to earn a second-round finish.
Mandel Nallo started the night with a bang, dropping Bryce Logan early with a counter right cross for a finish win.
Main Card (9:00PM EDT) (Showtime)
Bout 14: Johnny Eblen def. Gegard Mousasi via Decision, Unanimous (Bellator Middleweight Championship)
Bout 13: Danny Sabatello def. Leandro Higo via Decision, Unanimous (Bellator Bantamweight Grand Prix Quarter-Final)
Bout 12: Magomed Magomedov def. Enrique Barzola via Submission, Guillotine Choke (RD 4, 1:27) (Bellator Bantamweight Grand Prix Quarter-Final)
Bout 11: Brennan Ward def. Kassius Kayne via TKO, Strikes (RD 2, 1:11)
Preliminary Card (6:00PM EDT) (Youtube)
Bout 10: Killys Mota def. Dan Moret via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 9: Lucas Brennan def. Johnny Soto via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 3:34)
Bout 8: Alexander Shabliy def. Brent Primus via TKO, Strikes (RD 2, 1:22)
Bout 7: Cat Zingano def. Pam Sorenson via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 6: Anatoly Tokov def. Muhammad Abdullah via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 2:28)
Bout 5: Sabah Homasi def. Maycon Mendonca via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 0:58)
Bout 4: Ilara Joanne def. Alejandra Lara via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 3: James Gonzalez def. Cody Law via Decision, Unanimous
Bout 2: Aaron Jeffery def. Fabio Aguiar via TKO, Strikes (RD 2, 3:30)
Bout 1: Mandel Nallo def. Bryce Logan via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 1:07)