Johnny Eblen is going to be a serious problem for anybody he faces in the middleweight division.
In his first title defense in the Bellator 290 co-main event, Eblen put on a clinic as he just continued getting stronger with each passing minute to eventually overwhelm Anatoly Tokov en route to a unanimous decision victory. The final scorecards read 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46 with Eblen securing the victory and moving his record to a perfect 13-0 overall.
“That’s how I fight,” Eblen said following his latest win. “As the fight goes on, I get better.”
In the early going it was a battle between two heavy-handed grapplers as Eblen and Tokov were constantly jockeying for position while trading strikes on the feet. Tokov was able to stick Eblen with a slick lead jab but he was also eating several calf kicks that continued to chip away at his foundation.
Eblen was very aggressive and kept moving forward, but Tokov was good at countering him with more straight punches. A cut and bruising eventually formed under Eblen’s right eye but he was undeterred as he kept trying to set up a big overhand punch to even the score with Tokov.
Late in the second round, Tokov clipped Eblen with a shot on the top of the head that appeared to rattle the American Top Team fighter momentarily. Eblen attacked Tokov with an elbow strike, which took him off his feet.
After spending the first 10 minutes largely on the feet, Eblen was able to turn to his wrestling as he closed the distance and drag Tokov to the ground on repeated occasions. While Tokov was eventually able to break free, Eblen’s pressure and pace were really started to pay dividends for the defending Bellator champion.
Eblen didn’t slow down in his output as he set up more combinations and grinded Tokov against the cage. Takedowns soon followed with Eblen planting Tokov on the ground and then chipping away at him from the top position.
It was a methodical attack with Eblen just measuring his punches and then throwing knees when the opportunity presented itself. While Tokov refused to just fade away, he couldn’t mount enough offense in the later rounds to do any real damage to Eblen.
With just seconds remaining, Eblen launched Tokov in the air with a huge suplex as he secured the victory and his first title defense as Bellator middleweight champion.
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Eblen stated that he will be watching the fight between Gegard Mousasi & Fabian Edwards and hopes to face the winner soon. Eblen seems ready to continue his reign as champion, no matter who he faces next.