The first interim heavyweight champion in Bellator MMA history is Valentin Moldavsky.
With current champion Ryan Bader in the middle of the light heavyweight grand prix in hopes to once again become a simultaneous two-division champion, the promotion moved forward with the interim title fight between Moldavsky and Timothy Johnson to headline Bellator 261 on Friday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn.
After a very competitive first eight minutes of the fight, Johnson landed a hard combination in the latter half of the second round and both heavyweights slugged it out in a flurry. Moldavsky scored with a hard right hand before Johnson got after it, even shouting, “Let’s go,” before the bell sounded.
@tbeartim briefly stuns Moldavsky in Round 2. It's heating up here in Mohegan Sun!#Bellator261@SHOsports pic.twitter.com/1ItpK2LrBk— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) June 26, 2021
The pace slowed a tad in the third until Johnson landed a hard combination near the fence with around three minutes to go. Moldavsky continued to be the more active striker, landing at a higher clip before taking Johnson’s back with 90 seconds to go in the round — a position he maintained for about 80 of those seconds.
Takedown secured by Valentin Moldavsky!— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) June 26, 2021
We are heading into the Championship rounds live on @SHOsports. #Bellator261 pic.twitter.com/UcVvev4yTx
As they entered the championship rounds, the leather began to fly even more. The quickness advantage for the protege of Fedor Emelianenko was becoming more evident as the fight wore on, from the hand speed, to his transitions from standup to grappling. Moldavsky opened up a nasty cut on the right eye of Johnson midway through the round with an accidental headbutt. Much like the second, Johnson’s energy levels ramped up as he tried to lure Moldavsky into a brawl, but to no avail.
That shot right there says it all.— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) June 26, 2021
Both these fighters are giving it their all to be crowned the Interim-Heavyweight Champion! #Bellator261 pic.twitter.com/w1iANHmKGn
Moldavsky, likely needing to avoid being finished to lose the fight, did everything he could to make sure Johnson didn’t land a fight changing shot. The 29-year-old kept Johnson guessing with feints, level changes, tie-ups and quick movements to make sure the victory would be locked up at the final bell. Johnson finished strong by throwing heaters at Moldavsky, but it wasn’t enough.
In the end, one judge scored it 50-45, while the other two scored it 49-46 for Moldavsky, who will now meet Bader down the line in a heavyweight title unification bout.
Liz Carmouche gets first finish via strikes since 2013 over Kana Watanabe
Liz Carmouche knew she needed to make a statement — and she did exactly that in the evening’s flyweight co-main event.
Seconds after her matchup with previously unbeaten Kana Watanabe began, Carmouche landed a big shot that stunned her opponent. Once she had Watanabe hurt, Carmouche didn’t let up, landing a flurry of shots before the referee called a stop to the fight just 35 seconds into it. Video of the finish can be seen here.
With the win, Carmouche likely has a date with the winner of the upcoming 125-pound title fight between Juliana Velasquez and Denise Kielholtz at next month’s Bellator 262 event.
Sidney Outlaw dominates, gets late tap with rear-naked choke
After having his nine-fight winning streak snapped by Michael Chandler in 2019, Sidney Outlaw is back on a winning streak at 155 pounds.
Facing longtime UFC veteran Myles Jury, Outlaw used an impressive wrestling and grappling display, spending nearly the entire fight on the back of his opponent. Outlaw arguably took a pair of 10-8 rounds with his back control, much to the chagrin of the booing crowd. Despite Jury’s attempts to slam his way to a comeback win in the third, Outlaw remained in his dominant position with both hooks in before eventually getting the tap via rear-naked choke with just 16 seconds left in the fight.
Outlaw has now won two straight, while Jury drops to 2-2 since signing with Bellator in 2019.
Daniel Weichel bounced back from his loss to Emmanuel Sanchez in the featherweight grand prix with a split decision win over the previously undefeated Keoni Diggs in an entertaining bout.
In the main card opener, Christian Edwards, a protege of former UFC champion Jon Jones, improved to 5-0 with a unanimous decision win over Simon Biyong.
Get full Bellator 261 results below:
Valentin Moldavsky def. Timothy Johnson via unanimous decision (50-45, 49-46, 49-46)
Liz Carmouche def. Kana Watanabe via KO - Round 1, :35 | (Watch video)
Sidney Outlaw def. Myles Jury via submission (rear naked choke) - Round 3, 4:44
Daniel Weichel def. Keoni Diggs via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
Christian Edwards def. Simon Biyong via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
John de Jesus def. John Macapa via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Taylor Johnson def. Lance Wright via submission (rear naked choke) - Round 1, 2:58
Jaylon Bates def. Cody Matthews via submission (armbar) - Round 2, 4:04
Corey Samuels def. Isaiah Hokit via KO - Round 1, :10 | (Watch video)
Soren Bak def. Bobby Lee via unanimous decision (30-26, 29-27, 29-27)