Eblen was a solid betting underdog heading into Friday’s event and didn’t get much attention going up against the two-time champion, who carried more than four times his professional experience in the cage.
Yet when the two clashed at Mohegan Sun Arena, Eblen led the conversation for 25 minutes, scoring a 50-45 shutout on all judges’ cards.
“I hurt him, and I f****** dominated in the wrestling, I dominated in the grappling and I went all five rounds, and I won every single round,” Eblen told reporters after the fight. “So it just shuts up all the haters. It shuts up everybody. There’s no question I’m the best middleweight in the world.”
If nothing else, Eblen has seriously shaken up the rankings in the middleweight division and pound-for-pound lists. Mousasi was No. 3 in the former and tied for No. 15 in the latter in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings.
Yet when asked about his upset of a multi-promotion champ, a fighter many including himself referred to as a legend, he wasn’t shaken by his accomplishment.
“Expected,” he said when asked about his new title. “It sounds like what it’s supposed to sound like. During this whole week, I knew this was going to happen. I had moments of doubt, but I worked through them like anybody else, like any other hard working man in the universe, and now I’m the champion.”
A product of American Top Team, Eblen may have lacked experience as an 11-0 pro but came armed to the teeth with experience. Former UFC interim champ Dustin Poirier, former WEC champ turned coach Mike Brown, and former Strikeforce and Rizin champ Muhammad Lawal (who beat Mousasi to capture the former belt), were in his corner on Friday. Whatever level Mousasi brought to the table, he said it had been matched at his gym.
“That’s the way I spar,” Eblen said. “It was a normal Thursday sparring session. That’s the reason I brought Dustin [Poirier], because he watches my rounds, and he keeps me grooving and moving, feeling good, and it was just another Thursday sparring session.”
Eblen said he needs to heal up from a long camp and a shin injury he suffered during the fight. Then he’ll evaluate what’s next in his career. Already, former UFC contender and Bellator signee Yoel Romero has targeted the new champ, and others will be chomping at the bit.
But for now, Eblen is enjoying his I-told-you-so moment.
“I know a lot of haters and a lot of doubters doubted me, said I was going to get finished,” he said. “He even thought he was going to finish me inside three, but I knew he was wrong.”