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 aggressive as he kept marching forward but Tokov was doing a good job with his counters including more of those 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. A split second later, Eblen blasted Tokov with a huge elbow strike that took the Russian off his feet as the tables turned again in what started as a back-and-forth fight.
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’s output didn’t seem to slow down one bit as he continued setting up his combinations on the feet and then grinding 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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Afterwards, Eblen said he’ll be keeping an eye on the upcoming fight between Gegard Mousasi and Fabian Edwards with designs on facing the winner in the near future. Whoever he gets next, Eblen appears ready for a long run as champion after another dominant victory gets added to his resume.