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Bellator 282: Johnny Eblen ends Gegard Mousasi’s reign as middleweight champion

The story below contains details of what happened at Bellator 282. You can watch the event here and a highlights show will air at 22:00 BST on BBC Three on Sunday, 25 June.

American Johnny Eblen upset defending champion Gegard Mousasi to win the Bellator middleweight title with a superb performance in Connecticut.

Despite being a massive underdog Eblen was better than Mousasi in every department and dropped the champion in the opening round.

All three judges awarded Eblen a wide 50-45 points decision to end Mousasi’s 19-month reign as champion.

“That’s my belt. None of you believed in me,” Eblen, 30, said.

The American, who was competing in his first championship fight, dropped to his knees before the scorecards were read out, knowing he was about to be crowned the new champion, before jumping back to his feet after some encouraging words from his coach, Muhammed Lawal.

“I almost didn’t believe in myself,” added Eblen.

As he himself put it, almost no one gave the untested Eblen a chance against veteran star Mousasi.

Mousasi’s reign as champion stretches back to October 2020 and the 36-year-old Dutchman has been brimming with confidence in recent fights, appearing to discover a new level to his game despite having already competed in 58 bouts before his meeting with Eblen.

But Eblen was in charge from the off, connecting with a hard right to the nose of Mousasi after a minute and a half of action.

The champion immediately folded to his knees, but was able to rescue himself by grabbing hold of the onrushing Eblen.

The second round saw Mousasi trying to fight his way back into the contest, but he was repeatedly tagged by Eblen’s shots.

When the fight was on the ground, Eblen dominated there too, able to control Mousasi who grew more and more tired as the fight went on.

While Mousasi struggled to find any kind of rhythm with his striking, Eblen grew in confidence. After landing a nice one-two combination capped off by a hard overhand right, Eblen began spinning his fist as if he was winding up his punch.

The dominance continued as Eblen took Mousasi down in the fourth round. Mousasi fought off a rear-naked choke attempt and managed to get back to his feet, only to be swiftly taken down again.

Mousasi needed a miracle in the final round but his efforts to produce one were stamped out when Eblen steered the fight back down to the mat.

It is not the first time Mousasi has fallen to a shock defeat. His storied career has seen some incredible wins, but also some big upset losses to the likes of Rafael Lovato Jr, Uriah Hall and Eblen’s coach Lawal.

None of that will be of concern to the undefeated Eblen after his 12th win, having become just the second man to defeat Mousasi since 2016.

“It feels right. This whole week felt right,” said Eblen.

“During this whole week, I knew this was gonna happen. I had doubts, but I worked through them.

“Now, I’m a champion. The only emotion I felt was when I saw my mom after I won the belt.

“She hates this sport – she hates that I fight, yet she travelled across the country to watch this fight.

“When I was in the cage, I was more excited, like, ‘Damn, I took this from a legend.’ It sounds right.”
Bellator 282 results and highlights: Johnny Eblen shuts out Gegard Mousasi, wins middleweight belt
Gegard Mousasi’s second reign as Bellator middleweight champion has come to an end at the hands (and wrestling) of undefeated American Top Team talent Johnny Eblen.

At Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, Eblen outwrestled and outstruck Mousasi on his way to a shutout decision win and the distinction of being Bellator’s new king at 185 lbs. The tone was set early when Mousasi got stunned with a left hand by the southpaw, and then a powerful right hand/forearm shiver had Mousasi badly shaken and forced him into a takedown. Eblen got back to his feet in next to no time and he would get a couple of takedowns of his own later on. Eblen had the back but scored the reversal and then fired off some hard shots as he returned to his feet.

Mousasi looked sluggish, flat-footed, and had no answers for Eblen’s takedowns and frankly was unable to sustain any offensive consistency on the feet. Eblen searched for a rear-naked choke in the fourth round only for Mousasi to escape, but even when he was getting in some good shots in the final round, the wrestling proved critical for Johnny, who pulls off a big upset and is just the second fighter to beat Mousasi since July 2016.