Nearly sixty fights into his career, Gegard Mousasi has shown no sign of slowing with age.
In fact, the 36-year old, approaching two full decades in the sport of mixed martial arts, has been as busy as ever. Bellator 282 on Friday marked his second attempt at defending his middleweight title in 2022. A third fight, for either 185 or 205, was already penciled in for the end of the year.
This latest showdown came against Johnny Eblen, a standout wrestler from a standout gym in American Top Team.
He played the role of spoiler on Friday, and played it well.
Eblen opened up the action with a kick, which Mousasi returned a moment later, going high with his own attempt. A couple of low kicks from Eblen followed; he circled on the outside, away from the champ. Eblen showed good head movement, and found a home for his left hand, then dropped Mousasi seconds later with a right! The champ went into a takedown, clearly hurt, and came back up no doubt still rocked. Eblen then went after a takedown, putting Mousasi into a sitting position, back to the cage.
As Mousasi worked to one knee, Eblen landed knees to the thigh, then tried to time one to the head as Mousasi came all the way up. Almost immediately, Eblen landed another takedown, not letting up on the pace. Mousasi would eventually reverse, threaten with a choke, and land on Eblen off the break, but there wasn’t much on that punch. Mousasi spent the last minute or so of the round walking Eblen down, kicking his leg while “The Human Cheat Code” did a bit of showboating.
Mousasi landed a crisp left jab early in round two; Eblen came back with a big right that just missed. Another would follow, and Eblen soon blasted into a takedown, putting Mousasi on his back in the center of the cage. Mousasi tried to scramble, but wound up stuck on his back, Eblen in side control. The champ would scramble up, but Eblen dragged him down again, and stayed on him as Mousasi got to the fence. By the midway point of the round, Eblen had landed yet another takedown, leaving Mousasi on the fence once again.
Later in the round, Mousasi began walking Eblen down again — but ate another right hand, albeit with less on it. Eblen tried a superman punch of the cage late, and went to the third having put on an impressive performance to that point.
Johnny Eblen started the third walking Mousasi down, adding a low kick, with Mousasi later kicking the inside of Eblen’s thigh. Mousasi ripped a kick to the body, and Eblen returned the favor. Eblen launched his overhand right several more times, and while there were no knockdowns, Mousasi still seemed caught off-guard by it. The body language between the two was night and day; Eblen was a blur of constant movement, Mousasi nearly stationary. Eblen then backed the champ up to the fence, landing a couple more times. Mousasi was still in first gear. Heck, he was barely out of park.
Early in round four, Mousasi had to block a head kick. He ate a right hand after throwing one of his own, and Eblen then charged forward for a takedown, landing it just a minute into the round. By the midway mark of the round, Eblen had the back, hooks in, and was hunting for a rear-naked choke. Mousasi attempted to reverse, to no avail. Instead, he wall walked up, and dodged a right hand, only to be taken down once again.
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Round five had Gegard Mousasi more than likely down four rounds. He ate a right hand early in the round, followed by some more showboating from Eblen. Mousasi flashed a front kick. Near the midway mark of the round, Eblen took Mousasi down for the umpteenth time, and the clock was now an issue. With just over a minute remaining, Mousasi got to his knees, but had Eblen all over him. Mousasi got up, Eblen landed one final takedown — a suplex — and thus ended the best performance of Johnny Eblen’s career, at the perfect moment. Five rounds of dominance against a living legend in Mousasi.
Just a dozen fights into his pro career, Eblen now has his first major championship. Bellator’s middleweight division, meanwhile, is on notice.
Official Result: Johnny Eblen def. Gegard Mousasi by unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)