The build-up for the high-stakes Bellator middleweight title fight between Johnny Eblen and Fabian Edwards was tense, with the men getting into two separate dust-ups before even setting foot in the cage.
The undefeated American Top Team fighter Johnny Eblen won the belt in a stellar shutout performance of legend Gegard Mousasi and followed that up with a successful defense against Anatoly Tokov. Fabian, brother of UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards, was not to be outdone however, as he earned his title shot by dismantling Mousasi as well earlier in 2023. After that Mousasi fight, Eblen and Edwards had their first face off in the cage that night, getting into an altercation in the process. The real fight, however, was decided in Dublin, Ireland on Saturday evening and it was Johnny Eblen who got the knockout after a hard fought fight.
The southpaw Edwards came out blasting open side kicks but Eblen, fighting orthodox to start this fight, defended them and settled into a routine. Few punches were traded early on, they traded kicks for a while. After a minute Eblen rushed in with the first big punching combo of the fight and after that he began to switch stances. For the most part, only low kicks and the occasional teep to the stomach, from both fighters, landed successfully. Each man’s defense was on point. Halfway through the round Eblen changed levels off of a successful right hand and got to the hips of Edwards. Fabian stayed on his feet but got forced to the cage and held in a rear body-lock by the champ. Johnny could not complete the takedown so he broke the clinch, landing a nice knee and elbow on the break. The first round seemed close as it ended with Edwards scoring a body kick and straight left.
Fabian increased his pace to start the second round and landed several decent strikes to the body of Eblen early on. One minute into the round Edwards’ butt hit the canvas but it seemed to just be a slip. Eblen got hit with a clean counter after that but then rushed forward into a clinch position; however he could not control Fabian this time and it was the challenger who landed a knee and elbow on the break, one of him and his brothers’ favorite techniques. With two minutes left in the round Eblen landed his first takedown but Edwards did not allow him to settle the position as he popped right to his feet. Edwards was held in the body-lock after that but quickly turned to face Eblen and got free, back to his preferred kickboxing range. Johnny ended the round with another clinch where he landed short knees until the bell. When he walked back to his corner, a cut across the champ’s eyebrow and bridge of his nose was visible from eating an earlier elbow, but the cutman did well to stem the bleeding.
Only ten seconds into round three Johnny Eblen made sure the cut did not matter as he landed a monster right hand that sat Fabian down while Edwards was kicking. Eblen jumped on top of him and landed repeated punches and elbows to his grounded foe; only a few of those were needed to put him out cold, his head bouncing off the canvas. Eblen did not walk away immediately but loomed over his unconscious opponent, yelling while the referee tried to push him away, hinting at the bad blood between them.
Leon Edwards took issue with the way Eblen reacted after the victory and they almost got into an altercation, but after a minute the pair both calmed down and seemed to make nice. Eblen got the belt wrapped around his waist for the third time in his career and spoke to ‘Big’ John McCarthy for his post-fight interview where he declared himself one of the best in the world, something no one can argue with.
Official Result: Johnny Eblen def. Fabian Edwards by Knockout (right hand to ground strikes) Round 3, 1:20