Interim titles are a rare occurance in Bellator, but we are now going to be treated to a situation at the top of the heavyweight division where a new king for the meantime is to be crowned.
The winner gets Ryan Bader, former dual champ that lost his light heavyweight title. But Bader remains the heavyweight champion and either winner here should be a stiff test for him. Timothy Johnson went on a wild run that led to three straight wins starting with the wild upset against wrestling phenom Tyrell Fortune via strikes, followed by a thrashing of Matt Mitrione. That was followed up by a decision win over Chieck Kongo.
Yes, that was as ugly as it sounds.
But hey, good on Tim! He earned a spot at the top, and that leads us to his opponent Valentin Moldavsky. A disciple of Fedor Emelianenko, Moldavsky has a Sambo background with some good striking, great takedowns, and very educated ground strikes. This is without mentioning his submission game. Moldavsky has power and might get bullied a bit by the larger Johnson for some stretches of the fight.
This is a clear-cut #1 contender fight with a big bonus in the form of a belt when it’s over, and it can either be an impressive showcase from Moldavsky, or a plodding and rough bout with a win by Johnson. Yet Johnson has had some surprisingly impressive finishes in Bellator, so there is an element of unpredictability here.
Liz Carmouche (15-7) brings her hard-nosed wrestling and relentless pace against Kana Watanabe (10-0, 1 draw), a striker with great takedown defense and a nice flow to her ground game. Carmouche continues to run a steady pace on her opponents, shifting and striking while in top position and soaking up tons of ground control time. Watanabe can give her fits, but will be at a serious disadvantage if she manages to find her self on her back.
Daniel Weichel (40-12) is a menace on the ground and can finish fights standing, and he finds himself in an odd pairing against 9-0 Keoni Diggs, who has made the most of his time with Bellator notching back to back submission wins – both rear naked chokes.
Sydney Outlaw (15-4) also has a submission pedigree, and he meets fellow BJJ shark Myles Jury (19-5). Former UFC talent John Teixeira (23-5, 2 draws) gets to go toe to toe with John de Jesus (13-9), while former RIZIN talent Simon Biyong (7-1) now takes on Christian Edwards (4-0).
Finally, Soren Bak (14-1) is a hell of a lot of fun to watch, and he will be facing former LFA talent Bobby Lee (12-5). A scheduled bout between Lena Ovchynnikova and former Combate Global standout Kyra Batara was cancelled after one of Batara’s corners tested positive for COVID.
You can watch the prelims here, as usual:
Timothy Johnson (260) vs. Valentin Moldavsky (234) – Heavyweight
Liz Carmouche (125.5) vs. Kana Watanabe (125.25) – Flyweight
Daniel Weichel (145.5) vs. Keoni Diggs (146) – Featherweight
Myles Jury (156) vs. Sidney Outlaw (156) – Lightweight
Christian Edwards (206) vs. Simon Biyong (204.5) – Light heavyweight
Soren Bak (156) vs. Bobby Lee (155.25) – Lightweight
Isaiah Hokit (155.75) vs. Corey Samuels (156) – Lightweight
Jaylon Bates (136) vs. Cody Matthews (135) – Bantamweight
Taylor Johnson (185.25) vs. Lance Wright (184.75) – Middleweight
John Macapa (144.75) vs. John de Jesus (145.5) – Featherweight
Prelims for Bellator 261 start at 6:30pm EST on Bellator‘s YouTube channel, with the main card starting on Showtime at 9:00pm.
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