Bellator 261: “Johnson vs Moldavsky” is set to go down tomorrow night (Fri., June 25, 2021) from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., broadcasting via Showtime. Headlining the event will be an interim Heavyweight title fight between Timothy Johnson (No. 1) taking on Valentin Moldavsky (No. 3). In the co-main event, Liz Carmouche will face Kana Watanabe in women’s Flyweight action.
265 lbs.: Timothy Johnson (15-6) vs. Valentin Moldavsky (10-1)
Current Bellator MMA Heavyweight champion Ryan Bader is currently competing in the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix, so the promotion is setting up an interim title fight for the 265-pound division in the meantime. Obviously, Johnson — the No. 1-ranked fighter in the division — gets one slot, while Moldavsky (No. 3) was a no-brainer to step in, as well. Moldavsky is undefeated inside the Bellator cage and has won his first five fights with the promotion. Johnson, meanwhile, is currently on a three-fight win streak, good enough to earn him the top spot. Johnson has a bit more experience in the fight game having competed for over a decade and taking on some of the best under the UFC banner before finding great success in Bellator. Moldavsky, meanwhile, made his MMA debut just six years ago. During that time he has really impressed, only losing once, a split decision under the RIZIN umbrella. Johnson has a bit more-well rounded attack, scoring numerous wins via knockout and submission, as well as grinding out decisions. But Moldavsky doesn’t keep it a secret he prefers to wrestle his way to wins. And that’s not to say that’s all he does because once he gets you on the ground, he brings the pain. And that’s what I believe will be the difference here. While Johnson may have a weight advantage over Moldavsky, weighing in 25 pounds heavier, Moldavsky’s sambo will be the great equalizer. We can expect a 25-minute war that will result in a dominant decision win for Moldavsky.
Prediction: Moldavsky via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Liz Carmouche vs. Kana Watanabe
Carmouche has made the most of her time under the Bellator banner, winning her first two fights in dominant fashion, which has helped her climb up all the way to the No. 2 spot. Watanabe made a successful debut for the promotion in her last outing by taking out Alejandra Lara at Bellator 255 earlier this year. Undefeated at 10-0, Watanabe has long been one of the best fighters in Japan, earning her stripes with DEEP and RIZIN. Now, she is in the process of getting her stateside fame and credentials up. Defeating Carmouche — a former UFC title contender — will do just that. To make it even sweeter, the winner of this fight will likely earn a shot at the title, which will be contested at Bellator 262 in a few weeks between division queen Juliana Velasquez and Denise Kielholtz. While Watanabe has proven to be legit, I don’t think she’ll be prepared for everything Carmouche will throw at her. “Girl-rilla” has it all; she can strike with the best of them and out-wrestle her foes when the occasion calls for it.
Prediction: Carmouche via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Daniel Weichel vs. Keoni Diggs
Weichel is currently ranked No. 6 on the official Bellator rankings, but he hasn’t exactly had success over the last few fights. He has lost three of his last four fights inside the Bellator cage. That said, his losses have come against the best-of-the-best, losing to Patricio Freire (split decision), Goiti Yamouchi (split decision) and Emmanuel Sanchez (unanimous decision). As for Diggs, while he only has two fights with the promotion, he is undefeated at 10-0 and has a big opportunity in front of him. If he can take Weichel out, it should be good enough to get a spot in the Top 10. I just don’t see it happening. Weichel has been there, done that and he is extremely battle tested having competed for Bellator for seven years. He also has 52 fights to his credit. I can see Weichel overwhelming Diggs, taking him to deep waters and ultimately drowning him. Diggs will put up a fight, but it simply won’t be enough to pull out the “W.”
Prediction: Weichel via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Myles Jury vs. Sydney Outlaw
After stumbling out of the gates to begin his Bellator MMA career thanks to a loss to Benson Henderson, Jury has won two in a row. That little run has put him at No. 4 and another win or two could get him to a shot at the Lightweight title. Outlaw only has three fights for the promotion, as well, but they didn’t lob him any softballs. He defeated Roger Huerta in his debut but ultimately came up short against Michael Chandler in his sophomore effort. He bounced back nicely by taking out Adam Piccolotti and is now looking to crash the Top 5 with a win over Jury. Jury does have a slight experience edge here but at this stage of the game it simply doesn't matter. Outlaw is a go-getter, and his in your face style of fighting will give anyone trouble. He has a motor for days which means he’ll be in Jury’s face all night long. It’s a fairly-even matchup but I believe Jury is just a bit more polished and will do just enough to pull off the victory.
Prediction: Jury via split decision
205 lbs.: Christian Edwards vs. Simon Biyong
Edwards is just four fights into his mixed martial arts (MMA) career, all going down inside the Bellator cage. During his two-year run with the promotion Edwards has shown promise, going 4-0 including scoring three stoppage victories; two by way of knockout and one by submission. He will be taking on Bellator MMA newcomer Simon Biyong who, like Edwards, has only been competing in the sport for a short amount of time. Biyong made his MMA debut in 2017 but he hasn’t competed since 2019, a TKO win over Vitaly Shemetov, his fourth straight win. There isn’t a ton of tape on Biyong, but the little footage there is on him (see it here), it shows that “Hemle” packs some serious power and ground-and-pound seems to be his go-to attack. He will need to be on his “A” game against Edwards because though he is new to the game, the 22-year old is out to prove that he deserves to be in the mix at 205-pounds. While he is still pretty far away from getting into the championship picture, a win over Biyong could get him closer to the rankings. For Biyong, handing Edwards his first loss would be a nice way to start his Bellator MMA career. Unfortunately I just don’t see it happening.
Prediction: Edwards via second round technical knockout
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