At Bellator 290 on Saturday the promotion makes its debut on CBS with a short but stacked card. Headlining it will be Ryan Bader defending his heavyweight crown against The Last Emporer Fedor Emelianenko in what will be the final bout in his illustrious career.
Before that bout takes place though, Johnny Eblen will try to defend his newly won middleweight title against Anatoly Tokov. In the case of Eblen, this will serve as his first title defense after winning the belt off of another legend in Gegard Mousasi. The Dutchman had been getting comfortable in Bellator and was back to his old ways before the matchup with Eblen. In that bout, the former Missouri All-American wrestler took him to deep water and smothered him with wrestling and ground and pound for a one-sided decision.
Before he attempts to fight off a hungry Anatoly Tokov, this is your Johnny Eblen scouting report.
Stand-Up Offense and Defense
Most collegiate wrestlers get labeled as raw when it comes to the stand-up angle of their game. For Eblen, he isn’t raw but isn’t crisp either in the boxing department. He bobs in and out very well but the flow of his striking needs work. This is something that he will have had to have worked on heavily in training camp.
One thing he does well within the striking department is staying busy while finding distance. While the moves he makes don’t lead to effective striking it freezes his opponents and allows him to close the distance and get a takedown or apply pressure against the cage.
Grappling Offense and Defense
Eblen is the complete package in the grappling department which makes this fight even more interesting. Not saying this bout will look like an ADCC final but it could be a great show of who has done what homework. Tokov works more with transitions till he has full mount or a crucifix position, Eblen is happy getting an advantage he can and working it from there.
He defends well against submissions and has yet to be in a situation where he doesn’t have the upper hand on the ground. He is relentless when looking for a finish with ground and pound and does so without taking damage from the bottom. Could make things very interesting come Saturday night.
One knock on Eblen is while he has a high punch output on the ground and can maintain control, he doesn’t get the finish often. He has six finishes in 12 career bouts and only two inside the Bellator cage. One of those two finishes was questionable as well so he hasn’t shown much even with Bellator, the case with Tokov is the complete opposite.
This very much so will turn into a who can sustain who on Saturday, Eblen has to be ready to weather a storm.
Summary of Johnny Eblen
Eblen deserves to be the champ, he took the long road and is coming off his best performance to date against Mousasi. That being said, he has not faced anyone like Tokov yet. For Eblen to win this may he have to bring a boring, grind-it-out gameplan and execute it. Tokov will be looking to blitz him from the opening bell and won’t stop for 25 minutes, if Eblen can sustain that he may keep his belt.