Johnny Eblen was undefeated coming in but really outdid himself Friday night, dominating Bellator middleweight champion Gegard Mousasi over five rounds to take away the belt in the main event of Bellator 282 in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Eblen (12-0) used his strong wrestling to control long stretches on the canvas, but to get the fight there he relied on aggressiveness in the standup, wearing down Mousasi with punches and kicks on the way to earning a unanimous decision. All three judges scored it 50-45 for Eblen.
"During this whole week, I knew this was going to happen," Eblen said. "I had moments of doubt, but I worked through them like anybody else, like any hardworking man in the universe. I'm a champion."
For Eblen, a 30-year-old fighting out of Coconut Creek, Florida, it was his eighth win inside the Bellator cage, and by far the biggest.
Mousasi (49-8-2) arrived at Mohegan Sun Arena having won four fights in a row and 12 of his previous 13. He was in his second title reign in Bellator, and previously had been champion in three other promotions, including Strikeforce. He is No. 8 in the ESPN middleweight rankings.
Mousasi, who is 36 and from Amsterdam, was a kickboxer before coming to MMA, and standup fighting has been his forte over a two-decade career. But Eblen took it to him, knocking down the champ with a winging right hook and setting the tone for what was to come.
Mousasi did have his moments, especially in Round 3, when he was making Eblen miss and landing straight punches. But after being blasted with a punch to the face, Eblen came forward for a takedown and took control on the canvas. And he maintained control for much of the rest of the fight, both on the canvas and on the feet.
Before the main event, Danny Sabatello and Magomed Magomedov advanced in the Bellator Bantamweight World Grand Prix. Sabatello (13-1) defeated Leandro Higo (21-6) by unanimous decision (49-46, 49-46, 49-46) in a slow-paced, grappling-heavy quarterfinal and will next face interim champion Raufeon Stots. Magomedov (19-2) put a sudden end to a tight battle with Enrique Barzola (18-6-2) by jumping to a guillotine submission at 1:27 of Round 4 to move into a semifinal matchup with Patchy Mix.