Blagoi Ivanov will enter the cage on the strength of eight straight wins. | Photo: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com
Perhaps Lavar Johnson and Blagoi Ivanov can swap stories of their near-death experiences over a beer someday, the former having been shot in California in 2009, the latter having been stabbed in Bulgaria in 2012. For now, duty calls.
Johnson will confront the undefeated Ivanov in the Bellator MMA Season 10 heavyweight tournament semifinals at Bellator 116 on Friday at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif.
Ivanov punched his ticket to the tournament semifinal with a unanimous decision over former two-division Rage in the Cage titleholder Rich Hale at Bellator 111 on March 7. Though he went the full 15 minutes with Hale, the 27-year-old Bulgarian has secured eight of his 10 victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Ivanov burst on the international combat sports scene when he struck gold at the 2008 World Sambo Championships in St. Petersburg, Russia, defeating MMA icon Fedor Emelianenko in the semifinals.
Johnson advanced to the Season 10 Final Four with his first-round stoppage against Ryan Martinez at Bellator 111, as he halted a three-fight losing streak in decisive fashion. The 37-year-old Madera, Calif., native has delivered all 18 of his wins by KO, TKO or submission, a staggering 16 of them inside one round. Johnson compiled a 5-4 record in Strikeforce and the UFC before arriving in Bellator in October.
With the Johnson-Ivanov tournament semifinal as the centerpiece, here are 10 facts surrounding Bellator 116:
FACT 1: Samoan kickboxer Siala-Mou Siliga was born 18 years and 16 days before his opponent, former Bellator heavyweight champion Alexander Volkov.
FACT 2: American Top Team’s Nathan Coy has held titles inside the Maximum Fighting Championship and SportFight promotions.
FACT 3: UFC veteran Joey Beltran is 2-7 in fights that reach the judges.
FACT 4: Vladimir Matyushenko was one of eight men to win an International Fight League championship, joining heavyweight Roy Nelson, welterweight Jay Hieron, lightweight Ryan Schultz, featherweight Wagnney Fabiano and middleweights Matt Horwich, Ryan McGivern and Dan Miller.
FACT 5: Karo Parisyan was 16 years old when he made his professional mixed martial arts debut under the Kage Kombat banner on Feb. 1, 1999.
FACT 6: Nine of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 5 graduate Robert Emerson’s 10 career defeats have come by decision. Kurt Pellegrino remains the only man to have finished him, having done so with a second-round rear-naked choke at UFC Fight Night 17 in February 2009.
FACT 7: A third of former King of the Cage middleweight champion Keith Berry’s 27 career bouts have ended in less than a minute, including a 10-second loss to Brett Cooper and a pair of six-second victories over Sam Salas and Aiki Cavanaugh.
FACT 8: Nova Uniao’s Carlos Eduardo has not lost since he succumbed to third-round punches from Jon Jones at a Battle Cage Xtreme show nearly six years ago. It was just the second professional appearance for Jones, the current UFC light heavyweight champion.
FACT 9: Former Pacific Xtreme Combat titleholder Joe Taimanglo trains out of the Spike 22 gym in his native Guam, more than 6,000 miles from Temecula, Calif.
FACT 10: With the conclusion of Bellator 116, the Bellator MMA organization will have staged seven events in the state of California. The others were Bellator 10, Bellator 35, Bellator 85, Bellator 92, Bellator 99 and Bellator 102.