Preview: Bellator 269

Emelianenko vs. Johnson

By Tristen Critchfield Oct 20, 2021

Bellator 269 marks the organization’s maiden voyage to Russia, and with it comes one of the last opportunities to see a legend in action.

Fedor Emelianenko will headline Saturday’s card at the VTB Arena in Moscow against UFC veteran Timothy Johnson in a matchup that is sure to draw an enthusiastic throng to support one of the sport’s pound-for-pound greats. The rest of the card is geared toward the home folks as well, with a distinctly Russian flavor that features the return of contenders like Vitaly Minakov and Anatoly Tokov along with the third promotional appearance from lightweight prospect Usman Nurmagomedov.

Here is a preview of the Bellator 269 main card.

Heavyweights

Fedor Emelianenko (39-6, 1 NC, 3-2 Bellator) vs. Timothy Johnson (15-7, 3-3 Bellator)

The Emelianenko farewell tour continues in his home country, where emotions will undoubtedly be running high for “The Last Emperor” and his loyal fanbase. The former Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight titleholder is expected to take one more bout after Bellator 269 before calling it a career.

At 45 years old, Emelianenko is far removed from his days as the perhaps the sport’s all-time greatest heavyweight and one of the top pound-for-pound fighters, period. After a three-year hiatus from 2012 to 2015, the stoic Russian has won five of his last seven bouts — which is partially a product of careful matchmaking as well as a willingness to brawl that can pay off against equally shopworn foes such as Frank Mir, Chael Sonnen and Quinton Jackson. Even in a diminished capacity, Emelianenko has relatively fast hands and the ability to throw punches at unusual angles to catch opponents off-guard. However, his brawling tendencies can come back to haunt him due to a chin that doesn’t always hold up under duress.

At first glance, Johnson seems like an unusual choice of foe if promotional brass wanted to set up Emelianenko for success. The Xtreme Couture product is a massive heavyweight who often checks in at or near the 265-pound limit, and he is a two-time NCAA Division II All-American wrestler with the ability to grind opponents out against the fence while making them carry his weight. From that position, he can wear foes out and execute body lock and trip takedowns. That could be problematic for Emelianenko, who has always been a lighter heavyweight and has tipped the scales between 235 and 240 pounds for recent fights.

On the other hand, Johnson has never enjoyed consistent success at the sport’s highest level before a recent three-bout winning streak in Bellator propelled him to an interim heavyweight title shot. Additionally, Johnson lacks the superior athleticism to set up the clinches he prefers. Instead, he will rush opponents while winging heavy punches in hopes of forcing tie-ups, an approach that can leave his chin exposed. The 36-year-old Johnson has recent KO losses to Cheick Kongo and Vitaly Minakov on his resume, so that could play into Emelianenko’s hands if the two heavyweights trade heavy leather for any extended period of time.

Emelianenko, a three-time combat sambo world champion, was once known as a solid clinch fighter with a nice array of trips and throws. On the canvas, he had top-notch ground-and-pound, crafty submissions and a variety of ways to sweep and submit from his back. Since his loss to Fabricio Werdum, the Russian has rarely ventured into this realm, however, so his best chance lies in his ability to lure Johnson into a slugfest and clip him early.

With Emelianenko wanting to put on a show for the Russian fans, don’t be surprised if there are some wild exchanges. This is where the fight will be a toss-up. Both men have been rocked and knocked out previously, but Emelianenko is by-and-large the more skilled fighter with his hands. If Johnson can fight smart and make Emelianenko carry his weight, he will be able to wear the legend down. In short, Johnson has more ways to win this fight — but it’s still a dangerous path to get Emelianenko to where he wants him to be.

The Pick: Johnson by KO/TKO.

Continue Reading » Minakov vs. Sowma
<h2>Fight Finder</h2>