Ryan Bader’s inactivity as undisputed Bellator MMA heavyweight champion has opened the door to others who wish to pursue gold within the division.
Timothy Johnson will lock horns with Valentin Moldavsky for the interim heavyweight title in the Bellator 261 headliner on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. Johnson enters the cage on the strength of a three-fight winning streak. He last appeared at Bellator 248 on Oct. 10, when he eked out a split decision over Cheick Kongo and cemented himself as a serious contender for the interim throne. Moldavsky, meanwhile, has rattled off five consecutive victories since he suffered the lone setback on his resume: a split decision loss to Amir Aliakbari in the semifinals of the 2016 Rizin Fighting Federation Openweight Grand Prix. The Fedor Emelianenko protégé last competed at Bellator 244, where he laid claim to a unanimous decision over Roy Nelson on Aug. 21.
As Johnson and Moldavsky make their final preparations, a look at some of the numbers they have compiled to this point:
36: Years of age for Johnson, who was born in Lamberton, Minnesota, on March 13, 1985. REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On,” Madonna’s “Material Girl,” David Lee Roth’s “California Girls” and Phil Collins’ “One More Night” were the Top 5 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 list at the time.
8: Johnson victories by knockout or technical knockout, accounting for 53% of his career total (15). His list of victims includes Matt Mitrione, Tyrell Fortune, Shamil Abdurakhimov and Travis Wiuff. Johnson owns three other victories by submission and four more by decision.
671: Days since Johnson last tasted defeat. Vitaly Minakov was the culprit, as he wiped out the Xtreme Couture representative with punches 1:45 into the first round of their Bellator 225 co-feature on Aug. 24, 2019.
2: Sub-minute stoppage wins on the Johnson resume. He submitted Shane DeZee with a keylock in 49 seconds at Max Fights 16 on Nov. 17, 2012 and struck Dean Lamb into submission in 34 seconds at Max Fights 17 on March 23, 2013.
.763: Cumulative winning percentage between the six men—Minakov, Cheick Kongo, Junior Albini, Alexander Volkov, Jared Rosholt and Lance Peterson—who have beaten Johnson. They sport a combined record of 122-36-2.
29: Years of age for Moldavsky, who was born on Feb. 6, 1992 in Novopskov, Ukraine, a village of less than 10,000 people located on the eastern side of European nation.
3: Moldavsky wins by submission, accounting for 30% of his career total (10). His methods of choice: one armbar, one rear-naked choke and one guillotine choke. Moldavsky holds one other win by knockout or technical knockout and six more by decision.
4: Promotions in which Moldavsky has competed as a mixed martial artist. He has gone 5-0 in Bellator, 3-1 in Rizin Fighting Federation, 1-0 in Fight Nights Global and 1-0 in Professional Combat Sambo.
47: Seconds needed by Moldavsky to submit Daniel Doerrer with a guillotine choke at Fight Nights Global 50 on June 17, 2016. Having occurred in just his third appearance as a pro, it remains the fastest finish of his 11-fight career.
67: Combined victories between the five men—Nelson, Javy Ayala, Linton Vassell, Ernest James and Carl Seumanutafa—Moldavsky has defeated since he joined the Bellator roster a little less than four years ago. They hold a cumulative record of 67-48 (.583).
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