Fedor Emelianenko Enjoys Successful Homecoming, KOs Timothy Johnson at Bellator 269

By Tristen Critchfield Oct 23, 2021

If it truly is goodbye, then Fedor Emelianenko gave the Russian fans a memorable farewell.

“The Last Emperor” made short work of recent interim title challenger Timothy Johnson in the Bellator 269 headliner, winning via knockout 1:40 into Round 1 of their heavyweight clash at VTB Arena in Moscow on Saturday. It was the California-based promotion’s first-ever event in Russia and Emelianenko’s first fight in his home country since a controversial majority decision win against Fabio Maldonado at a Fight Nights Global event on June 17, 2016.

The 45-year-old former Pride Fighting Championships title holder demonstrated why he remains dangerous even in the twilight of his professional MMA career. In a bout that was fraught with tension, both heavyweights ventured into the pocket to trade punches, and at least early, Johnson (15-8, 3-3 Bellator) was able exchange without taking any serious damage. That changed when Emelianenko caught the UFC veteran wading forward and floored him with a rapid-fire three-punch combation that included a straight right hand and a pair of heavy hooks. Emelianenko (40-6, 1 NC, 4-2 Bellator) recognized that his work was done immediately, and the bout was waved off as soon as Johnson crashed to the canvas.

Elsewhere, Said Sowma earned an anticlimactic victory over former Bellator heavyweight champion Vitaly Minakov in the co-main event. The bout was halted 3:08 into the third period when Minakov was unable to pop an apparent dislocated finger back into place during the fight. Once the injury caught the attention of referee Bryan Miner, the bout was waved off.

Sowma (8-2, 2-1 Bellator) was gradually gaining momentum before the stoppage. After an opening round in which Minakov (22-2, 6-2 Bellator) picked his spots with punching combinations and grounded his opponent with an inside trip takedown, the former Titan Fighting Championship ruler began to assert himself. Sowma stuck to his deliberate gameplan, which consisted of circling on the outside of the cage while compromising his foe’s movement with a steady diet of low calf kicks. The Russian’s leg was wearing the damage at the start of Round 3, and Sowma had begun to have success putting punching combinations behind his low kicks before Minakov’s unfortunate injury.

Minakov, who was fighting for the first time since August 2019, has lost two of his last three Bellator appearances.

Earlier, Usman Nurmagomedov rolled to a first-round submission triumph against Patrik Pietila in a 160-pound catchweight affair. The cousin of retired UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov ended the bout by locking in a rear-naked choke at the 4:06 mark of Round 1 to keep his undefeated record intact.

Pietila (11-9, 0-2 Bellator) never had a chance to get going. Nurmagomedov (14-0, 3-0 Bellator) executed a perfectly-timed level change within the first minute and then spent the majority of the period working to advance position on the canvas. When the American Kickboxing Academy product achieved full mount, Pietila quickly rolled and gave up his back, which allowed Nurmagomedov to secure a body triangle. The Dagestani prospect quickly began to hunt for the fight-ending choke, which he secured after adjusting his grip.

In the evening’s opening main card bout, Anatoly Tokov returned from a two-year hiatus to capture a split-decision triumph against Sharaf Davlatmurodov in a middleweight matchup. Michael Bell and Ben Cartlidge submitted 29-28 tallies in favor of the FedorTeam representative, while Jacob Montalvo saw it 29-28 for Davlatmurodov (18-4-1, 0-1 Bellator). Tokov (30-2, 6-0 Bellator) has won six straight fights within the California-based promotion.

Tokov had to work hard for his victory in a grueling bout. Davaltmurodov enjoyed some success striking at range, where he connected with several hard kicks to the body and knocked Tokov off balance early with a straight right hand. Tokov was eventually able to close the distance and force the clinch, where he dragged his adversary to the canvas at least once in each frame — including a powerful slam in Round 3. Tokov also found the range on his right hand in the last stanza, as he countered Davlatmurodov effectively for much of the final five minutes.

Davlatmurodov sees a six-bout winning streak come to an end in his Bellator debut.

In preliminary action: Kirill Sidelnikov (13-6, 2-1 Bellator) put away Rab Truesdale (8-8-1, 0-1 Bellator) with a barrage of ground-and-pound 2:01 into Round 1 at heavyweight; Katarzyna Sadura (5-4, 1-0 Bellator) earned a technical knockout victory against Darina Mazdyuk (3-2, 0-1 Bellator) 3:17 into the second frame at flyweight; Irina Alekseeva (4-1, 1-0 Bellator) outpointed (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) Stephanie Ielo Page (5-3, 0-1 Bellator) in a flyweight affair; )Nikita Mikhailov (7-1, 1-0 Bellator) took a unanimous verdict (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) over Brian Moore (14-8, 5-4 Bellator) at bantamweight; Alexey Shurkevich (13-4, 1-0 Bellator) rendered Grachik Bozinyan (11-5, 1-2 Bellator) unconscious with heavy ground-and-pound at the 2:25 mark of Round 1 in a welterweight encounter and Aiden Lee (10-5, 3-2 Bellator) submitted Alexander Osetrov (8-3-1, 0-1 Bellator) with a rear-naked choke 3:31 into the opening round at featherweight.
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