Ryan Bader Obliterates Retiring Fedor Emelianenko in Bellator 290 Main Event

Ryan Bader made certain a true all-time great walked off into the sunset empty-handed.

The two-time NCAA All-American successfully defended his undisputed Bellator MMA heavyweight championship, as he stopped the retiring Fedor Emelianenko with punches in the first round of their Bellator 290 headliner on Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, California. In the final appearance of his incredible career, Emelianenko (40-7, 4-3 Bellator) succumbed to blows 2:30 into Round 1.

Bader (31-7, 9-2 Bellator) wisely steered clear of the Russian’s fabled overhand right and picked his spots. He backed up Emelianenko with punches, then floored him with a glancing right behind the ear. Bader set up shop in top position, cut loose with ground-and-pound and eventually trapped the former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder’s arm behind him before closing it out with unanswered punches to the face.

In the co-main event, Johnny Eblen kept his perfect professional record intact and retained the undisputed Bellator middleweight championship with a clear-cut unanimous decision over Anatoly Tokov at 185 pounds. All three members of the cageside judiciary struck scorecards for Eblen (13-0, 9-0 Bellator): 50-45, 49-46 and 49-46.

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Repeated takedowns, soul-crushing mat returns and punishing ground-and-pound tipped the Eblen spear. Tokov (31-3, 7-1 Bellator) made some inroads in the second round but saw his gains offset when the undefeated American Top Team standout decked him with a standing elbow in the center of the cage. From there, it was all downhill for the former Absolute Championship Berkut titleholder. Eblen took him down with increasing ease in the fourth and fifth rounds, punctuating his performance with a picture-perfect belly-to-back suplex in the closing seconds of the fight.

The loss was Tokov’s first since Dec. 9, 2016 and snapped his seven-fight winning streak.

Meanwhile, a resurgent Brennan Ward disposed of American Top Team’s Sabah Homasi with a head kick and follow-up punches in the second round of their welterweight showcase. Ward (17-6, 11-6 Bellator) drew the curtain 1:34 into Round 2.

Homasi (17-11, 6-5 Bellator) established his foothold with a series of kicks to the legs and knees to the head but failed to make a dent in his counterpart’s resolve. Ward shifted gears with takedowns, jumped to the back on multiple occasions and cut loose with jabs and hooks once the two welterweights returned to their feet. He floored Homasi with a stiff jab at the start of the second round, bailed on a guillotine choke and went to work with elbow-laced ground-and-pound, opening a significant cut on the New Jersey native’s forehead. Ward stepped back into open space when the finish did not present itself, dropped Homasi with a head kick and flurried with punches on the ground until referee Blake Grice had seen enough.

The 34-year-old Ward has rattled off three straight victories since returning from close to a five-year absence in February 2022.

In preliminary action, Lorenz Larkin (25-7, 7-2 Bellator) cut down Mukhamed Berkhamov (14-1, 1-1 Bellator) with an elbow strike 1:41 into the first round of their welterweight pairing; Nikita Mikhailov (9-2, 3-1 Bellator) took a unanimous decision from Darrion Caldwell (15-7, 12-6 Bellator) in a three-round bantamweight tilt, drawing 29-28 scores from all three judges; Christopher Gonzalez (8-2, 7-2 Bellator) put away Max Rohskopf (7-2, 0-1 Bellator) with punches 1:22 into the second round of their lightweight encounter; Grant Neal (8-1, 7-1 Bellator) was awarded a split verdict—28-29, 29-28, 29-28—over Karl Albrektsson (13-5, 2-3 Bellator) in a three-round light heavyweight clash; Diana Avsaragova (6-0, 4-0 Bellator) eked out a split decision—29-28, 28-29, 29-28—over Alejandra Lara (9-7, 3-6 Bellator) in a three-round women’s flyweight affair; Henry Corrales (21-6, 9-6 Bellator) laid claim to a unanimous decision over Akhmed Magomedov (9-1, 1-1 Bellator) in a three-round featherweight confrontation, sweeping the scorecards with 29-28 marks from all three judges; and Steve Mowry (10-0-1, 6-0-1 Bellator) fought to a unanimous draw—28-28, 28-28, 28-28—with Ali Isaev (9-0-1, 0-0-1 Bellator) in a three-round heavyweight scrap.
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