Bellator 269 Report: Fedor Emelianenko knocks out Tim Johnson in the first round
By: Eric Marcotte
Bellator 269 took place on Saturday night, from the VTB Arena in Moscow, Russia. The card was built around MMA legend, Fedor Emelianenko, fighting in his home country for the first time since 2016. His opponent was Timothy Johnson, fresh off of an unsuccessful attempt to claim Bellator’s interim heavyweight championship against Valentin Moldavsky. Johnson was favored to win this bout against the 45-year-old Emelianenko, but the crowd in attendance was completely behind the legendary Emelianenko, rooting for Fedor to turn back the clock one last time. The co-main event featured another heavyweight bout, with Vitaly Minakov facing Said Sowma. Commentary for this card was provided by the team of Sean Grande and John McCarthy.
*Aiden Lee def. Alexander Osetrov by rear-naked choke at 3:41 of Round 1
*Alexey Shurkevich def. Grachik Bozinyan by KO at 2:25 of Round 1
*Nikita Mikhailov def. Brian Moore by unanimous decision (29-28 all)
*Irina Alekseeva def. Stephanie Ielö Page by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
*Katarzyna Sadura def. Darina Mazdyuk by TKO at 3:17 of Round 2
*Kirill Sidelnikov def. Rab Truesdale by TKO at 2:01 of Round 1
*Anatoly Tokov def. Sharaf Davlatmurodov by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
*Usman Nurmagomedov def. Patrik Pietilä by rear-naked choke at 4:06 of Round 1
*Said Sowma def. Vitaly Minakov by TKO at 3:08 of Round 3
*Fedor Emelianenko def. Timothy Johnson by KO at 1:46 of Round 1
ANATOLY TOKOV (29-2, 185) VS SHARAF DAVLATMURODOV (18-3-1, 186) – MIDDLEWEIGHT
Davlatmurodov knocked Tokov off his feet in the first exchange. Tokov did not appear to be hurt, popped right back up, and began to look for a way to close the distance. Davlatmurodov wrapped Tokov up against the cage, where they wrestled to a stalemate before separating. Davlatmurodov threw a pair of overhand rights, before Tokov engaged him in the clinch, landing a knee to the head before they broke apart. Tokov secured a takedown late as he attempted a standing guillotine, but was unable to sink it in. Close round. 10-9 Tokov.
Tokov began the second round with some solid kicks to the legs and body. He looked sharp on the feet here, tagging Davlatmurodov before shooting in for a successful takedown. While he wasn’t extremely effective from top position, the control time along with his earlier success on the feet was more than enough for me to score this round in his favor. 20-18 Tokov.
Tokov continued to be the aggressor on the feet in round three. Neither man was pulling ahead on the strike count, but I thought Davlatmurodov was landing some of his more effective shots of the fight in this round. A low blow to Davlatmurodov in the clinch paused the fight, and when the action resumed, Tokov took Davlatmurodov down, however, he was unable to keep Davlatmurodov down for long. With thirty seconds remaining in the round, Davlatmurodov completed a takedown of his own and ended the fight on Tokov’s back. 29-28 Tokov.
WINNER: Anatoly Tokov by split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
I have no idea how one judge saw this fight for Davlatmurodov, but the right fighter got his arm raised in the end here. This was hardly Tokov’s best performance, however, he was fighting a teammate here, and was coming into this following a two-year lay off. Regardless of the close fight and strange scoring, Tokov picked up his sixth straight Bellator win here, and if he remains active, a ranked opponent should be next for him.
USMAN NURMAGOMEDOV (13-0, 160) VS PATRIK PIETILA (11-8, 158.5) – CATCHWEIGHT
Nurmagomedov took Pietilä down a minute into the fight, where he began to work from half guard. He transitioned into half guard before moving into top mount, where he forced Pietilä to give up his back. Nurmagomedov sunk in the rear-naked choke, and Pietilä was forced to submit.
WINNER: Usman Nurmagomedov by rear-naked choke at 4:06 of Round 1
It doesn’t really get more dominant than this. In the past Nurmagomedov has shown off his striking, but decided to take it to the ground here, which was clearly a smart move. Pietilä was unable to escape from bottom position, and Nurmagomedov expertly worked his way to Pietilä’s back. Nurmagomedov asked for a top ten opponent in his next bout, and I think he’s probably going to get it. Sometimes Bellator is a bit too cautious with their prospects, but this is one of those cases in which I don’t think caution is necessary. Nurmagomedov is going to be a favorite against a lot of fighters in the lightweight division’s top ten.
VITALY MINAKOV (22-1, 265) VS SAID SOWMA (7-2, 243) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Slow start to the bout, as Minakov walked Sowma down. Minakov eventually took Sowma down, landing a couple of strong hammerfists before allowing Sowma to his feet. Minakov landed a right hand that knocked Sowma to the ground, although he did not seem rocked. Minakov connected with a couple more right hands before the end of the round. 10-9 Minakov.
Sowma threw a pair of heavy leg kicks to begin the second round, and Minakov didn’t take them well. There were some heavy exchanges in the pocket, before they fell into the same pattern as round one, with Sowma circling the cage while Minakov followed. Sowma went back to the leg kicks later in the round, and they were clearly bothering Minakov. Close round, but I thought Sowma’s leg kicks were the difference-maker. 19-19.
About three minutes into the final round, Minakov threw an overhand right and grabbed his finger following the punch. Minakov backed up as he seemingly tried to pop a dislocated finger back into place, but he was not defending himself due to the injury, and the referee stopped the bout before he could pop it back into place.
WINNER: Said Sowma by TKO at 3:08 of Round 3
Obviously, this was a disappointing end to the fight. Minakov has been one of the most impressive heavyweights outside of the UFC for quite some time, but age and inactivity have begun to take their toll on Minakov. The injury was unfortunate, but it seemed to me at least, as though the momentum was starting to shift in Sowma’s favor regardless. That being said, this is heavyweight, and Minakov certainly still had a great chance of winning this bout. I wouldn’t be shocked if they decide to run this one back, and hopefully, we can see Minakov on a more consistent basis in the near future.
FEDOR EMELIANENKO (39-6, 1 NC, 233.5) VS TIMOTHY JOHNSON (15-7, 264) – HEAVYWEIGHT
Timothy Johnson walked out to Real American. While I have no idea what song Fedor walked out to, I can say his entrance was incredible.
Just over ninety seconds into the fight, Fedor threw this lighting quick three-punch combination, and each shot caught Johnson clean. Johnson fell to the ground, unconscious, and Fedor just stood over his fallen opponent as the crowd lost their minds.
WINNER: Fedor Emelianenko by KO at 1:46 of Round 1
Fedor Emelianenko is 45 years of age, but his hands remain remarkably quicker than the average heavyweights. Johnson just got caught here, and Fedor’s power was more than enough to finish the fight. This was a spectacular finish, adding one more knockout to the long list of highlights on the Fedor Emelianenko reel. He plans to continue his MMA career, and while a win over Bellator’s second-ranked heavyweight would theoretically move him back into title contention, I’m not sure booking Fedor in a title fight would be the wisest move. Regardless of what’s next for the MMA legend, this was a great feel-good moment in front of the Russian crowd. Emelianenko now has a record of 4-2 in Bellator MMA and improves to a remarkable record of 40-6 (1 NC) professionally.