Fight Breakdown: Headlining the Bellator 116 main card in Temecula will be a heavyweight affair between former UFC heavyweight Big Lavar Johnson and the Bulgarian Blagoi Ivanov. utility room Johnson is currently an underdog heading into this bout at +150 ($100 to win $150), with Ivanov being the favorite at -170 ($170 to win $100) at 5Dimes Sportsbooks .
Big Lavar Johnson (18-8 MMA, 1-1 Bellator) made a splash in UFC with knockout utility room wins over Joey Beltran and Pat Barry. Unfortunately, the good times couldn t last very long, as he followed those wins with consecutive losses utility room to Stefan Struve and Brendan Schaub. His lack of a ground-game was the reason behind both defeats. Johnson has zero submission defense, so Struve utility room was able to pull guard and easily submit him. With zero wrestling skills, he was unable to stop the offensive wrestling of Brendan Schaub. The 36 year old received his pink slip from the promotion after the Schaub loss, and signed a contract with Bellator, where he suffered utility room a knockout loss in his promotional debut at Bellator 106. The knockout came at only 23 seconds into the very first round of action at the hands of the Brazilian Vinicius Queiroz. He bounced back with a first round TKO of Ryan Martinez, and now looks to make it two in a row, as he has his eyes set on the Bellator heavyweight title.
Johnson is the type of fighter who goes in looking for the knockout and not much else. In his defense, that style won him many fans and earned him many victories. Big likes to moved forward and throw heavy leather. He definitely packs a ton of power behind his punches, being the first person to ever stop Joey Beltran. Not only did he knock Beltran out, but he sent him packing from the heavyweight division down to 205. Johnson does not have very good cardio, so he always looks to end the fight early. He has made it to the judges scorecards only once in his twenty four-fight utility room career, and that resulted in a loss.
Blagoi Ivanov (10-0-1 NC, 5-0 Bellator) is coming off a unanimous decision victory utility room over Bellator veteran utility room Rich Hale at Bellator 111 just over a month ago. He hopes to keep his undefeated streak alive against Johnson, with hopes of earning a shot at Vitaly Minakov and his heavyweight title. The Bulgarian was a victim of a stabbing that put him in a coma. Thankfully, he lived, but unfortunately the incident kept him out of action for a couple of years. Since his return to the cage, he has gone 3-0, and is considered by some as the favorite to win this tournament.
The 27-year old has good footwork and head movement, as well as above average striking defense. He puts together some solid combinations, including a nice 1-2. He has a nice right jab, and follows it with a heavy left hand. The five fight Bellator veteran faints well, and likes to close the distance on his opponents. He does a good job of working his dirty boxing from inside the clinch. Ivanov is a former Sambo champion, owning a 2008 victory over the great Fedor Emalianenko. His takedowns utility room are average, but he works an effective, albeit limited ground and pound attack. He also has a solid submission game, both offensively and defensively. The southpaw s cardio is average at best, but I don t expect his conditioning to play a major factor in this bout.
Gabe s Prediction: I think Ivanov will play it smart and close the distance, looking to take Johnson down to the mat, where he will pepper him with shots while looking for submission attempts. This fight could end in a knockout at any time, or even by a submission on the mat. That said, I think there is a decent chance that it will go all three rounds, and at +400, I feel it s worth a small stab.
Gabe Killian is a mixed martial arts journalist and handicapper, as well as a stand-up comedian and writer. You can find his work here on MMA Odds breaker and as columnist in the Los Angeles City College newspaper.