An interim championship will be on the line for the first time in Bellator MMA history when Tim Johnson and Valentin Moldavsky meet on Friday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. With heavyweight champion Ryan Bader tied up in the Light Heavyweight World Grand Prix, Moldavsky and Johnson will meet for the interim heavyweight title.
Johnson is a former UFC fighter who went 4-3 before parting ways with the promotion. His Bellator career got off to a poor start, suffering back-to-back knockouts against Cheick Kongo and Vitaly Minakov. But things started turning around in 2020 when Johnson went 3-0, scoring two first-round knockouts before avenging the loss to Kongo with a split decision win in October, moving him to the No. 1 spot in the division in the Bellator MMA Fighter Rankings.
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No. 3 ranked Moldavsky has yet to taste defeat inside the Bellator cage, holding a 5-0 record with the promotion. His lone career loss came in his final pre-Bellator fight, losing a split decision to Amir Aliakbari in the finals of the 2016 Rizin World Grand Prix. After three submission wins to begin his professional career, Moldavsky has only finished one fight since, grinding out decision wins over Bellator veterans Linton Vassell, Javy Ayala and Roy Nelson in his three most recent fights.
The card also sees what could be a No. 1 contender's bout in the women's flyweight division when Liz Carmouche meets Kana Watanabe. The pair currently rank at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively in the 125-pound division and both are coming off of impressive wins. Carmouche, 37, took a decision from Vanessa Porto in April. Watanabe, meanwhile, earned a decision of her own over Alejandra Lara. The winner could be in line to face Juliana Velasquez later in 2021.
Here's the fight card for Bellator 261 with the latest odds from William Hill Sportsbook.
Bellator 261 card, odds
Valentin Moldavsky -270
Tim Johnson +220
Liz Carmouche -195
Kana Watanabe +165
Keoni Diggs -135
Daniel Weichel +115
|Sidney Outlaw -150||Myles Jury +125||Lightweight|
|Christian Edwards||Simon Biyong||Light heavyweight|
Bellator 261 viewing information
Date: June 25 | Start time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: Mohegan Sun Arena -- Uncasville, Connecticut
TV Channel: Showtime
Tim Johnson vs. Valentin Moldavsky: This fight could turn into a long grind. It has been seven years since Johnson has scored a stoppage outside of the first round, so if he doesn't get to Moldavsky's chin quickly, he might not at all. Similarly, only one of Moldavsky's fights in the past five years has not gone the distance, giving the fight all the markings of a war of attrition. Moldavsky is slightly better at that kind of fight, though Johnson's wrestling is decent. It seems clear how the fight plays out if Johnson can't score a quick finish. Pick: Valentin Moldavsky via UD