Two fights after taking down a former world champion in Lyoto Machida, Fabian Edwards looked to add another win over a former champ when he faced Gegard Mousasi in the main event of Bellator 296 on Friday. After five rounds, Edwards accomplished his mission, scoring a clear unanimous decision over a middleweight legend and securing a shot at championship gold later this year.
Mousasi looked like never really got his offense on-track against Edwards, who was longer and faster throughout the fight. And, in the moments where Mousasi was able to get something going, sloppy fouls derailed his momentum.
Maybe the biggest of those moments came in the second round. Edwards took Mousasi to the ground but did not do anything offensively, allowing Mousasi to reverse position and get on top. While Mousasi tried to do damage on the ground, he threw an illegal knee that landed to Edwards' face, resulting in the fight being stood up and Mousasi losing the advantageous position.
Despite that moment seeming to show an edge on the ground for Mousasi, the former champ decided to mostly remain standing, only scoring a another takedown in the fourth round. While he was able to move to full mount and even take the back, Mousasi was not able to hold the position before Edwards got back to his feet.
The rest of the fight featured Edwards popping off quick punches and leg kicks, countering Mousasi's slower attacks almost at will and clearly racking up rounds on the scorecards.
By the fifth round, it was Edwards who was securing takedowns and maintaining back control as Mousasi was unable to do much other than prevent a submission.
It was a dominant showing for Edwards, controlling nearly every moment of the fight against one of the great middleweights in MMA history.
.@fabianedwards24 lands at will on @mousasi_mma.#Bellator296 | 🇺🇸 @SHOsports | 🇫🇷 @RMCSport pic.twitter.com/9w9lTMSPyq— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) May 12, 2023
After the conclusion of five rounds, the official scorecards were as wide as expected. All three judges turned in cards of 49-46, giving Edwards the biggest win of his career.
The win secured Edwards a shot at middleweight champion Johnny Eblen -- and an opportunity for Edwards to join his brother, UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards, as world champion.
"After I suffered my losses, a lot of people wrote me off," Edwards said. "A lot of people thought I was finished. One more fight until I get that gold belt and join my brother and make some f---ing history."
Eblen joined Edwards in the cage at that point, the two men exchanging words as it was confirmed they would meet for Eblen's title on Sept. 23 in Dublin.
"I'm a much, much tougher opponent than Gegard and you're going to see that," Eblen said.
Mousasi, who lost the title to Eblen in his previous outing, has now lost back-to-back fights for the first time in a career that has spanned more than two decades and nearly 60 fights, almost all fought on the biggest stages of the sport.