Fabian Edwards enters his Bellator 299 fight with middleweight champion Johnny Eblen with a chance to do something unique in mixed martial arts. Should Edwards pull off the win, he would hold a major world championship at the same time as his brother, UFC welterweight champion Leon Edwards.
"It feels crazy. It's kind of a surreal moment that I'm so close to making that happen," Edwards told CBS Sports' Shakiel Mahjouri of the possibility of joining his brother as a world champion. "... I find the more you stress about it, you tend to mess it up. So, I'm just letting it flow. You know what you're doing it for, but you let it flow and it tends to come to you."
Of course, winning the title is a tall task for Edwards, who earned the opportunity by dominating Gegard Mousasi in a May title eliminator. That win ran Edwards' winning streak to three after suffering back-to-back decision losses.
Eblen has been dominant in his mixed martial arts career, entering Bellator with a 4-0 record and then rattling off nine straight wins in the promotion. In June 2022, Elben won the middleweight title with a one-sided decision over Mousasi. He then picked up his first title defense with a decision over Anatoly Tokov.
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In the co-main event, Aaron Pico looks to continue yet another climb toward a potential title shot when he takes on former title contender Pedro Carvalho. Once considered arguably the greatest prospect in mixed martial arts history, Pico has seen multiple setbacks prevent him from reaching the highs expected when he made his pro debut in 2017.
Pico suffered a shocking loss in that debut fight. After rebounding with four straight victories, Pico suffered back-to-back knockout losses and it seemed he could be considered a bust as ever reaching the status of being an elite fighter. That changed after an impressive six-fight winning streak that led to a fight with Jeremy Kennedy, seemingly putting a featherweight title shot in reach.
Once again, Pico suffered a defeat, but this time because of a shoulder injury that forced a TKO for another setback in a snakebitten career. Pico has since gotten back in the win column and now looks to continue a run that leads to better fortune.
"My advice is to develop and there is no rush. Everyone looks at Jon Jones. That's an exception. That's one guy," Pico said this week. "Your journey is different. I made that mistake; this game is evolving so much. You will be champion when it's the right time for you. Take your time. It's a pain in the ass to get your confidence back. Where I am is perfect. My confidence was shot for a long time but its back. I'm where I'm supposed to be. I don't want to talk about injuries, my shoulder is strong. If I have that in my mind, my shoulder is strong."
He'll do so against Carvalho, who lost to Patricio Pitbull in a November 2020 Grand Prix bout that was also for Pitbull's championship. Including the loss to Pitbull, Carvalho is in the middle of the worst stretch of his career, with a 2-4 record since the start of 2020.
The rest of the undercard has some international flair to it with many fighters representing Europe. One hometown fighter makes the walk on the main card when Sinead Kavanagh takes on Sara Collins at women's featherweight. The Irish fighter has been a staple of the Dublin events in recent years, picking up a pair of victories in her last two appearances. Plus, Mads Burnell is back to take on Daniel Weichel at featherweight, and action fighters meet in the main card opener when Levan Chokheli takes on Sabah Homasi at welterweight.
Bellator 299 fight card, odds
|Johnny Eblen (c) -550||Fabian Edwards +400||Middleweight title|
|Aaron Pico -1100||Pedro Carvalho +700||Featherweight|
|Sinead Kavanagh -140||Sara Collins +120||Women's featherweight|
|Mads Burnell -280||Daniel Weichel +230||Featherweight|
|Levan Chokheli -220||Sabah Homasi +180||Welterweight|
- Date: Sept. 23 | Start time: 4 p.m. ET (main card)
- Location: 3 Arena-- Dublin, Ireland
- TV Channel: Showtime | Stream: Showtime.com or the Showtime app
While the story of the Edwards brothers as simultaneous world champions is certainly intriguing, this is as bad of a style match for Edwards as the odds imply. Eblen's wrestling allows him to smother attacks from opponents and he's unlikely to be interested in allowing Edwards much comfort on the feet. Eblen has just two stoppage wins in his Bellator career as a result of his style, but it works and has led him to a championship. Look for wrestling and a lot of work from top position for Eblen on Saturday in Dublin. Pick: Johnny Eblen via UD