Fabian Edwards drew first blood in his challenge for Johnny Eblen's middleweight title in the main event of Bellator 299, but a deep cut across his eyebrow seemed to ignite a new fire for the champion. Eblen scored a third-round TKO finish to retain his title and crush Edwards' dream of joining his brother, UFC middleweight champion Leon Edwards, as simultaneous world champions.
Momentum felt as though it was on Eblen's side before the fight even began as the champion walked to the ring with the Dublin crowd loudly singing along to his entrance music of "Take Me Home, Country Roads" by John Denver.
While Eblen's easiest path to victory was seemingly to utilize his wrestling and grind out Edwards on the ground, Eblen was content to stand, switch stances and throw kicks and punches at the challenger. With Edwards having to worry about the possibility of takedowns, Eblen was able to do the better early work on the feet.
After establishing early success on the feet, Eblen started to look to work the clinch and hunt a bit for takedowns. Edwards was able to fend off the initial attempts and even do some good work with strikes on the break. Most importantly, Edwards was able to land a blow to open a nasty cut across Eblen's eyebrow in the second round.
Eblen's response to the cut was to come out for Round 3 on fire. After both men landed big shots in the opening seconds, Edwards was dropped by a right hand. Eblen followed to the canvas and landed a flurry of big shots that forced the stoppage as Edwards was badly rattled.
Things almost boiled over after the TKO stoppage, with Eblen taunting and yelling at his downed foe and Leon Edwards jumping into the action and leading to some aggressive words between the two world champions before things were settled down and Eblen eventually made his way over to the Edwards brothers in a show of sportsmanship.
The stoppage came at 0:21 of Round 3, running Eblen's record to 14-0. The win was his second title defense since defeating Gegard Mousasi for the belt at Bellator 282.
"Part of me was like yeah, I don't know how bad this cut is, it feels pretty bad," Eblen said when asked after the fight if the cut spurred on a more aggressive approach. "I just stuck to the game plan. I didn't change much. ... I can strike, I can grapple, I can do it all. I feel like I'm one of the best in the world if not the best in the world."