Bellator 116 Fight Breakdown: Blagoi Ivanov (-160) vs Lavar Johnson (+140)

Lavar Johnson The main event of Bellator 116 is a three-round heavyweight bout between Blagoi Ivanov and Lavar “Big” Johnson. The current betting line for the fight at Several Bookmakers lists Ivanov as a -160 favorite (bet $160 to win $100) while Johnson is a +140 underdog (bet $100 to win $140). MMA oddsmaker Nick Kalikas originally opened up Ivanov at -160 and Johnson at +120, and there has some been modest action on Ivanov as the line has tightened. This is a close fight to pick and I can see why there hasn’t been much line movement, but I am going to go out on a limb and pick the dog Johnson to win the fight. Here’s why. Ivanov (10-0, 1 NC) is one of Bellator’s top heavyweight prospects and is arguably the favorite to win the tournament. The 27-year-old was once considered to be a possible future champion, but after being stabbed and subsequently placed into an artificial coma, Ivanov missed almost two years of action and just recently returned from his hiatus. Since making his comeback last September, Ivanov has gone 3-0 in the Bellator cage but he just hasn’t looked the same as he used to, which is understandable given what happened to him. Still, he is a talented, undefeated fighter and with his combination of knockout power and submission prowess he’s a dangerous opponent for anyone in the division. But considering he was given problems by Richard Hale and Keith Bell, he is no lock to beat Johnson in this fight and that’s why the line on him has barely moved. Johnson (18-8) is, quite simply, one of the heaviest punchers in mixed martial arts. The 36-year-old has 18 career wins to his credit and 16 of them have come by knockout and another one came by submission via strikes. Following an up-and-down UFC career that saw him go 2-2 in the promotion and get cut following a failed drug test, Johnson signed with Bellator and lost in a big upset to Vinicius Quieroz at Bellator 102. However, he rebounded from that loss with a big knockout win over Ryan Martinez in his last outing at Bellator 111 and cashed as an underdog winner. Although Johnson is a fish out of water on his back, in the standup he’s a nightmare to deal with and if he can keep Ivanov from taking him down he has a very good chance of winning this fight via knockout. But that’s a big if. Although Ivanov has never lost before and although Johnson is on the downside of his career, I believe Johnson can land his famous punches on Ivanov’s chin early in this fight and get the knockout win and advance to the finals of the Bellator heavyweight tournament. This is a close fight and although I am taking the dog here, I’m not super confident in it and can’t recommend more than a small play on Johnson. You just never know with these heavyweight fights, especially in Bellator, and I don’t want to be there biting my fingers while the fight plays out as one fluke punch either way can end it. So I think this is just a fight to watch and enjoy as a fan, because there should be a finish regardless and it should be pretty brutal when it does happen.

Written by Adam Martin.

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