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Johnny Eblen ‘blows through’ Israel Adesanya en route to Sean Strickland finals in hypothetical March Madness


Johnny Eblen likes his chances in a mixed martial arts (MMA) version of March Madness.

The Middleweight division has been constantly evolving over the past year. It’s been a rotating door of champions in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) since Israel Adesanya fell to Alex Pereira in late 2022 (watch highlights). Adesanya reclaimed the title a few months later (watch highlights) before he dropped it to Sean Strickland, who lost it to Dricus Du Plessis at UFC 297 in January 2024 (watch highlights).

However, it’s been stable outside of UFC in promotions like Bellator and Professional Fighters League (PFL), which has the undefeated 15-0 Eblen as the titleholder. In the world of basketball, the annual tradition of the March Madness tournament is underway in National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA). Presented with the idea of an MMA version from ESPN, Eblen revealed how he thinks it would play out.

“That would be sick, sign me up!” Eblen responded. “I blow through ‘Izzy’ in the elite eight. I beat [Robert] Whittaker in a FOTN (Fight of the Night) banger during the final four. It’s me and my homie Sean in the final. That would be epic!”

Eblen recently made his PFL debut when he battled the 2023 Light Heavyweight season champion, Impa Kasanganay, at PFL vs. Bellator last month (Feb. 24, 2024). “The Human Cheat Code” had to overcome some adversity in round two when cracked with big punches from the former UFC Welterweight hopeful. Ultimately, Eblen rallied to get the job done via a split decision win.

Unfortunately for Eblen, he’ll miss out on PFL’s seasonal format in 2024, as the promotion doesn’t do a tournament for the Middleweight division. After Fabian Edwards unanimous decision over Aaron Jeffery at Bellator Belfast this past weekend (March 22, 2024), we can likely expect a title fight rematch between the Brit and Eblen. The champion successfully defended his title against Edwards via a third round knockout at Bellator 299 in September 2023 (watch highlights).

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