Johnson (15-6 MMA, 3-2 BMMA) was determined to make amends after his 1 minute, 48 second TKO defeat to the Frenchman at Bellator 208 in October 2018. The Las Vegas-based heavyweight showcased a solid game plan as he stayed out of danger in the open, then closed the distance and worked effectively from the clinch against the cage.
Johnson received early encouragement in Round 1 when Kongo (30-11-2 MMA, 12-3 BMMA) lost his balance and the American took him to the mat. Kongo attempted to escape, but was greeted by a barrage of heavy punches to the head. Remarkably, despite the onslaught, Kongo was able to fight his way back to his feet as the small Parisian crowd in attendance cheered their approval. But Johnson kept up the pressure and worked on Kongo’s legs with short knees to the thigh as he pressed his man up against the fence.
Johnson doubled up on his right hand to start Round 2 and immediately caught Kongo off guard. While not hurt, the Frenchman’s rhythm was sufficiently upset to allow Johnson to close the distance and force the action against the fence once again. Kongo worked his way up from another Johnson takedown and returned the favor, only for the American to bounce back up. Then the pair dispensed with their wrestling and swung for the fences in a wild striking exchange, with Kongo connecting with two solid shots that Johnson took well.
The final round started with Kongo connecting with a pair of big right hands, but Johnson continued to walk down the Frenchman and eventually landed a big left hand and forced him up against the cage. Kongo landed some nice knees to the body and eventually forced Johnson to disengage and return to the center of the cage. After another grueling exchange against the fence that saw Kongo connect with more knees to the body, and Johnson land more knees to the legs, the fight went to the scorecards.
After a tense wait, the judges awarded the fight to Johnson, with the American edging a split-decision verdict with scores of 29-28, 28-29, 29-28 as he registered his third straight win to move a big step toward title contention.
When asked if he thought he’d done enough a shot at champion Ryan Bader, Johnson smiled, “I sure hope so. I think every athlete’s got their little window when things start lining up for them and I think the past three or four moments kinda showed myself that I might be in it right now and it might not come back around again, so I gotta take advantage of it when I can.”
— Bellator Europe (@Bellator_Europe) October 10, 2020