In a heavyweight fight that’s likely to be a hideous grindfest, this contest will be infinitely more exciting for those of us who have money on the line. Both former UFC heavyweights will look to score an emphatic win in order to fight for the Bellator title in the not too distant future.
From Kickboxer to Hugger
Watching Kongo’s recent footage, it’s hard to imagine he comes from a Kyokushin and kickboxing background. After switching over from professional kickboxing to MMA, Kongo was once known as a fierce striker. In the UFC, the Frenchman was involved in plenty of crazy fire fights – but eventually changed his style after brutal knockout losses to Mark Hunt and then Roy Nelson. Approaching forty and presumably looking to reduce the amount of damage he was absorbing, Kongo started relying more on his clinch control and wrestling to win contests.
While Kongo knocked out Javy Ayala with a beautiful counter in his last fight, the other victories in his six-fight win streak were the result of grinding and positional control. In a disgustingly boring contest against Augusto Sakai, it was Kongo’s control against the fence and takedowns that won him the split decision. It’s interesting how Kongo will approach this fight because unless he’s fallen off a cliff, he should still be the superior striker at range. However, if he chooses to grind against Tim Johnson – I’m not sure how effective he’ll be since grinding is his opponent’s best strength.
The Dirtiest of Dirty Boxers
If all heavyweight fights were contested in the clinch, Tim Johnson might be the world champion. At range, his boxing is solid but he tends to load up. Typically, Johnson likes to punch his way into the clinch where he does his best work with uppercuts and knees. Weighing in close to the heavyweight limit, Johnson uses his muscle to hold opponents against the fence and land the more eye-catching strikes. Despite being outstruck at range, he was able to make his fifteen pound weight advantage count against Brazilian prospect, Marcelo Golm, forcing him to fight against the fence.
Johnson was an All-American Division 2 wrestler, but prefers to use his wrestling to hold opponents against the fence rather than take them down. For a very large man, his conditioning is good and he can execute this strategy for fifteen minutes without gassing.
Kongo has a decided advantage at range, but not many fighters are able to prevent Johnson from grabbing hold of them. Volkov was unsuccessful in doing so and really did not deserve a decision victory over Johnson. At 43-years-of-age, Kongo has made the right adjustments to give his career more longevity – but I think this is a tough stylistic match-up for him. In a gritty and grimy close range battle, I’ll go with the credentialed wrestler who is more active with strikes in the clinch and is still a prime heavyweight at 33-years-of-age.
Pick: Timothy Johnson -125
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