After coming up short on Dana White’s Contender Series last year, California’s Taylor Johnson made no mistake Friday at Bellator 245. Taking on Penn State wrestler Ed Ruth in a middleweight contest, Johnson (6-1) secured a heel hook win early in the opening round.
“Ed’s such a nice guy, I don’t like potentially injuring an opponent like that,” Johnson said following the win, which is unquestionably the biggest of his career to date. Nice guy or not, it wasn’t long before Johnson recognized the Ruth would be susceptible to the submission.
“As soon as I realized he wasn’t super-savvy in that position, I knew I was going to get the sub,” he told reporters at the Bellator 245 post-fight press conference.
What a difference a year has made. Johnson’s performance Friday, against an established talent in Ruth, was the polar opposite of his DWCS showing. “The Contender Series loss was just me getting a little too excited. Wanting to get that contract, coming out, like my dad says, I went after him like I was killing snakes. I was just getting after it.” He took a different approach Friday. “This fight I wanted to come out a little more reserved; pulling out the W in the first round, first couple of minutes, is a huge opportunity.”
Key to the win was what he changed between that last fight and now. “Composure. Being relaxed and staying composed. Realizing I have 15 minutes to knock someone out, I don’t need to do it in a minute and a half.”
With the win over an established talent in the promotion, Johnson believes he’s right in the mix in Bellator’s middleweight division. “Absolutely,” he said when the notion was suggested. “I don’t have a lot of fights, I’ve had dozens and dozens of guys all across the west coast who weren’t interested in fighting me. I had a lot of fights fall through, to have that opportunity against Ed — I have the ability to beat anybody, I’ve just got to go out there and do it.”
Despite the big win, Taylor Johnson isn’t ready to call anyone out just yet. “I haven’t really checked too deep into the roster, but I’m sure I’ll find someone in the next week that looks like an interesting opponent. I just want to fight tough guys really.”