Bellator Paris: Johnson Spoils Kongo’s Homecoming in French MMA Debut

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Cheick Kongo and Tim Johnson, Bellator MMA
Cheick Kongo and Tim Johnson Credit: Bellator MMA

Bellator Paris (that’s Bellator Europe 10, but not Bellator 248, in a confusing bit of scheduling on Saturday) marked the first sanctioned MMA event in the history of France. A huge coup for Bellator MMA, beating rival UFC to the territory. And a homecoming for Cheick Kongo, finally able to fight at home after so many years in the sport.

All eyes were on Kongo on Saturday. Every other fight, good as they were — and the Bellator 248 card, airing before its Europe 10 counterpart, was very good — felt like window dressing for the heavyweight veteran’s first walk to the cage in his home country. Kongo’s late-career resurgence had been impressive, with eight straight victories leading to a title fight with Ryan Bader last year. That fight ended prematurely due to an eye poke, and a rematch appeared to be in the cards with a Kongo victory on Saturday.

The best laid plans, as the saying goes. If Saturday was supposed to be Cheick Kongo’s moment of glory, no one gave opponent Tim Johnson the memo. The pair had met before, Kongo making short work of the American in 2018. What a difference two years can make. Johnson, looking to be in the best shape of his career, took Kongo down early. Controlled him, then proceeded to unleash a storm of ground n’ pound. Punch after punch slipped through the defenses of Kongo as he covered up. But while the ref took a good look, he allowed the action to continue, and somehow, Kongo made it back to his feet. No question, however, he lost the round.

He would also lose the fight. While Kongo had his moments, Johnson took him the distance, doing enough to earn a unanimous decision win, 29-28 on all three scorecards. Kongo would land a couple of big punches, but never come close to finishing. Post-fight, Johnson gave credit to Kongo’s chin, which kept the French fighter in the fight. Though few could have complained — outside of the 1,000 or so fans allowed inside the Accor Arena on Saturday — if the bout had of been waved off in the first. It was the closest either man would come to a finish.

Opening the Bellator Europe 10 main card, Saul Rogers wasted little time securing his ninth submission win. He took the back of opponent Arbi Mezhidov, locked up the rear-naked choke, and forced the tap.

Improving to 15-6 with the win, main event victor Johnson has now won three in a row in Bellator. Which should make him the front-runner for the next title shot.

Bellator Europe 10 Results:

Main Card

Tim Johnson def. Cheick Kongo by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Saul Rogers def. Arbi Mezhidov by submission (rear-naked choke), Round 1, 4:38

Preliminary Card

Yves Landu def. Terry Brazier by knockout (flying knee), Round 1, 2:18
Fabacary Diatta def. Dominique Wooding by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)
Lucie Bertaud def. Maguy Berchel by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-26, 30-26)
Ciran Clarke def. Jean N’Doye by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)

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