Anthony Johnson made his Bellator MMA and light heavyweight grand prix debut on Friday night. And notably, not to mention unfortunately, it did not come against Yoel Romero.
With Romero not cleared to fight, Johnson instead met back-up fighter Jose Augusto in the final quarterfinal bout of the grand prix.
Facing off with a force as imposing as Anthony Johnson is a formidable task at the best of times. On short notice? It felt as if Jose Augusto was about to get “rumbled” as Bellator 258’s co-main event go underway. But instead, Johnson opened with a handful of low kicks, and later a push kick, taking a more measured approach.
Augusto, for his part, countered with his hands, blocked a high kick, and spent plenty of time making sure he got out of the way of Rumble’s attacks. Augusto then hurt his hand off a punch, and Johnson knew it. He went on the offensive, pressuring his opponent. Augusto valiantly threw his right hand, and immediately winced in pain. Blood was in the water. Johnson began unloading on Augusto, who fired back when he could. But Johnson split the guard with an uppercut, forcing Augusto to escape.
And then, the Brazilian landed a counter that rocked Rumble. Johnson went down off another blow, a left, eating serious damage that resulted in a near-stoppage. Augusto couldn’t finish the job, however.
Round two opened with a question: was Johnson compromised? Had ring rust reared its ugly head? Was Augusto simply a better fighter than advertised? Johnson connected low with a leg kick, as the pair faced off, feinting and trading the occasional strike. And then, Johnson finally uncorked the sort of power everyone had been waiting for. After nearly being upset in the opening round, Rumble unleashed a punishing right hand on the chin of Augusto. That was really all that was needed, and a single hammer fist later, ref Mike Beltran rescued Augusto from impending doom.
Following the bout, Johnson admitted he didn’t even remember being dropped in the fight. “I felt like I was home,” he said of returning to the cage after four years away. He’ll now move on to the light heavyweight grand prix semifinals — and a title fight against Vadim Nemkov.
Official Result: Anthony Johnson def. Jose Augusto by knockout, Round 2, 1:30