Both Tim Johnson and Linton Vassell had flirted with gold throughout their Bellator MMA careers.
For Vassell, that had come at light heavyweight, where he’d challenged for gold; Johnson had competed for an interim title at heavyweight. It was in the larger weight class where the pair collided Friday at Bellator 277.
That’s a literal collision, we should add.
A low blow briefly halted the action mere seconds on from the opening bell, but things quickly resumed, with Johnson, the victim, good to continue. He then drove Vassell into the fence, but “The Swarm” quickly fought him off.
If at first you don’t succeed, of course, try, try again, and Johnson did. Vassell fought him off a second time, and that put them back at center. Vassell fired a body kick, while Johnson punched his way inside, backing Vassell up to the fence for takedown attempt number three. And again, Vassell’s defense withstood the test.
Moments later, however, a right hand by Johnson rocked Vassell, and he shot for a desperation takedown. Johnson unloaded with strikes, but Vassell survived — albeit he was still rather wobbly. So wobbly he flopped over, and Tim Johnson charged in to get on top — with their heads coming close to clashing as their bodies collided.
Johnson then looked to tie things up again, but it was Vassell who turned the tables, getting a hook in and looking to take the back. Soon, Johnson was covering up, eating significant strikes from Vassell, who was mounted from the back. Johnson rolled to his front, rolled to his back, with the ref ordering him to keep moving and fight back. Moving, he could do, fighting back or intelligently defending he could not. That was enough to see the fight waved off, giving Vassell his fourth straight win as a heavyweight.
WHAT A COMEBACK!
— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) April 16, 2022
With a strong win streak behind him, Linton Vassell may very well have worked his way to a title shot in a second weight class. Ryan Bader vs. Cheick Kongo is up next, but Vassell could be waiting in the wings for the winner. He called for the shot following the win, and he certainly has a strong argument.
Official Result: Linton Vassell def. Tim Johnson by TKO (strikes), Round 1, 4:21