The main card of Bellator 123 pins Cheick Kongo (21-9) and Lavar Johnson (18-9) aiming to advance in Bellator’s Heavyweight division. Both are known for their sheer knockout power, aggressive striking, and do-or-die style, so what will separate the two from victory? Analyzing Cheick’s two previous fights, here’s Kongo’s keys to victory against Lavar Johnson in Bellator 123.
Kongo Vs. Minakov
Kongo faced off with Vitaly Minakov in Bellator 115 for the heavyweight title, but lost the decision after an absolutely brutal five round battle. Kongo showed a lot of strength and conditioning going five rounds with Minakov, who was over twenty pounds heavier. Minakov won by taking the offensive and cutting angles that forced Cheick into the cage. Kongo tried to catch Minakov with his striking as he came in to hold him on the clinch, but Minakov was able to outmaneuver and out-grapple Kongo from the top. Kongo did show some very effective groundwork in round four when he was able to take Minakov down, but he was not able to turn that opportunity into victory against the heavyweight champ.
Kongo Vs. Eric Smith
The first round of Kongo’s fight with Eric Smith was an equal back-and-forth, but we saw Kongo get into major trouble at when Smith had him against the cage. With Kongo pinned down, he hit him with a series of punches that looked like near-stoppage material at one point. However, Kongo was able to recover and get out of trouble, eventually winning by TKO. Before he closed into range to throw his signature bombs, he wore Smith Down with the power of his strong sidekicks. This is the most important strategy to take note of as we take a look at his upcoming heavyweight bout.
Kongo’s Keys to Victory vs. Lavar Johnson
Both Cheick Kongo and Lavar Johnson fight with a very strong, record-proven striking style. Kongo has to keep his back off the cage and avoid Johnson’s strong clinch. He got into major trouble in his fights against Minakov and Smith once they could weigh him down on the cage. He has to keep the fight in the middle, preparing for Johnson’s striking game while he looks to impart his own. If Johnson looks to push him back, he should aim to out-maneuver him and utilize his striking strong suit. To close the distance against Johnson, he should set up his offense with the kicks he used effectively against Eric Smith. Kicking effectively will keep Johnson out of takedown range and allow Kongo to damage him until he finds the right time to close in. If he can be patient to be explosive, he has three rounds to wail on Johnson until he has little strength left. Whatever the case may be, you can be sure of an absolutely brutal Heavyweight bout in Bellator 123.