Anthony “Rumble” Johnson returned to MMA at Bellator 258 and scored a huge knockout of Brazilian Jose Augusto, but his win was anything but straightforward.
Former UFC contender Johnson, who made his Bellator debut on Friday night in Uncasville, Connecticut, finished Augusto, who stepped in on short-notice after Johnson’s original opponent, former UFC middleweight title challenger Yoel Romero, was forced off the cars after failing his pre-fight medicals.
Johnson was a huge pre-fight favourite, and things seemed to be going in “Rumble’s” favour when Augusto appeared to break his right hand when a punch deflected off the top of the American’s head, leaving the Brazilian in clear pain.
It gave Johnson the green light to step into striking range and let fly with his powerful punches as he ripped shots to the head and body of Augusto, who covered up against the cage.
Then, in a stunning turnaround, the Brazilian landed a huge left hand that badly rocked Johnson, then followed up with another that dropped “Rumble” to the canvas.
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In the night’s main event, Sergio Pettis captured the Bellator bantamweight title with a unanimous decision victory over defending champion Juan Archuleta.
Pettis used his superior boxing skills to stick and move his way to a comfortable decision on the scorecards, with the three cageside judges scoring the bout 50-45, 49-46, 49-46 in favour of the challenger and former UFC flyweight contender, who improved his Bellator record to 3-0 and captured his first major title in the process.
After the bout, Pettis said he wanted to take on Rizin FF bantamweight champion and former Bellator champ Kyoji Horiguchi in a bid to become a two-promotion world champion like his older brother, former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Anthony “Showtime” Pettis.
“I knew I was getting the better of the exchanges. He hit me with some good shots, but I knew my shots were hitting a little cleaner, a little bit harder. I was more calculated, calm,” he said.
“He said there was a storm coming, and there’s a heavy water tide, but I was out here, I was water tonight, man. I was flowing, and it was my night.
“I’d like to call out Horiguchi. I would love to represent Bellator against Rizin.
“Ant’s got two belts, and it would be a great opportunity to get my second belt, as well.”