Bellator heavyweights will be in the spotlight this Friday night in California with the semi-finals of their tournament format. Former UFC fighter Lavar “Big” Johnson will attempt to get his career back on track at Bellator 102 when he squares off against Vinicius “Spartan” Queiroz. Johnson is desperate for a victory after being released by the UFC after back-to-back losses to Stefan Struve and Brendan Schaub.
After the highly disappointing loss to Schaub at UFC 157, Johnson failed the post-fight drug test. He was found to have elevated levels of testosterone and eventually admitted that he had been using TRT without disclosure. Johnson was shown the door by the organization, but now gets a new career lease on life.
Johnson is as one-dimensional as it gets, relying on his devastating punching power. He has a remarkable 15 knockouts in his 17 career wins, and it initially looked like he would make a real impact in the UFC when he destroyed both Joey Beltran and Pat Barry by knockout. Both efforts produced Knockout of the Night bonuses.
However, the lack of an overall game proved to be Johnson’s downfall in the losses to Struve and Schaub. The Schaub bout was the most frustrating as a fight that was previewed as a slugfest turned into a yawner when “The Hybrid” decided to utilize his grappling skills to take Johnson to the canvas and keep him pinned there throughout the bout.
Queiroz actually had a UFC stint as well, but it was a much shorter one than Johnson’s. He lost in his only bout against Rob Broughton, and was released after testing positive for steroids after that fight at UFC 120. “Spartan” has recorded a win and a loss in his time with Bellator, and is 6-3 overall. His last effort in the Bellator cage was a stoppage loss at the hands of Alexander Volkov at Bellator 80. Queiroz does have five career knockouts to his credit.
Bellator is certainly hoping to see an all-action scrap in this one and much like former UFC castoff Cheick Kongo, who is involved in the other semi-final, Johnson needs to be victorious and needs to get a win in exciting fashion.
At this stage of his career, this shapes up as likely the last opportunity for the 36-year-old Johnson, who has also had stints in Strikeforce and the WEC. If the heavy-fisted Johnson were to suffer a setback against Queiroz this Friday, it would likely spell the end of the line.
Rick LaFitte is an MMA Writer for Rant Sports