After being shot in 2009 in an act of horrific, random violence, Lavar Johnson's stoppage of Joey Beltran last night (Sat., Jan. 28, 2012) at UFC on Fox 2 in Chicago was a great thing to see. After a random shooting during a family reunion/Fourth of July party, the California heavyweight was left clinging to life in the hospital.
Johnson, who sustained gunshot wounds to the lower back, abdomen and foreman during the assault, flung himself over a 10-year-old girl when a trio of teenaged suspects approached and began firing. He lost three-quarters of his blood during the ensuing surgery, and barely survived, losing 30-pounds during the recovery to boot.
Coming off a career-boosting, 18-second blowout of Carl Seumanutafa in his Strikeforce debut weeks earlier, it was amazing that he survived, much less was able to return to the promotion the following March.
After putting together a pair of wins on Strikeforce Challenger cards, Johnson lost in a pair of disappointing submission losses. It seemed as though he'd be a talented if somewhat one-dimensional casualty of fighting tougher competition. But life -- especially that of a fighter -- is often defined by how much you can maximize opportunities, and Johnson came up huge here.
Beltran, a proven product of sheer toughness and seemingly relentless persistence, had gone the distance in tough bouts, losing gritty decisions to Pat Barry and Matt Mitrione. The "Mexicutioner" is one of those guys that's extremely hard to get rid of. Yet Johnson's flurry of massive right uppercuts and bombs did just that in the first round. It was one helluva victory, especially given what Lavar has overcome of late.
Johnson still has a lot of game he'll need to develop to progress at the UFC level. His ground game needs work, and future opponents will be gunning to exploit that. But he also possesses some potent equalizers, especially his numbing punching power on the feet. And as a UFC heavyweight, sometimes that's the only factor that matters, especially if it comes into play before anything else. But all that aside, he's a good guy that you can't help but feel good for, seeing what he did in an outstanding debut.
Jason Probst can be reached on Twitter or at firstname.lastname@example.org.