Charles Johnson Defends Title in Early FOTY Contender at LFA 122

Top flyweight prospects Charles “InnerG” Johnson and Carlos “Tizil” Mota put on an early candidate for Fight of the Year with their flyweight title bout in the main event of LFA 122 last Friday in St. Louis, Missouri.

Mota set the tone early when he attempted a spinning kick straight off the opening glove touch, but Johnson ended up having the most success kicking as the bout went on. “InnerG” got right to work kicking Mota’s lead leg early and was able to frequently deliver front kicks to the body as the Brazilian would try to blitz in. “Tizil” was able to take Johnson down off a caught kick and briefly take the American’s back, and while another brief takedown late may have stolen the round for Mota it was a relatively even start to the fight.

Rounds two and three continued to be back and forth, though Johnson’s choice to open both rounds in southpaw and regularly switch stances helped open up his offense quite a bit. His jab started landing well from both stances to go along with the kicking game he’d established in the first round, and he was able to utilize them well even when Mota’s forward pressure often kept the American working from the outside. While Johnson was the more patient striker for large portions of the bout, Mota was the one throwing a lot more into his punches every time he tried to counter Johnson. Both rounds were back and forth striking battles and probably the two most difficult rounds to score in a fight where neither man wanted to take a step back.

Heading into round four Mota held a slight edge in strikes landed as well as having thrown considerably more than Johnson, and he was able to land a couple of hard right hands early that backed the champion up and bolstered the Brazilian’s confidence. One pervading theme throughout this bout was anytime Mota seemed to be gaining momentum Johnson would stand his ground and fire back, and the American was just as willing to exchange even after eating some hard shots. While “Tizil” was able to back him up and land strikes early in the fourth, Johnson had the defining moment of the round when he landed a late takedown and teed off on the Brazilian right up until the bell.

Johnson came into the final round clearly energized by his success to end the fourth, and although Mota came out swinging it didn’t take long for Johnson to land a left hook that staggered the Brazilian. The champion pursued with strikes to the head and body before two right hands dropped the challenger, and Johnson barely needed to follow up before the ref stepped in to end it.

This victory was Johnson’s first official defense of the LFA flyweight title. The thirty-one year old won the interim title in July 2021 and defended it the following month at LFA 114, but was only promoted to flyweight champion in August when Victor Altamirano signed with the UFC after his Contender Series win. Now 11-2 overall the American is on a four-fight win streak since returning to MMA in February 2021 after three boxing bouts, and his last MMA loss came to current UFC flyweight Brandon Royval at LFA 48 in 2018.

Plenty of people have been clamoring for Johnson to get a UFC call-up following this win, but it remains to be seen whether the UFC will sign him outright or if he’ll have to wait for an opportunity like Contender Series.

Carlos Mota falls to 6-1 now but put in a tremendous effort throughout the fight. The twenty-six year old started his career 4-0 in 2016/2017, but had a two-year layoff before making his LFA debut at LFA 79. Another lengthy layoff followed before he was booked to fight Victor Altamirano for the vacant flyweight belt at LFA 100, but after that bout fell-through he only returned to action in July 2021 against Jefferson Oliveira.

Even in a loss the Brazilian’s stock will only have risen with his performance last Friday, so hopefully he’s able to get into the cage more regularly going forward.