Anthony Johnson is a force to be reckoned with in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. The 31-year-old, who made his Zuffa debut as a welterweight, reinvented himself as a LHW after weight cutting complications almost ruined his career.
After being cut from the UFC in 2012, Johnson morphed into super 205-pounder and even tested the waters at heavyweight against Andrei Arlovski at World Series of Fighting 2. The Blackzilian fighter proved his worth against the likes of Arlovski and Mike Kyle in WSOF before returning to the UFC in 2014. Since then, “Rumble” smashed his way through Phil Davis, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and Alexander Gustafsson before being granted with a shot at the 205 lbs. title.
Johnson came close to KO’ing current-champ Daniel Cormier at several times during UFC 187 but eventually succumbed to the Olympian’s relentless pressure in the third round. Johnson tapped to a rear-naked choke and, Aaron Simpson — Ryan Bader’s coach – believes it was a sign of weakness.
Simpson, who is preparing Bader ahead of his clash with Johnson at UFC on Fox 18, joined Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour on Monday.
“It’s just evident in his career, it’s evident in his college career. I go back and his college coaches told me that when we were looking to recruit him. Once that’s in you, once you’ve quit and you’ve done it, it’s in you. It’s hard to get past that. It’s hard to be someone who when the going gets tough or you’re on your back or you’re on your knees and you’re starting to get tired you can come back from that.
“I love Anthony Johnson. I do. I think he’s a good guy and a great athlete and was a stud junior college wrestler, but that’s about it. When it gets into the fight game and we take him to deep waters, we’ll see how he responds and maybe he’ll be something different, but he hasn’t shown that in the past,” Simpson said.
Johnson was also overwhelmed and submitted by Vitor Belfort at UFC 142 and tapped to Josh Koscheck in a bout that was marred by foul play and eye pokes from Koscheck in 2009.
A.J. will take on Ryan Bader to determine the next light heavyweight #1 contender in the main event of UFC on Fox 18 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on January 30th.
(Transcripts via Danny Segura of MMA Fighting)
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