Rumble Young Man Rumble – Is This the Real Anthony Johnson?
Posted by Jack McGee on 04.28.2014
Anthony Johnson returned at UFC 172 and dismantled Phil Davis over three rounds of action. 411’s Jack McGee discusses Johnson’s return and wonders if this is finally Rumble at his best…
Anthony Johnson, at the time of his UFC release was 10-4 as a professional fighter. At that time, he represented everything that I hated in MMA. He was an obviously talented man, but acted like a petulant child. Why? Because he took no responsibility for anything, nothing was ever his fault. He tried to use the "science of weight cutting" to fight at 170, losing 55 pounds regularly to make the welterweight limit. He didn't seem to care about the abuse to his body; he didn't seem to care when he failed to make weight; disrespecting his opponents and the UFC in the process. But most importantly, there seemed to be no remorse for this. He missed weight, he didn't seem to care, and he just went along with life. His move to middleweight failed, missing weight by 11 pounds in the fight with Vitor Belfort. His camp cried about dehydration and the doctor told him to stop cutting, but it was his fault. He failed, he still got to fight, and he lost to Belfort; and thus his UFC career was over. The man was throwing away his talents, and to tell you the truth I did not care if he ever came back.
January of 2012 was the end of Johnson's UFC run, so he did what almost everyone that still wants to fight does, he just kept fighting. In the two years that he was gone from the UFC, Johnson fought six times and he won six times. Decision victories over for Andrei Arlovski and David Branch, and then (T)KO victories over Esteves Jones, Jake Rosholt, DJ Linderman and Mike Kyle. If you get released form the UFC, you need to do everything that you can to make right what went wrong. You miss weight in the UFC, prove that you can make weight outside of the UFC. You have disappointing performances and losses, prove that you can win outside of the UFC, and winning impressively doesn't hurt either. Add in things like not trashing the company and not failing drug tests, and you're on track for a return.
Some will look at the lineup of men that Johnson beat and complain that it wasn't exactly a murder's row of competition. But you have to consider a few things. #1 he can only fight who he gets contracted to fight. #2 once you step outside the UFC, there is a noticeable drop in competition. Do not take that as a slam, there is some tremendous MMA outside of the UFC, but the UFC has a higher concentration of talented fighters. #3 not only did he win, but the finishes look great when looking to come back to the UFC. He didn't go out there unmotivated, collecting a paycheck and having boring decisions. Johnson worked hard, improved and when his World Series of Fighting contract expired, the UFC called once again, and Johnson headed back home.
A little under a month after defeating Mike Kyle, Johnson's UFC return was announced, and he wasn't getting a warm up fight to welcome him back. Johnson got Phil Davis (#4 in the UFC rankings and #6 in the 411 rankings at the time). Davis had only lost one time, which was to former LHW Champion Rashad Evans. Johnson's return wasn't thought much of by many people, most thought that Davis would dominate with his wrestling, that Johnson would tire, and that his return would end in disappointment. The Observer site picked Phil Davis 10-0 to beat Johnson, Junkie picked Davis 5-3 to win, and 411 picked Davis 5-1 to win the match. Johnson was the underdog, many thought he had no chance; no one saw what was coming.
The story of UFC 172 for most was Jon Jones making history with another title defense as he meticulously picked apart my guy Glover Teixeira. Congratulations to Jones by the way, it was a spectacular performance. But lost in the praise for Jones is the story of Johnson vs. Davis; which was truly a tale of two fighters. Phil Davis is not a top tier fighter, and never will be. The man has failed to evolve as a fighter. His stand up is rather bad still, he hates to get hit, and when he cannot secure a takedown he essentially gives up. Go back and watch the fight, the body language and facial expressions from Davis tell the story of the fight about three minutes in. For all of the shit he tried to talk heading into UFC 172, he got broke and broke early because he is the definition of a one-dimensional fighter.
And then there was Anthony Johnson. After swimming as the big shark in the little pond, he returned to the UFC and looked like a monster. He looked great at light heavyweight, both from an aesthetic standpoint and an athletic standpoint. I had doubts that he would work in the UFC at 205, and was thinking that 185 would be better, but he showed me differently. In the fight Johnson looked calm, reserved; fighting like a real veteran of the sport. Not only was he calm and picking his shots, he was landing power shots and constantly keeping control and Davis off his game. As for Davis' lauded wrestling game, it did nothing for him as a positive. If anything his own wrestling game served to break him as he constantly failed to get Johnson down, much to the credit of Johnson. Johnson's work with Rashad Evans, who has a tremendous wrestling pedigree and had the gameplan to defeat Davis, was a big part of the success I am sure. Phil Davis is on the way down and needs a complete overhaul.
But is this the real Anthony Johnson? The road back to the UFC was about as perfect as it could have been for him. He looks like a beast at light heavyweight and the performance against Davis was nearly perfect. At the post event press conference he said all the right things: Dana did him a favor by cutting him, he grew up since the cut, he learned his lesson, he respects the champion and needs to prove himself. I can't be sure if this is the real Anthony Johnson we're seeing, but if he is, the already stacked light heavyweight sure as hell just got a lot more interesting, and that is a good thing for MMA fans.
Jack McGee is an aspiring investigative journalist with interests covering TV, Movies, Wrestling, MMA and Sports. When not hunting the Incredible Hulk, Jack works on his surfing, his Johnny Utah like throwing motion and origami.