After a two-year sabbatical, Anthony Johnson will return to the Octagon at UFC 172 against Phil Davis.
The majority of fighters who decide to revamp their career by changing weight classes opt to drop down to a lighter weight to make up for a discrepancy in size and strength.
This is not the case for Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.
After an exciting 11-fight stint with the UFC, marred by weight cutting issues, the behemoth of a welterweight was cut from the organization in 2012 after he failed to meet the agreed upon limit for the third time with the promotion.
After his departure from the octagon, Johnson decided to move up to test the deeper waters, where the gigantic former welterweight has made an immediate impact. After claiming a unanimous decision over UFC vet David Branch at a catch-weight of 195 pounds, Johnson made the move to light-heavyweight where he has gone 4-0 with all of his victories coming by way of brutal stoppage.
It is typical for fighters that move up a weight class to do so in hope of gaining a speed advantage while giving up power, but this is not a sacrifice “Rumble” has had to make. His most recent opponent, AKA export Mike Kyle, can attest to this as Johnson crumpled the veteran UFC heavyweight with a ferocious over hand right in the first round at WSOF 8 in January.
His vicious highlight-reel knockouts can raise hairs on the back of fans’ necks, but perhaps the most impressive display of Johnson’s natural power came in a unanimous decision victory at WSOF 2, where “Rumble” floored former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski at the end of the first round and appeared on the verge of sealing the deal as the horn sounded.
This series of steamrolling performances was enough to impress the UFC brass, as Johnson will get his first chance to compete in the octagon since his failed experiment at 185 pounds against Vitor Belfort at UFC 142 in Brazil.
Despite being relatively new to the division, Johnson will get no time to adjust to his new home at 205 as he is slated to face former Division 1 National Wrestling Champion and fourth ranked contender Phil Davis at UFC 172 on April 26. Riding a three-fight win streak, Davis hasn’t competed since last August when he won a controversial split-decision over Lyoto Machida in Brazil. The suffocating wrestler with improved striking has been in the title conversation for some time, but will look to make a definitive case for a shot at the belt that is up for grabs in the main event.
We’ll see in short order how well Johnson can defend the take down at light heavyweight against the former Penn State Nittany Lion, who will look to mix it up just enough to get the fight to the ground and establish control, an area where “Rumble” has shown susceptibility in the past.
Despite Davis’ wrestling credentials, don’t expect it to be a cake walk for him to drag the former JUCO national champion in Johnson to the ground.
Even if Anthony Johnson can’t get it done against a top-five opponent in his return bout, he has a style that could make Phil Davis look bad at times, and with three more fights remaining on his new contract after this fight, his stock at 205 should only rise.
Look out for Rumble.