by Adam Martin
Last night, in the main event of World Series of Fighting 2, former UFC welterweight Anthony “Rumble” Johnson fought in the heavyweight division for the first time in his career and he was successful, picking up by far the biggest win of his MMA career to date when he defeated former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski via unanimous decision.
Johnson’s striking was superior to Arlovski’s throughout the contest, and despite his 15-pound weight disadvantage in the bout, his grappling was superior, too, as he was able to take Arlovski down as well as push the bigger fighter against the cage for much of the contest to eat time off the clock until the 15 minutes were up and the judges were forced to score the fight in his favor.
Since being released by the UFC after the debacle of UFC 142, where Johnson missed weight by 11 pounds for his fight against Vitor Belfort (a fight he ended up losing via submission), Johnson has won five-straight fights over Arlovski, DJ Linderman, Jake Rosholt, Esteves Jones, and David Branch, all of the fights having taken place at 195-pound catchweights or above.
Yes, Johnson, doesn’t fight at welterweight anymore — he can no longer safely make the 170-pound limit because his body just won’t let him — and he doesn’t fight at middleweight, either, but if Johnson, who weighed in at 230 pounds for the Arlovski fight, can cut 25 pounds by dieting and sitting in the sauna, he could make the 205-pound light heavyweight limit, and he could honestly be a player in the UFC’s 205-pound division if they called him back.
Sure, he wouldn’t have the massive size advantage that he once did when he fought at welterweight, when he was knocking out guys like Yoshiyuki Yoshida with ease and laying-and-praying guys like Dan Hardy who couldn’t get him off of them, but the UFC’s light heavyweight division is extremely shallow right now and a guy like Johnson, who is an athletic freak with powerful striking and solid wrestling, could honestly make a little bit of noise in the division, even if he would finally be fighting guys his own size.
Last week UFC president Dana White said that Johnson needed to prove he could make weight first before the UFC brought him back, but the truth is he has already made 205 for hi fight against Linderman at WSOF 1, and he took this fight with Arlovski at heavyweight because the WSOF needed a main event and the matchup with Arlovski was the best fight they could put together with what they have. Johnson even confirmed that fact in his post-fight interview with WSOF commentator Bas Rutten, saying that he can’t compete with the bigger guys in the 265-pound weight class and that this fight with Arlovski was just a one-off, and that he would be going back down to 205 for his next fight.
It’s possible the UFC keeps Johnson on their black list for longer, because, after all, he did miss weight three times while he was with the organization. But if White and co. are forgiving — and they are, having brought back other fighters who have made mistakes in the past such as Nate Marquardt — they’ll give Johnson another chance at the big show, because he’s a great fighter and he deserves to be fighting against the best fighters in the sport. But we’ll have to wait and see what happens. Either way, the ball is in the UFC’s court, because there’s no doubt that Johnson wants to head back to the big time.
What are your thoughts?