Anthony Johnson will look to continue his rise through the ranks at tomorrow’s (Sat. July 26, 2014) UFC on Fox 12, as he battles wily veteran and BJJ whizz Antonio Rogerio Nogueira. With much at stake for both men at varying points on the scale, ‘Rumble’ will look to impose his striking power on the more natural grappler ‘Lil Nog’.
Much of the chatter surrounding this tilt is regarding age and experience, and whether or not Nogueira can still hang at aged 38. Although he is more experienced as a fighter, Johnson has had more octagon bouts, which may be a difference maker. ‘Rumble’ went through a fair share of controversy between UFC stints, but he spoke with UFC.com recently, and says that he is past all that now:
“I just had to put on my big boy pants and start going in the right direction,When I missed ’85 for the second time (against David Branch in 2012), I knew my body was changing – it wouldn’t allow me to drop under 200 and when I did, I was hurting… bad. So it was time to make that change. I couldn’t keep suffering like that – my coaches watching me in the sauna like I’m dead. That’s not a good look for anybody.”
It was insane to watch a guy as naturally big as Johnson try to make welterweight for five years, but it appears that he has learnt a good lesson from those nasty weight cuts; don’t do it again. Following a dominant redemption win over Phil Davis at UFC 172, ‘Rumble’ feels that it is his time to shine:
”The careers in mixed martial arts aren’t that long in my opinion,” says the now 30-year-old Johnson, who carries a 17-4 record into his nationally televised encounter with the Brazilian veteran this weekend. “I was just like, `It’s time to really go ahead and give this thing a push.’ After being released from the UFC, I just had to kick my own self in the behind and I started to get my stuff together.”
“I knew my talent and my true potential was there – it was just a matter of when I was going to open up and let it come out. When I was younger, I really didn’t care as much either. That’s again where I started maturing because now I care. Back then I was an athlete that started learning how to fight. As an athlete, I felt I could get away with everything because of my athletic ability. It didn’t matter if I could fight or not. Now I feel like I’m an actual fighter. Now I know that I know how to fight and now I’m putting it all together with my athletic ability and everything is working.”
An impressive win over Pride FC veteran Rogerio Nogueira would speak volumes about Johnson’s potential, but equally a loss may show that he isn’t quite ready yet. It can be frustrating to see talent go to waste, and it was refreshing for so many reasons to see Phil Davis get knocked around by ‘Rumble’ for 15 minutes in Baltimore.
Do you feel like Johnson’s athleticism and new-found maturity will get him to the level of champion, or will the submission specialist Nogueira once again delay Johnson’s hype train?