Anthony Johnson was fighting for his UFC career last night when he made his middleweight debut against top-ranked veteran Vitor Belfort in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil for UFC 142. Win or lose, Johnson's career was on the line and he knew it.
"Three strikes and you're out," were the words UFC president Dana White had to say about Johnson on Fuel TV's post-fight show and no, three losses weren't the strikes White was talking about.
Johnson, a former welterweight, has missed weight three times in his UFC career. The third time being the last, according to White, who announced the release of Johnson shortly after he was submitted by Belfort in the second round.
Although Johnson has missed weight on three occasions, the most recent miss for UFC 142 against Belfort was the most bizarre.
Being a former welterweight, a huge one at that, people didn't understand why Johnson was fighting at 170 pounds despite walking around at a weight close to 50 pounds heavier.
When Johnson made the move up to middleweight, many thought it was a smart move for a guy who could probably compete in the light heavyweight division, no problem.
Here is where it got weird. After making 170 pounds on numerous occasions during his career, the middleweight limit (for some reason) was out of reach for Johnson this weekend.
The last time Johnson came in overweight he was six pounds over the welterweight limit, and he was 7.5 pounds over the limit the time before that. Now, with an extra 15 pounds to play with, Johnson came in a whopping 11 pounds over the 185-pound middleweight limit.
Belfort, who had no trouble making weight, took 20 percent of Johnson's fight purse and accepted the fight as long as Johnson was under 205 pounds come fight night. Johnson stayed below the 205-pound limit and Belfort put the former welterweight away with ease.
Johnson had the following to say on his Facebook account,
I'm already laughing at what ppl [SIC] are saying. Yeah it was for medical reason and I did what the UFC Dr Told me to do. Believe it or don't I give a [expletive] cuz [SIC] the ppl [SIC] close to me were freaking out but I'm still alive and something like this has never happen before. Say what you want I'm still gonna do my thang [SIC]. You try not having feeling in your legs and can't move then and see how you look at life after that.
Not very unapologetic, and he doesn't seem too worried about what his bosses think. If the weight cut was dangerous for his life, which it seems it was, maybe it's because he didn't take the cut to 185 pounds seriously enough.
One would figure that with an extra 15 pounds to work with, making weight should have been a breeze for Johnson. Maybe Johnson thought it would be so easy that he didn't think anything of it, and that's what got him in to trouble.
On a conference call 10 days out from the fight, Johnson let people know he was weighing in at around 218 pounds. I'm no professional, but cutting 33 pounds in a little more than a week seems like a big cut, and in Johnson's case, it looks like it was.
Freshly released from the organization, Johnson will have to find work elsewhere for the time being, which is unfortunate for the promising fighter. Johnson has a lot of upside, good wrestling, powerful striking and great athleticism.
He's struggled when fighting top competition, but many have said it is because of the weight cut he puts himself through that impacts his endurance in a fight, and last night against Belfort was no different.
Johnson came out swinging and was aggressive. Referee Dan Mirgliotta was quick to stand Johnson up when he took Belfort down on two occasions, which was surprising, but by the end of the first round, it was clear that Johnson had nothing left in the tank.
Going forward, Johnson needs to figure out what weight class he really wants to fight in. He has the frame to fight at middleweight or even light heavyweight, but once he has made his decision, he needs to start working with the right people to ensure that making weight is an afterthought.
It wouldn't be surprising to see Johnson back in the UFC at some point, but not until he has fought and won a few times while making weight outside of the Octagon. The winning part shouldn't be too hard, as Johnson seems to have a knack for putting away inferior competition in spectacular fashion. It's making weight that will be hard.
He has all the tools and skills to go far in the sport. Let's hope he realizes that and starts making the necessary changes to get on track.
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