If everything goes right this weekend, light heavyweight fighter Anthony Johnson might just net himself a return trip to the UFC.
So far, he's been (mostly) doing all the right things.
Whenever you're handed a pink slip by Zuffa, getting back to the big leagues is simply a matter of following some simple guidelines.
Maintain a winning streak on the regional circuit against decent opponents. Make weight for your fights. Beat other ex-UFC fighters. Keep your name in the press. Don't publicly threaten to pee in Dana White's mouth, a.k.a. the "Josh Barnett Rule."
Generally, those five simple things are always a winning recipe for a call-back to the UFC's bright lights and bigger paychecks (unless you're Tim Sylvia, unfortunately).
For the most part, Johnson's managed to stick to the script like a true professional.
Aside from a slight hiccup that resulted in a catchweight bout at Titan Fighting Championships 22, Johnson has made weight for his fights, beaten two UFC veterans, and kept his name circulating on sports websites such as our own.
Most importantly, Johnson has finally admitted he's no longer a welterweight, moving up to light heavyweight for his last two fights.
Historically, weight cutting has been his Achilles' Heel. It turned the athletic and powerful striker into a shell of himself, frustratingly sapping his natural talent for a ridiculous size advantage that he clearly couldn't maintain by healthy means.
Not only has Johnson come in heavy four times in his UFC career, but his unapologetic attitude after the UFC 142 weigh-ins was irking, to say the least.
One first-round submission loss to Vitor Belfort later, and Dana White clearly had no problem announcing that Johnson was getting sent to the minors.
Fortunately for him, the UFC president has often stated that he likes "Rumble" and just wants him to take the fight game a little more seriously.
So, whether by maturity (hopefully) or physical necessity (more likely), Johnson's success at 205 pounds should be enough to convince Dana White and Joe Silva that he's ready to ply his strengths in the Octagon against the likes of Vinny Magalhaes or Matt Hamill.
Heck, Johnson might even be a good match-up for Glover Teixeira.
Moreover, several other light heavyweight fighters on the regional circuit should certainly be hoping that he gets re-signed by Zuffa sooner rather than later, and doesn't have to spend 2013 looking for victims to add to his headcount.
Judging by Johnson's success at 205 pounds, it apparent that he's the type of athlete who is both decent in the UFC, yet also two country miles beyond almost any journeyman fighter in his weight division. He's simply too strong, too fast and too seasoned.
That's likely thanks to his training time at the Blackzilians' Jaco Hybrid Training Center super-camp—the current home of Rashad Evans, Alistair Overeem, Jake Shields, Antonio Silva, and Melvin Guillard. Impressively, it seems to be further honing Johnson's already-potent skills.
Before Johnson steps into the cage against Bellator veteran and occasional heavyweight champion D.J. Linderman, all he has to do is make weight.
Hopefully, that's going to be the easy part for the 28-year-old Blackzilian.
For now, it looks like he's in the home stretch.
If "Rumble" keeps his winning streak alive and caps off his 2012 campaign with an impressive stoppage during NBC Sports' inaugural World Series of Fighting fight card this Saturday, his year of toiling on the smaller shows should be over.
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