The welterweight division of the UFC is very rich in talent. With a champion like Georges St-Pierre and top-three contenders like Jon Fitch, Mike Swick, and Josh Koscheck, and it's easy to see why.
Throw in Thiago Alves, Dustin Hazelett, Dan Hardy, Marcus Davis, and Matt Hughes, and it's just as easy to see why a relatively inexperienced fighter such as Anthony "Rumble" Johnson was kept on the back-burner for so long. Johnson is an up-and-coming young fighter who, in about a year or so, could very well be contending for the championship.
Johnson was a JUCO College National Wrestling Champion in his younger years, but since then he has trained under the tutelage of Strikeforce fighter Cung Le. His mix of reverse wrestling with sharp, crisp striking remind many people of a much younger Chuck Liddell.
With an 8-2 professional record consisting of six knockouts, he is definitely showing the potential of turning out to be one of the best.
His first three fights were against unknown fighters in small shows. He got his big break replacing an injured Steve Bruno against Chad Reiner. Thirteen seconds into the fight, Johnson had already won his UFC debut with a spectacular striking display and knockout victory.
He was not so lucky in his next showing, succumbing to a rear-naked choke to gatekeeper Rich Clementi. A first-round knockout win over TUF runner-up Tommy Speer seemed to have Rumble back on track; however, he was derailed by a loss to Kevin Burns following a controversial poke to the eye.
After taking some time off to get surgery on his damaged eye, Johnson came back to knock out Burns in the third round of their rematch, a fight that was on its way to winning Fight of the Night honors.
Rumble kept the momentum going by also knocking out tough fighters Luigi Fiorvanti and Yoshiyuki Yoshida. After every single one of his fights, he displayed nothing but class in either congratulating the victor or praising his opponent when he came out on top.
What many don't know about Rumble is that he is one of the taller fighters in the division, at 6'2". On top of that, he is also rumored to weigh in at about 215 pounds before he begins to cut weight. This is a huge advantage due to the fact that Rumble never appears to be slow or drained out in his fights.
Having a strength advantage that big over his opponents will pose a huge problem considering that the champion in the weight class also boasts a tremendous size and strength advantage over the rest of the division.
Rumble is now going to be facing his toughest challenge to date by facing top fighter Josh Koscheck. A win over Koscheck probably will not catapult him into the title picture yet, but it would put him very close.
Also with a fighter this talented, the potential matchups can never end. Johnson will be able to put together very competitive and exciting fights with almost anyone in the top five of the weight division. Imagine an amazing standup war with Thiago Alves, or an amazing back-and-forth fight with Mike Swick.
Rumble holds a huge advantage in the striking department over Koscheck, who really only has one effective punch. A win over him should make things a lot more interesting in the welterweight division, not to mention buy some time for GSP, who is currently nursing a groin injury.
We shall see what the future has in store for Rumble. He is taking this fight on very short notice being that he last fought on Oct. 24.
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