Deciding to fight Anthony "Rumble" Johnson is like deciding to play Russian Roulette with five bullets instead of one. His power is much-touted and after Saturday night's demolition of Alexander Gustafsson, everyone in the MMA world should know exactly why.
It only took Johnson one round to accomplish what no other man in MMA has yet accomplished: he knocked out Gustafsson. With a right hand that didn't even land flush, Johnson sent Gustafsson to the ground, and never allowed him to get back up.
Unlike in the co-main event between Dan Henderson and Gegard Mousasi, where the referee stepped into call off the fight as soon as Henderson fell/tripped to the floor, the official in the cage allowed Gustafsson every reasonable chance to recover, improve his position, and generally to show just about anything that could be concieved as not an insanely dangerous position. He failed to do so. Johnson stayed behind Gustafsson, controlling his hips with one hand, and landing brutal blows with the other. Each thunderous punch came from underneath Gustafsson's arms, and rocked his head like it was tethered to a loose slinky. It was frightening.
Johnson has the type of power that Chuck Liddell used to terrify fighters in the light heavyweight division in the mid-2000s, but slightly scarier because Liddell was more accurate. In other words, Johnson doesn't need to hit a bull's eye to knock you out, being anywhere on the board might be enough.
For that reason, in the post-fight press conference he warned his future opponent, Jon Jones:
"Keep your hands up, because if you don't, lights out."
But in truth that might not be the most effective way of fighting Johnson, and certainly isn't the only or even the best tool in Jones' arsenal to stave off a knockout blow.
Jones does not have the same dynamic footwork that Gustaffson possesses but he does use a unique technique that has been as effective as the age-old jab at keeping fighters at an ideal striking distance: the oblique kick.
Jones has used this technique - in combination with the front side kick to the knee - to punish fighters trying to get on the inside. Unlike with the front kick that everyone seems to have add to their arsenal after Anderson Silva proved it could be effective against Vitor Belfort at UFC 126, few have adopted Jones' technique. Their loss.
When Johnson finally gets in the cage with Jones you can bet money that he's not allowing Johnson inside as easily as he did Daniel Cormier. That would be disastrous for the champion.
Recognizing Jones' lack of true one-punch knockout power, however, Johnson might want to take some advice from Chuck Liddell on how he would have used his heavy hands against Jones:
"I would have walked through his punches and he wouldn’t have caught me with anything...I would have found a way to hit him and I hit too hard."
After his victory over Gustafson, many, this writer included, already consider Johnson the rightful owner of the light heavyweight crown, since Gustafsson deserved to walk away with the victory against Jones at UFC 165. Johnson has the most knockouts in under a minute in the UFC. Ge is also riding a nine-fight win streak. With all that going for him, whatever tactic he employs, Johnson should have the confidence, and definitely the power, to dethrone the recognized champ.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.