Returning after a heroic victory over Rick Story in a fight he accepted fifteen minutes before the weigh-ins, Charlie Brenneman meets Anthony Johnson in main card action at UFC on Versus 6: Cruz vs. Johnson.
Brenneman, a member of the burgeoning AMA Fight Club in New Jersey, wrestled at Pennsylvania's Lock Haven University, which is the same Division 1 powerhouse that Tim Boetsch and Jamie Varner attended. "The Spaniard" devoured eleven of his first twelve opponents in MMA, capturing the Ring of Combat welterweight championship in the process. His only loss in that stretch was to fellow UFC welterweight John Howard.
Graduating to the big leagues, Brenneman chalked up a win over Jason High in his debut before suffering his only Octagon defeat to Johnny Hendricks. He snuffed out Brazilian prospect Amilcar Alves by decision leading up to his inspiring upset over Story on the UFC Live 4: Kongo vs. Barry card.
Anthony Johnson emerged in the UFC with a rep for wrestling but dazzled fans with wicked kickboxing instead. Johnson got the call from the UFC with only three pro fights under his belt as a late replacement to face Chad Reiner at UFC Fight Night 10 in 2007.
Thirteen seconds after the bout began, Reiner was lying unconscious on the cage floor. Crafty vet Rich Clementi would coax the inexperienced fighter into a rear-naked choke, but Johnson stayed afloat with another crushing first round knockout, this time in fifty-one seconds against TUF contestant Tommy Speer.
His ensuing loss to Kevin Burns -- where the replay clearly showed he was unintentionally poked in the eye -- served as the partial impetus (along with Mirko Filipovic vs. Mostapha Al Turk) behind the New Jersey and Nevada State Athletic Commissions instituting the instant replay rule. "Rumble" settled the score with a high-kick knockout of Burns coupled with a subsequent four-fight clip where only top welterweight Josh Koscheck would defeat him via submission.
Gifs and analysis in the full entry.
Both Johnson and Brenneman represent a little bit of poison to the other: Johnson's losses were all dealt by superior wrestlers; Brenneman's by comparable wrestlers with better striking.
To avoid being locked up in a battle of takedowns, Johnson will have to keep Brenneman at bay with his considerable reach length (77"), footwork and stand up.
Brenneman's stand up is basic and mostly implemented to set up his shots, where Johnson has explosive kickboxing and dynamite in both hands.
Along with an effortlessly cast left high kick, Johnson's left hook and right cross are his show-stoppers.
In his plastering of Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 104 (left), Johnson shows a distinctive tendency to measure range by extending his left arm forward as a probe.
His long arms, punching power and agility usually see him through, but the habit is not without its defensive risks.
Also notice how far forward his left leg is and how much weight he puts on it.
This closed and heavy-legged stance is the reason Johnson puts so much power into his strikes.
Against Koscheck, it was also the reason he was taken down.
Both of Koscheck's takedowns on Johnson were achieved by snatching up his extended left leg.
When you're bursting forward and trying to adhere to the hips or a leg to initiate the takedown, the way Johnson stands makes it much more difficult to snap your hips back to sprawl.
Like all of Mike Contantino's AMA Fight Club students, Charlie Brenneman always comes equipped with a cerebral strategy to execute.
The clip to the left starts with Story walking him back against the fence just as he did against Thiago Alves, which ended up as his key to victory.
The big difference is that Brenneman wisely cuts a sharp angle to his left; the simple action to avoid absorbing the volleys of stiff left hands Story drenched Alves with.
Again keeping things basic, he times Story's left kick perfectly to catch him off balance for the takedown.
To the right we see Brenneman's grinding determination to power a double leg.
He stuffs Story's attempts, keeps his head moving while dodging punches, swats a big right hand while shuffling left to create the angle and drives through on the double leg.
In each of these examples Story is the aggressor, so it will be interesting to see if Johnson presses the attack as he normally does.
Bobbing, weaving, head movement and flowering opportunities through subtle angles are typically associated with striking, but the sequence to the right captures how Brenneman employs them for takedowns.
He slips Story's uppercut, can't achieve control after dropping levels, then throws another overhand right while bobbing low and to the right.
The precise change in direction is so effective that it causes Story to lose his footing when he starts to sprawl, anticipating another double. This is all Brenneman needs to pounce and ground the fight.
Finally, Brenneman uses good old fashioned tenacity to hold his grasp on Story's leg and relentlessly grind through, eventually securing it and patiently unwrapping himself from a triangle and kimura attempt.
Neither Brenneman nor Johnson boast any significant BJJ credentials. Brenneman has one arm-triangle win while Johnson has never submitted anyone.
A key factor is if and how Johnson tweaks his stance when striking and whether he'll temper his aggression so as not to walk into takedowns.
I don't think Brenneman can win this on the feet. Conversely, to stay standing, Johnson must tone down his forward movement and relent on committing fully to power shots. Though not fan friendly, Johnson's best bet is a Machida-esque strategy of judiciously selecting pinpoint strikes while maintaining balance to sprawl at any time.
His general approach of cornering and unloading the clip offers too many opportunities for Brenneman to exploit. Johnson also has a tendency to revert back to his wrestling when he's not dominating on the feet, which is an option I don't think he'll have here. Even so, surprising Brenneman with a few takedown attempts of his own will keep "The Spaniard" guessing.
For Brenneman, it's just a matter of replicating the Story bout. Cerebral movement, precise timing and his signature explosion to snare a leg and finish the takedown is his simple specialty, although that's obviously easier said than done. For whatever it's worth, Johnson was sidelined for a year and a half with a knee injury before his last fight with Dan Hardy. This, along with the ever-looming perils of such a steep weight cut, could be hidden variables.
I agree with the betting lines giving a slight push to Johnson. It just makes more sense: he's fought better competition, has the more well rounded game and is able to match Brenneman much better in wrestling than Brenneman can match him standing. The question becomes whether Brenneman can take away all those advantages by forcing a ground fight. I'll go out on a limb and guess that he can.
My Prediction: Charlie Brenneman by decision
Johnson gifs via MMA-Core.com
All others via Zombie Prophet of IronForgesIron.com