Anthony Johnson hopes to battle his way back into title contention this September 5, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Match Up
Light Heavyweight Anthony Johnson 19-5 vs. Jimi Manuwa 15-1
Light Heavyweight Anthony Johnson -650 vs. Jimi Manuwa +475
3 Things You Should Know
1. Anthony Johnson is probably not the most noble of creatures, but you don't watch him for his James-ian insight into radical empiricism.
A lot of people like to wax the butterfly effect floor, and ponder who Johnson could be "if only...". If only his head was screwed on straight, they say. But this kind of psychology likely has a causal relationship with his profession; the very flaws we wish he could take care of away from the octagon are the same components that keep him hinged inside of it.
None of this excuses his behavior. On the contrary, his actions should be all the more reason to discuss whatever moral threshold we can posit. After all, there never is one in sports. As long as these athletes look great and entertain us, morality is perceived like a glitch rather than a deficiency.
And Johnson's been glitching like that ridiculous UFC game. However, until he crumbles beneath the weight of his own temper, he's here to stay. He's as intimidating a fighter as there is in the sport, and sadly, even people who don't fight for a living can attest to that.
2. Jimi "don't call me by my awesome full name*" Manuwa is an interesting foil stylewise, and he's been proving it for years.
Manuwa gave Alexander Gustafsson a far tougher fight than I could have ever anticipated, but there's a limit to what it really says about Manuwa. He's had a mixed resume in the UFC, beating Ryan Jimmo, Jan Blachowicz, Cyrille Diabate, and Kyle Kingsbury. Two of those wins occurred via telekinesis.
I don't doubt Manuwa would have won each fight a little more deliberately, but it emphasizes how much more learning can be done about his game from an observer standpoint.
3. Don't blink.
Johnson is as imposing a presence there is in MMA. His progression was an odd one; all of his skills have been intact since day one. Yet in the past, he was losing to Josh Koscheck and Rich Clementi. Now it's hard to imagine him even losing to various top 10 LHW fighters.
All of it's pretty much his transition game. He's like a fixed Melvin Guillard; flawed sure, but where Guillard couldn't wait to keep from being exposed, Johnson can't wait to expose his opponent. It's the difference between an offensively gifted fighter who can't defend because of their flaws, and an offensively gifted fighter who remains efficient in spite of their flaws.
Johnson has some of the best kicks in all of MMA. He's a five tool kicker; able to strike with speed and power, actively, accurately, and ambidextrously.
As we saw against Daniel Cormier, he's more all-in with his punches even though he possesses a solid technical acumen. Or against Mike Kyle.
He wings his right hand a little too liberally, but that left hook of his cracks like clockwork.
Manuwa could be interesting because his left hook is money, for one, and two, he's a different fighter in close quarters. With his brutal clinchwork with some traditional Muay Thai, a few knees and elbows will be all it takes to set into motion a real strategy to pressure and accrue advantages over Johnson.
This won't happen, however, because Johnson is just too fast, and too capable at range. But Manuwa's own raw strength could be a setup on its own. If Manuwa gets smashed, no one will be surprised, but he's got some unique qualities that could keep him in the fight longer than expected.
Anthony Johnson by TKO, round 1
*N'Jimi M'Bouba Tuluki Manuwa