Two veterans of recent seasons of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) will duke it out this Saturday night as TUF season 9 alumni DaMarques Johnson battles recent TUF season 13 competitor Clay Harvison on the UFC on FOX 1 preliminary card.
Johnson has always put on exciting fights in his UFC career, but with a 3-3 record in the promotion, he can't afford another loss. The entertaining grappler will be looking to stave off a potential pink slip with a victory.
Clay Harvison is in a similar situation. He currently holds a 1-1 record in the promotion and simply must avoid scoring his second consecutive loss in the UFC welterweight division. He'll have to fight like a man possessed if he wants to secure a victory on Saturday night.
Who will stave off a potential pink slip with a victory come Saturday night? Will Harvison and Johnson rise to the occasion with their backs against the wall, or will they be fighting "not to lose?" What is the key to victory for both fighters?
Let's find out:
Record: 12-9 overall, 3-3 in the UFC
How he got here: DaMarques Johnson learned jiu-jitsu while in the army and got into MMA after meeting Jeremy Horn once his service was over. He did not get off to a terrific start to his MMA career, losing four of his first six professional fights, but eventually he got the hang of it.
After winning seven out of eight bouts, Johnson would become a castmember of The Ultimate Fighter season nine. He became known on the show for his feud with Michael Bisping, but also won three straight fights to advance to the finale, where he would come up short to James Wilks.
He's won three of his five UFC fights since, but none of the men he defeated are still employed with the promotion. Most recently, he stepped up on very late notice and put up a tough fight against Amir Sadollah before being overwhelmed by the TUF season seven winner on the ground with elbows. Johnson was slated to fight at UFC Fight Night 25 against Harvison but got injured. He's healed up and ready to finish what had already been originally scheduled on Saturday.
How he gets it done: Johnson has a very exciting and aggressive fight style and he's most dangerous on the ground, whether he's on his back looking for a triangle choke or on top position looking to pass guard and either pound his opponent in the face or hunt for a submission from above.
The key will be for the Elite Performance fighter to get this fight to the ground. Harvison's strength is his striking and while Johnson isn't horrible in that department, he's got such an advantage on the ground that it would be crazy to not exploit it. He needs to take Harvison down and go to work by any means possible.
He'll need to either get inside and work for takedowns in the clinch or time a hook and shoot in. The second he gets this fight to the canvas is when Harvison is going to be in trouble.
Record: 9-3 overall, 1-1 in the UFC
Key Wins: Justin Edwards (Ultimate Finale 13)
Key Losses: Seth Baczynski (UFC Fight Night 25)
How he got here: Clay Harvison was a standout soccer player growing up and transitioned to MMA after taking a kickboxing class while pursuing his bachelor's degree. He transitioned to Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai and then to mixed martial arts.
After compiling an 8-2 record on the local circuit, Harvison was selected to be a castmember on season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter. He was a member of Team Brock Lesnar and advanced to the quarterfinals but was eliminated by eventual finalist Ramsey Nijem.
On the show's finale, he beat fellow castmate Justin Edwards in a close split decision but would go on to lose via submission after getting hurt in the stand-up to TUF season 11 fighter Seth Baczynski in his most recent showing less than two months ago. Despite not having the time to train a full camp, Harvison accepted a bout on the UFC on FOX preliminary card against Johnson, the man he was originally scheduled to face this past September.
How he gets it done: Harvison is primarily a stand-up fighter. He's got decent Muay Thai and he's aggressive, but what he truly needs to do is either turn this fight into a brawl or get really physical. DaMarques Johnson's biggest weaknesses are when fighters really put a lot of pressure on him either physically or if they simply try to overwhelm him either with punches or on the ground.
Harvison likely isn't capable of overwhelming Johnson on the ground like James Wilks or Amir Sadollah did, but he's definitely capable of getting in his face and laying into him with strikes. He'll have to fight cautiously aggressive as he'll want to avoid the takedown at all costs while trying to keep the pressure on Johnson.
Fight "X-Factor:" It's a bit of a cliche, but the "X-Factor" for this fight is whether or not Clay Harvison can avoid the ground game. Including his loss to Nijem on the show, he's been submitted three times in his career and they've all been via rear naked choke. That's pretty much to blueprint for defeating the Georgian. This bout will likely hinge on whether or not Johnson can take him down and keep him down.
There are a couple other smaller factors as well, whether or not the quick turnaround for Harvison will be an issue as well as whether or not the injury that forced Johnson from competing against Harvison less than two months ago is fully healed. Either of those could play into the fight but the most important thing is where this fight takes place.
Bottom Line: These are two welterweights that are just about on the bottom rung of the UFC's divisional ladder so this will likely be a "win or go home" fight. Both Harvison and Johnson are coming off stoppage losses in the second round so they'll be competing with their backs against the wall. Sometimes this forces fighters to fight like their life depends on it, other times, they play it extremely cautiously, fighting not to lose instead of simply to win. Despite not being big players in the division, these guys usually bring it and put on exciting bouts and I would expect nothing less on Saturday. This doesn't have any implications in the division at all, but it should be fun to watch.
Who will come out on top at UFC on FOX? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!