RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JANUARY 14: Vitor Belfort (R) kicks Anthony Johnson (L) in a middleweight bout during UFC 142 at HSBC Arena on January 14, 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Unfortunately, very little of it had to do with the actual fight, itself.
Johnson, in moving up a division to middleweight for the first time in his career, missed weight by 11 pounds on Friday, forcing a special stipulation of having to weigh in a second time on Saturday before he would be allowed to even compete as well as forfeiting 20 percent of his fight purse.
"Rumble" pushed a very aggressive pace early with an intent on finishing the fight before he ran out of gas, but it was Belfort who responded efficiently earning his first submission victory in over 10 years.
So how did "The Phenom" pull off the victory against such a big and powerful foe? And what's next for both fighters?
Johnson pushed forward aggressively and perhaps recklessly early, scoring a big takedown after catching a Belfort head kick attempt. "Rumble," though, did not do much with his takedown, instead choosing to remain in Belfort's full guard, staying tight to his body in top position and not landing punches. After a quick warning from the referee, they were stood up.
Again, Johnson hunted to the takedown, pressing "The Phenom" into the fence and clutching onto a single leg. When he couldn't improve his position and after eating some short strikes from a sprawling Belfort, the referee again separated both fighters.
After a wild and rather sloppy exchange of strikes, Johnson dropped to his knees to again purse the takedown, turning the corner and putting Belfort on his back once more. The Imperial Athletics fighter was more active this time, trying to posture up and throw punches but they were once again stood up, this time perhaps even quicker than the first. (This is the only separation I don't fully agree with).
Upon being reset for the third time, Johnson showcased his true desperation, recklessly throwing big power strikes and head kicks with very little technique whatsoever. When he shot in for a takedown with 90 seconds left, he was completely out of gas. Belfort stuffed it this time with a beautiful sprawl and then immediately countered with punches to the side of the head.
With Johnson worrying about defending his head, "The Phenom" pounced onto his back, sinking both hooks in. He softened "Rumble" up with some heavy shots from behind and eventually sunk in a rear naked choke while flattening him out, forcing the tap as the Brazilian crowd erupted.
For Anthony Johnson, this fight was a disaster. He wasn't active enough after securing the takedowns so while the referee was quick to stand them up, he has no one to blame but himself for not trying to pass Belfort's guard or posture up and throw heavier ground and pound. He also embarrassed both the himself and the UFC by missing weight so badly and it's going to be a costly lesson.
Early reports are that Johnson will be released from the promotion, so he'll have plenty of time to think about what went wrong and how to fix it. Hopefully he takes this as a learning experience, makes weight successfully in his next few fights and we can see him back in the UFC again by the end of the year.
For Vitor Belfort, this was a terrific showcase of some of his skills that fans haven't had an opportunity to see. He had a good defensive guard and was able to lock down Johnson after being taken down so as to force the stand-up from the referee. He also aggressively attacked after defending the final takedown and his transition to the American's back was excellent. The reaction from the crazed fans in attendance made the moment that much better.
Belfort is already lined up to face Wanderlei Silva next as he'll coach against "The Axe Murderer" in the first ever foreign season of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), this one taking place in Brazil. He was already a star in his home country, but his performance last night coupled with his upcoming television role will likely put him over the top. Expect Belfort to get a huge middleweight fight if he can get past Silva later this year.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
What did you think of Dan Miragliotta's two stand ups and one separation? Did this fight go as you expected since Johnson had the weight issues heading in? Does Johnson deserve to be fired?