Both men had their strengths and flaws, and both just so happened to match perfectly. Johnson being perhaps the most powerful puncher in the division but possessing an Achilles' heel of a ground game while Struve's primary weapon was his submissions and his weakness was his ability to take a big punch.
Whoever could impose their will would be the man who came out the victory.
So what fatal flaw did Johnson commit which cost him a legitimate chance at victory? Also, what happens next for both heavyweights?
Follow me after the jump for our Stefan Struve vs. Lavar Johnson UFC 146 post-fight review and analysis.
Johnson didn't waste any time, pressing forward, throwing a huge body shot and attacking with an uppercut as Struve was quickly backed into the fence.
From here, though, is where I have a serious problem with his strategy. Unlike the Pat Barry and Joey Beltran fights where he kept his distance while his opponent was trapped against the fence and then hammered them with hooks and uppercuts, Johnson remained clinched with Struve, which eliminated all the power from his punches.
Johnson tried to throw some big left hands, but Struve was able to absorb them because he didn't have any distance to actually put some force behind them. Instead, Struve grabbed a left overhook and pulled guard, taking the fight to the ground at all costs.
Once on the ground, it was only a matter of time. Struve attacked the overhooked arm, bringing his legs up and going belly down with his huge frame. Referee Josh Rosenthal immediately stepped in and put a halt to the proceedings and Struve did his victory lap around the cage.
For Lavar Johnson, this was a huge blunder on his part. He had Struve right where he wanted him, backed up against the fence, unable to escape his punches and then he completely left him off the hook by leaning on the big man and allowing Struve to tie him up with the overhook. If he had just taken a step backwards and continued to throw bombs, this could have been a completely different fight.
Johnson is still a powerful and dangerous striker. I wouldn't be surprised to see him matched up against someone along the lines of Brendan Schaub, Ednaldo Oliveira or fellow main card loser Dave Herman next.
For Stefan Struve, this was perhaps the smartest performance of his career. He knew he shouldn't stand and trade with Johnson and I don't think he even through one punch against him. Instead, he tied up the big man to make sure he'd be safe from ground and pound first and then pulled guard knowing that Johnson was very weak on the ground. That armbar was a thing of beauty as well, and I'm sure with his 6'11 frame, it probably hurts and torques even worse than a regular armbar. While this was an outcome I expected, I wasn't sure if Struve would actually stick to a gameplan. It was refreshing to watch.
I'd love to see him face his original opponent, Mark Hunt next. Hunt said his knee injury shouldn't require much off time and perhaps it can be made sooner rather than later. Other options for "The Skyscraper" include Stipe Miocic or perhaps the upcoming winner of the Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Cheick Kongo fight. All are options that would bring Struve closer to the upper levels of the division, something he's beginning to earn after his 8th UFC victory.
So what did you think, Maniacs?
Were you perplexed by Johnson's idea to clinch? Did Struve's aggressiveness in taking the fight to the ground impress you? What do you think the ceiling is for both fighters?