History in the making: Anthony Johnson destroys Charlie Brenneman in UFC welterweight swan song

Tracy Lee for Combat Lifestyle

"I’m still doing the same thing I did for my last fight, just kind of without hindrance. I got time to make the weight and I feel healthy so there won’t be any excuses. Fighters usually lose 10 pounds the day before and then the last four or five the day of the weigh-ins. I feel great." --Anthony Johnson, whose days of feeling great at 170 pounds were short lived.

Ancient Aliens?

There will come a time in the not-too-distant future, when mixed martial arts (MMA) fans look back on the early days of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and wonder how the hell a fighter the size of Anthony Johnson ever made the 170-pound weight limit.

In fact, the last time "Rumble" was fighting at welterweight, Chandella Powell was making the rounds as an Octagon girl, Ronda Rousey was still an unknown buried on the Strikeforce: "Challengers" roster, and there was no such thing as a UFC flyweight division.

Oh, and UFC was still airing its free cards on the Versus network.

At the time, Johnson was trying to re-establish himself as a top contender in the promotion's crowded 170-pound division. He had a chance to break into the top five with a big win over Josh Koscheck, but ultimately succumbed to a second-round submission in a fight that was marred with bizarre stoppages, eye pokes, and phantom knees to the head.

But it was also a major setback for the budding title contender.

Fortunately, he was able to rebound with a unanimous decision win over Dan Hardy. "The Outlaw" was just one bout removed from his UFC 111 showdown against Georges St. Pierre and was still considered one of the top welterweights in the world.

Johnson -- a Junior College National Champion out of Lassen Community College -- used his underrated wrestling to ground the British banger over the course of three rounds. In addition to staying away from Hardy's knockout punch, he covered and smothered his foe to guarantee the victory.

Fans, however, were not impressed.

After all, Johnson had developed a reputation for putting his opponents on ice. Prior to the Hardy fight, "Rumble" had won all five of his UFC contests by way of devastating knockout. Did the loss to Koscheck change his approach to the fight game?

That was a question that needed to be answered at UFC on Versus 6.

Looking to spoil Johnson's return to prominence was streaking welterweight contender Charlie Brenneman. "The Spaniard" earned his spot by playing spoiler in a last-minute win over Rick Story, thanks to Nate Marquardt's testosterone fail in Pittsburgh.

It was enough to get the former Pros vs. Joes winner a spot in the division top 10.

The stage was set for their welterweight showdown on the main card of UFC on Versus 6, which took place on Oct. 1, 2011, inside the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., in a fight that Johnson made weight for (171 pounds) without incident.

Here's what happened.

Brenneman comes out leery of his opponent's power. He immediately shoots, but Johnson sprawls and pushes him to the floor. "The Spaniard" looking for a way out and taking punishment to the body in the process. Brenneman spins into half guard and looks for a guillotine, but Johnson is having none of it. "Rumble" backs up and floors his foe with a head kick. Brenneman on rubber legs, trying to get his bearings against the fence and Johnson uncorks a secondary shin, sending his victim straight to the canvas, ass first. Referee Mario Yamasaki stops the fight, despite the fact that "The Spaniard" is still conscious.

The official time was 2:49 of the opening frame.

Johnson throws up his hands in celebration, taking home the knockout win in what would be his final fight at 170 pounds on the final broadcast on the Versus network. But instead of using the momentum to make a run at the welterweight title, Johnson simply self destructed.

Most of it had to do with his weight-cutting woes.

After moving up to middleweight to fight Vitor Belfort at UFC 142 in Brazil, Johnson missed weight by 11 pounds, was choked out in the second round, and then cut by UFC for his scale fail -- the third such incident in his ZUFFA career. He tried to rebound on the regional circuit by fighting Dave Branch at Titan FC, but once again failed to make the 185-pound mark.

It was light heavyweight or bust.

The move has paid dividends, as Johnson was able to rack up six straight wins and put himself back on the map by competing for World Series of Fighting (WSOF). After knocking out Mike Kyle last January, UFC was convinced that "Rumble" had successfully reinvented himself at 205 pounds, and opened the Octagon door once again.

Waiting for him will be top division contender, Phil Davis.

They'll do the deed this Saturday night (April 26, 2014) in the co-main event of the UFC 172: "Jones vs. Teixeira" pay-per-view (PPV), which takes place inside the Baltimore Arena in Baltimore, Maryland (results). A win for "Rumble" puts him at the top of a very short list of light heavyweight contenders.

A loss? Well, there's always heavyweight.

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