Two talented light heavyweights will be squaring off against each other tomorrow night (Nov. 3, 2012) as Anthony Johnson takes on D.J. Linderman on the World Series of Fighting 1 main card in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Johnson was a top prospect in the UFC, but got the boot after suffering from multiple weight-cutting issues. He's since moved from welterweight all the way up to light heavyweight and now that he's got his weight under control, he's looked sharp, winning three straight bouts since his UFC release. He'll be looking to continue his streak tomorrow night.
D.J. Linderman has experience at both heavyweight and light heavyweight, being a Bellator semifinalist at 205 pounds and recently winning the Cage Warriors heavyweight title. His current stretch of victories has earned him a huge step up in competition against Johnson in the co-main event of WSOF.
Record: 13-4 overall
Key Wins: Dan Hardy (UFC Fight Night 24), Jake Rosholt (Xtreme Fight Night 9), Dave Branch (TFC 22)
Key Losses: Vitor Belfort (UFC 142), Josh Koscheck (UFC 106), Rich Clementi (UFC 76)
How he got here: Anthony Johnson took the fast track to the UFC. With his freakish size and power for a welterweight, he made his promotional debut in just his fourth professional fight. Prior to that, he had been a national champion wrestling on the junior college level.
He didn't get off to a great start in the UFC, going 2-2 in his first four fights, losing via submission to the significantly smaller Rich Clementi and getting his eye poked badly by Kevin Burns which somehow resulted in a TKO loss. In between those fights, he showed his potential by knocking Ultimate Fighter season six finalist Tommy Speer silly in less than a minute with a vicious punch.
"Rumble" went on a solid three fight win streak, avenging the eye poke to Burns and knocking out both Luigi Fioravanti and Yoshiyuki Yoshida in the first round. This earned him a big time divisional match-up against top contender Josh Koscheck. Johnson struggled to land big strikes against Koscheck, resorting to wild punches and his lack of a serious submission game resulted in a second round rear naked choke defeat.
He was slated to face John Howard but their fight next got past the ridiculously awesome war of words before Johnson was sidelined with a horrible knee injury. He would be shelved for 17 months before finally returning against Dan Hardy at UFC Fight Night 24. Johnson smashed Hardy with strikes and then rode out a decision with his significantly superior wrestling, something he caught some flack from the fans and media.
He faced the surging Charlie Brenneman at UFC on Versus 6 and floored the wrestling, stuffing his takedowns and finishing him off with a brutal head kick. Afterwards, he finally decided to move to middleweight to take on "The Phenom."
How he gets it done: Johnson has knocked out his opponent in all but one of his UFC victories. He's got some serious power. "Rumble" is very dangerous with not only his punches but also his kicks, something Belfort should be very careful about considering he tends to stand on the outside before diving in. That's how he got caught by Anderson Silva's famous front kick
Despite coming up from welterweight, Anthony Johnson is the bigger fighter so his best plan of action would be to stay on the outside looking for the big power shot whether it's a counter punch or a huge head kick. If Belfort dives in with his famous punching flurries, Johnson needs to change levels and slam "The Phenom" to the canvas.
It's the ability to overpower Belfort that should be able to carry Johnson to victory. He could really outmuscle and wear out the Brazilian either in the clinch or with takedowns. It's the things that Johnson can do that Belfort can't which could be the deciding factor here.
Record: 14-3 overall
Key Wins: Devin Cole (BKP-Night of Champions), Mike Hayes 2x (Cage Warriors 47, Alliance: The Uprising)
Key Losses: Richard Hale (Bellator 42), Devin Cole (Cinco De Massacre)
How he got here: D.J. Linderman got his start as a heavyweight, smashing and bashing his way to an 8-1 record in the first two years of his career which included victories over the likes of Devin Cole and Mike Hayes along the way with the only defeat being a rematch to Cole.
This stretch earned him some attention from Bellator, who invited him to compete in their inaugural light heavyweight tournament. In the quarterfinals, Lindermean stopped the favorited Raphael Davis via third round TKO after sustaining some punishment in the opening round.
He would go on to lose a close split decision to eventual tournament finalist Richard Hale in the next round, but he followed the loss up with two consecutive first round finishes.
After stumbling against Moise Rimbon, Linderman has reeled off three straight wins including another victory against Mike Hayes, this time for the Cage Warriors heavyweight title. He dropped back down to light heavyweight to battle Anthony Johnson in the World Series of Fighting's inaugural show.
How he gets it done: Linderman has to utilize his weapons which have helped put him over the top in nearly all of his fights, his gas tank, his chin and his power. If he can survive that initial blitz from Anthony Johnson and make "Rumble" work, an opening could definitely appear for him to begin taking over.
Linderman can take a shot, but Anthony Johnson is one of the hardest hitters in the game. It would be wise if he covered up with both elbows if Johnson gets overly aggressive, blocking most of the heavy offense and potentially wearing Johnson down a bit.
The longer this fight goes, the better Linderman's odds of winning become as he's proven himself to be able to handle a three round fight time and time again. It's all about surviving that initial onslaught from Johnson and if the Blackzilian slows down, he's got a relatively good shot of taking over.
Fight X-Factor: The biggest X-Factor for this fight has to be Johnson's progression up to the light heavyweight division. It was just 13 months ago that "Rumble" was knocking out Charlie Brenneman inside the UFC and now he's fighting not one but two weight classes higher due to issues with his body. Has he put the weight on correctly? Is he cutting properly finally? Those are all interesting questions heading into this performance. Johnson has looked strong in his last two fights since moving to light heavyweight, stopping both Esteves Jones and Jake Rosholt in the last three months. It'll be interesting to see how he performs against someone who might be even bigger than him for once.
Bottom Line: Anthony Johnson is almost always exciting. He's got that finisher's mentality whenever he steps into the cage and his power in both his hands and feet is immense. If he puts his fists on Linderman, he's got the power to potentially be the first man to stop him. Linderman is a gritty light heavyweight so you can expect him to keep pushing forward despite the dangers Johnson presents. It's not likely that there will be a submission here as both man will be looking for the knockout from start to finish.
Who will come out on top at World Series of Fighting 1? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!