Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweights Edson Barboza and Michael Johnson looked for the knockout last night (Sun., Feb. 22, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 61 inside Ginasio Gigantinho in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Barboza and his particularly vicious brand of Muay Thai have been tearing apart lightweights since losing to Donald Cerrone. With a victory over Johnson, he was aiming to get a second chance against a top five opponent.
On the other hand, Johnson had been forced to sit out for some time while the UFC investigated a possible domestic abuse charge. Last night, he looked to return to the spotlight with a signature win.
"The Menace" undoubtedly has big things in his future.
Johnson came in with intensity, walking toward his man and throwing heavy punches. As he pressured the Brazilian, Barboza looked to keep his cool and land quick counters. In addition, Barboza was firing off nasty kicks. Regardless of whether they landed, Johnson would looked to land a pair of counter punches.
Though both men landed seriously hard strikes across the first round, Johnson's constant pressure began to wear Barboza's defenses and reactions out just a bit. By the end of the round, Johnson had taken control of the bout and was getting the better of most exchanges, though the Brazilian was still firing off vicious strikes.
The second round played out much like the first, as Barboza circled and looked for counters while his opponent relentlessly pressured him. Again, both men landed very powerful strikes throughout the round, but neither man was shaken up by any one shot.
However, Johnson did briefly reverse a takedown attempt to secure top position. At the end of the round, the judges had to make a difficult call between Johnson's pressure, volume, and takedown against Barboza's counters, two of which cleanly landed with truly shocking speed.
The third round continued to play out similarly to the first two, as Barboza looked to counter Johnson's insane pressure. Both men threw a very high volume of strikes, and though Barboza likely landed the cleaner shots in this round, Johnson's forward movement and late takedown kept in any man's round.
In the end, Johnson's pressure and volume rightfully won him the close decision (video highlights here).
Johnson basically fought a perfect fight. Instead of utilizing his footwork to counter -- which is his usual style of fighting -- he kept his foot on the gas throughout the entire fight and pressured. In close exchanges, the judges will lean toward the man moving forward, and Johnson ensured that was constantly him.
Personally, Johnson's toughness impressed me above all else. Barboza is an offensive monster, and he landed some very clean strikes. For the vast majority of fighters, a single body kick from Barboza is a motivator to stop fighting and go fetal in the corner of the cage, while Johnson probably ate a dozen of them.
Johnson respectfully called out Benson Henderson for his next bout, and that would certainly be a great battle. Johnson has struggled with submission grapplers in his past, and "Smooth" could certainly challenge his improvements to that area.
While Barboza's movement and defensive boxing have greatly improved since his debut, it simply wasn't enough to overcome Johnson's aggressive assault. Still, credit has to be given to Barboza's counter punching game, as he landed some picture-perfect counter strikes.
However, Barboza also made his life difficult by over-committing to some punches, particularly his right hand. Barboza would lose his stance as he threw an overhand, which then opened him up for easy strikes.
After this loss, Barboza is still a top 10 lightweight. Therefore, a contest against the loser of Jorge Masvidal vs. Al Iaquinta -- two strong strikers with the grappling to threaten Barboza -- would certainly be entertaining and relevant to the division.
At UFC Fight Night 61, Michael Johnson put on an incredible performance to overcome Edson Barboza. Will the Blackzilian representative make it all the way to the UFC title?
For complete UFC Fight Night 61 results and play-by-play, click HERE.