Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Heavyweights Timothy Johnson and Marcin Tybura will battle this Sunday (April 10, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 86 inside Arena Zagreb in Zagreb, Croatia.
Johnson is a full size heavyweight. Just barely making the 265 lbs. limit, Johnson specializes in forcing his opponent to the mat and violently smashing them from top position.
In a division without many prospects, Tybura is a major exception. The 30-year-old grappling specialist is a former M-1 champion, and his sole loss came via injury.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter:
Key Wins: Shamil Abdurakhimov (UFC Fight Night 63), Travis Wiuff (Dakota FC 19)
Key Losses: Jared Rosholt (UFC Fight Night 73)
Keys to Victory: Johnson is a solid wrestler and physical force. He's competent on his feet, too, thanks to his size and punching power, but Johnson excels at finishing his foes via ground strikes.
In this bout, Johnson has to be careful. His opponent is also a talented wrestler, and Tybura is likely the more skilled grappler as well. If Johnson is too anxious in his attempts to close the distance, he could find himself on the bottom instead.
Which would not end well for him.
Instead, Johnson should methodically look to close the distance and look up the clinch. From that position, he can use his size and strength to control Tybura while landing some hard shots.
By forcing Tybura into these dirty boxing exchanges along the fence, Johnson can exhaust the Polish athlete. As his foe slows down, Johnson should be able to land the takedown more easily. Once on top, Johnson's powerful top game should be able to carry him to the victory.
Key Wins: Damian Grabowski (M-1 Challenge 50), Maro Perak (M-1 Challenge 47)
Key Losses: Stephan Puetz (M-1 Challenge 57)
Keys to Victory: First and foremost, Tybura is a jiu-jitsu fighter. Like his foe, Tybura does his best work from top position, as he wears his opponent out en route to a stoppage via ground strikes or submission. He's also a reasonably technical wrestler and kickboxer.
In this bout, Tybura should look to use his speed and technique. On the outside, he's quicker with his kicks and punches, so he should be able to land at a higher volume. Plus, he's got a pretty solid chin if his opponent does manage to connect with a looping blow.
At some point, Johnson will try to close the distance. If Tybura times it well, he could very likely score with a reactive takedown as Johnson moves in, which would be far easier than trying to win pure wrestling exchanges with the big man.
Once on top, Tybura shouldn't have much trouble controlling his opponent, which is how Johnson lost his last match. However, Tybura is a far more effective offensive fighter than Jared Rosholt, so the Polish scrapper should be able to do real damage or lock in a choke.
Bottom Line: Just about all of the fighters at the top of the Heavyweight division have been in the game for a long time. There's a major need for new blood, and these two have a chance to insert their names as potential contenders.
Johnson's game isn't too complicated, but he's been effective. Even when faced with a rough style match up in Rosholt, Johnson showed good toughness and nearly rallied for the late victory. If he can take a win over a solid prospect here, Johnson may face off with a high-profile opponent next.
On the other hand, a loss would make it two of three for Johnson. Heavyweight doesn't have the depth to release him, but a loss would seem to pin Johnson's ceiling somewhere in the middle of the division.
As something of an unknown, a lot of eyes should be on Tybura's debut. He's already proven himself against some solid competition in M-1, but this is his opportunity to really announce himself. With just a single strong performance here, Tybura could leapfrog several fighters in the title mix.
Again, Heavyweight needs new contenders.
Alternatively, a loss would be quite disappointing, but Tybura is still young. Lots of Heavyweights don't seem to hit their strides until their mid-30s, so there is time for Tybura to grow into an elite fighter if he isn't there yet.
At UFC Fight Night 86, Timothy Johnson and Marcin Tybura will throw down. Which fighter will have his hand raised?