Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight sluggers Michael Johnson and Artem Lobov will collide this Saturday (Oct. 27, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 138 inside Avenir Centre in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.
Johnson is one of the most notoriously hot-and-cold fighters on the roster. Take a look at his record: The numbers are ugly, but he also holds wins over some of Lightweight’s absolute best. That trend seems to be continuing at 145 pounds, although he did pick up his first Featherweight win last time out. Meanwhile, UFC’s handling of Artem Lobov is bizarre. Is “The Russian Hammer” a great fighter? No, but he is popular thanks to his closeness with Conor McGregor. Are there fights in UFC that he has a reasonable chance at winning? Definitely, yet UFC continues to shoot itself in the foot by matching Lobov up with high-level fighters for no conceivable reason.
Let’s look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Tony Ferguson (UFC on FOX 3), Edson Barboza (UFC Fight Night 61), Dustin Poirier (UFC Fight Night 94), Gleison Tibau (UFC 168)
Key Losses: Darren Elkins (UFC Fight Night 124), Khabib Nurmagomedov (UFC 205), Nate Diaz (UFC on FOX 17), Myles Jury (UFC 155)
Keys to Victory: When on his game, Johnson is one of the best fighters in the world. A lightning fast Southpaw with legitimate knockout power, Johnson does his best work when able to deny takedown attempts with footwork rather than defensive wrestling.
Luckily, that won’t be a concern against Lobov.
In fact, there aren’t many concerns. Lobov is slower, less powerful, and less technical on the feet than Johnson. Even with the short-notice against him (details), Johnson probably strikes at a higher rate than Lobov as well. On paper, there’s absolutely no reason Johnson won’t pick apart Lobov relatively easily.
There is one risk, and that comes more from Johnson himself. Lobov is tough and durable, meaning Johnson likely has to avoid making a critical mistake for 15 minutes. That shouldn’t be a problem against a step back like Lobov, but Johnson does have a history of poor in-fight decisions that prevent this from being a guarantee.
Record: 13-14-1 (1)
Key Wins: Teruto Ishihara (UFC Fight Night 99), Martin Svensson (Trophy MMA 3), Julian Erosa (The Ultimate Fighter 22)
Key Losses: Cub Swanson (UFC Fight Night 108), Andre Fili (UFC Fight Night 118), Ryan Hall (TUF 22 Finale), Alex White (UFC Fight Night 82)
Keys to Victory: Lobov is not a bad fighter. He’s durable, physical and definitely has some pop behind his punches. Plus, the extra focus on low kicks has been very beneficial. However, Lobov’s defense in every area is not all that great, and he does fatigue pretty considerably as well.
Against a low- to mid-tier action fighter, Lobov has a fair chance to win a brawl. Opposite Johnson, Lobov is going to need a special performance.
Realistically, the only potential path for Lobov requires him to fully replicate Justin Gaethje’s performance, which is not an easy task. Still, Lobov gives himself the best possible chance by getting in Johnson’s face constantly, kicking at the legs, and generally being as difficult as possible.
The more pressure Lobov applies, the more likely Johnson is to make a mistake.
Bottom Line: It’s going to be a fun fight.
Johnson’s new start at Featherweight is looking suspiciously like his career at Lightweight. That’s not an insult — Johnson was legitimately Top 10 at 155 pounds, but he was never able to put enough wins together to truly break into the title mix. This bout should help him build a win streak in his new home, but if he somehow comes up short, it’s time to rule this experiment failed and disappear back to Lightweight.
As for Lobov, there is a slight risk he is released on a loss. However, there is still something of an intriguing fight on the table for him win or lose: A scrap with the potentially unemployed Zubaira Tukhugov, a member of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s camp with whom Lobov was originally matched. There’s a lot of drama between the two, enough to sell the fight and bolster a fight card at some point in the future.
I don’t expect UFC to turn that down.
At UFC Fight Night 138, Michael Johnson and Artem Lobov will square off in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?