Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight strikers Andre Fili and Michael Johnson will collide this Saturday (Aug. 25, 2018) at UFC Fight Night 135 inside Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Winner of three of his last four bouts, Fili has briefly held a spot in the rankings a couple times now. While his next bout technically comes opposite an unranked foe, it’s among the most high-profile match ups of his career, a definite opportunity for “Touchy.” Meanwhile, it’s hard to reconcile Johnson’s skillset with his recent results: It doesn’t make any sense that the man who flattened Dustin Poirier in 95 seconds has lost three straight fights all by finish. A talented, but frustrating athlete, this will be Johnson’s second fight at 145 pounds and should determine his future in the division.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Dennis Bermudez (UFC on FOX 27), Hacran Dias (UFC Fight Night 96), Gabriel Benitiz (TUF Latin American 2 Finale), Felipe Arantes (UFC 179)
Key Losses: Max Holloway (UFC 172), Calvin Kattar (UFC 214), Yair Rodriguez (UFC 197)
Keys to Victory: A rangy kickboxer with deceptive power, Fill has finished 11 of his professional wins. Last time out opposite Dennis Bermudez, Fili also reminded the world of his wrestling prowess, scoring multiple takedowns to edge a close fight.
That mix of skills will be pivotal in this bout. Johnson is a very dangerous kickboxer with knockout power — it’s likely to be a scrap on the feet. However, despite some strong takedown defense, Johnson is incredibly vulnerable once on the mat. Fili will be at a huge advantage should he gain top position, and he’s slick enough striker to time a shot well.
Beyond mixing up his strikes and wrestling, Fili would be wise to target the body with kicks and push a high pace. Even back at Lightweight, there were multiple fights in which a drop in explosiveness from Johnson after the first round was certainly notable. Down a further 10 pounds, any conditioning issues will reveal themselves rather quickly, particularly if Fili is pushing a grueling pace.
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 a lightning fast combination puncher with hard kicks and hips that disappear before his opponent can tough him. Off his game? “The Menace” can get sloppy and make terrible decisions, particularly on the mat.
Opposite the taller and longer fighter, Johnson has to pressure. Fili likes to work from a longer range than Johnson, but luckily Johnson has shown excellent pressure striking in the past. Still, the challenge opposite Fili will be to pressure without fatiguing or exposing himself to reactive takedowns.
In perhaps Johnson’s best performance, he relentlessly pressured Edson Barboza, shut down down his range kicks and boxed him up inside. There’s little doubt that should be his strategy opposite Fili as well, so overall Johnson should remember what found him success in that bout: Aggression, countering the counter, and kicking with the kicker.
Bottom Line: It’s an important and exciting match up at 145 pounds.
Fili has been in UFC since 2013, and he seems to really be coming into his own as a fighter, currently building his first win streak. Adding a dangerous name like Johnson to that streak would be very helpful, definitely enough to earn him a ranking or highly ranked fighter. Considering just how talent-rich Featherweight is right now, that’s precisely what “Touchy” needs.
On the other hand, this could be Johnson’s make-or-break fight at 145 pounds. It all comes down to performance: If Johnson fights hard and effectively for 15 minutes, Featherweight might be his home win or lose. If he fades or is beaten quickly, though, Johnson needs to jump back to Lightweight and take a step back in competition — he’d be in a pretty desperate position. All that said, there are plenty of exciting match ups available for Johnson if he can make the most of his abilities at Featherweight.
At UFC Fight Night 135, Andre Fili and Michael Johnson will square off in the co-main event. Which man will leave with the victory?