Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight strikers Michael Johnson and Stevie Ray will battle this Saturday (Oct. 26, 2019) at UFC Fight Night 162 from inside Singapore Indoor Arena in Kallang, Singapore.
From the time it was first announced, I did not like Michael Johnson’s planned move to 145 pounds, but I understand why “The Menace” did it: an attempt to become a contender in a new division after suffering major setbacks to elite Lightweight competition. Unfortunately, Featherweight proved no solution for Johnson — it seemed to nullify his usually great speed advantage — prompting the veteran to return to his old stomping grounds. Back in 2017, Ray seemed to be on the verge of making it as a Lightweight contender, improving and winning five of six bouts. Since then, unfortunately, the Scot has fallen on difficult times, though this bout will serve as an opportunity for him to rebound and score perhaps the biggest win of his career.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Dustin Poirier (UFC Fight Night 94), Tony Ferguson (UFC on FOX 3), Edson Barboza (UFC Fight Night 61), Gleison Tibau (UFC 168)
Key Losses: Khabib Nurmagomedov (UFC 205), Nate Diaz (UFC on FOX 17), Myles Jury (UFC 155), Darren Elkins (UFC Fight Night 124), Josh Emmett (UFC on ESPN 2)
Keys to Victory: Hopefully, Johnson can pick up where he left off at 155 pounds because he was genuinely one of the 10 best fighters in the division at the time. Johnson has never been the most consistent fighter, but when he’s on, Johnson is a shockingly quick and powerful Southpaw with strong takedown defense.
To be honest, Ray seems like the perfect opponent for Johnson’s return. Ray is tough and powerful himself, but he is not the type of specialist that has troubled Johnson in the past. Plus, recent fights have shown him somewhat hittable, which is a significant issue given the pop in Johnson’s left hand.
In this match up, I’d like to see Johnson avoid brawling. Ray was knocked out in his last fight by a patient Southpaw counter striker who waited, let Ray move first, and then blasted him with a cross. Johnson has the skill set and speed to time Ray in similar fashion, and working from the outside will help him manage risk.
Key Wins: Joe Lauzon (UFC Fight Night 108), Ross Pearson (UFC Fight Night 99), Jessin Ayari (UFC Fight Night 138), Leonardo Mafra (UFC Fight Night 72)
Key Losses: Leonardo Santos (UFC Fight Night 153), Paul Felder (UFC Fight Night 113), Kajan Johnson (UFC Fight Night 127)
Keys to Victory: “Braveheart” is definitely a scrapper. On the regional circuit in Europe, he picked up quite a few submission wins, but inside the Octagon, Ray has been pretty straightforward with his general intention of walking his foe down and beating him up.
Perhaps I’m wrong, but I don’t see any way that Ray wins this bout that does not involve making it an ugly fight. In most of his losses, Johnson was simply outworked. Ray does not appear to have the technical skills to pick apart or out-wrestle “The Menace,” but he is undeniably tough and has a deep gas tank.
Ray needs to make the most of those attributes. From the first bell, Ray should be pressuring Johnson, throwing in combination, and attacking with takedowns. It’s unlikely to work early — in fact, he’ll probably eat a fair amount of shots trying. However, Ray’s best chance is to make this a war of attrition and win late, so that may be the necessary trade-off for a victory.
Bottom Line: Both of these Lightweights could really use a “W.”
Michael Johnson’s 2-2 run at Featherweight really did not turn out the way he hoped, but if there’s a silver lining, it’s that Johnson doesn’t need to be a title contender to entertain. At his best, he’s a very high-level action fighter, and that’s okay. At 33 years of age, there still should be something left in the tank for Johnson, particularly since he’s not destroying his body to make weight.
A win re-establishes Johnson as a dangerous Lightweight and sets him up for more fun fights.
As for Ray, this may well be a must-win fight, which is tough, because it’s also something of a step up in competition. If nothing else, it’s a majorly high-risk, high-reward fight. Ray either scores the biggest win of his career or comes up short for the fourth time in five trips to the Octagon — two very different scenarios.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC Fight Night 162 fight card this weekend right HERE, starting with the ESPN+“Prelims” that are scheduled to begin at 5 a.m. ET, then the main card portion that will also stream on ESPN+ at 8 a.m. ET.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC Fight Night 162: “Askren vs. Maia” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
At UFC Fight Night 162, Michael Johnson and Stevie Ray will scrap in the co-main event. Which man will have his hand raised?