Michael Johnson gets Darren Elkins at UFC Fight Night 124 in first featherweight bout

Michael Johnson will be welcomed to the UFC featherweight division by a formidable foe.

Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) today announced on his Instagram that he’s set to fight the red-hot Darren Elkins (23-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 124, which takes place Jan. 14 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis and airs on FS1.

Instagram Photo

Brazilian website Combate was first to report the news.

Johnson told MMAjunkie last month that he wanted his first featherweight fight to be against top-10 opponent, and that’s what he’ll get in Elkins, who is riding a five-fight winning streak.

Johnson will enter the 145-pound division looking to reverse a recent tailspin. He’s lost four of his previous fight bouts, including two in a row. In his most recent encounter, Johnson was TKO’d in July by former WSOF champion Justin Gaethje in The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale main event. The two engaged in a blistering slugfest considered to be a “Fight of the Year” contender before Gaethje finished Johnson late in the second round.

The gritty Elkins, No. 10 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings, won both of his fights in 2017. In March, Elkins rallied to knock out Mirsad Bektic in the third round at UFC 209. Elkins followed that “Performance of the Night” with a split-decision win over Dennis Bermudez in July at UFC on FOX 25.

The latest UFC Fight Night 124 card now includes:

  • Vitor Belfort vs. Uriah Hall
  • Thiago Alves vs. Zak Cummings
  • Matt Frevola vs. Marco Polo Reyes
  • James Krause vs. Alex White
  • Darren Elkins vs. Michael Johnson

For more on UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/BmPeLHi26f6C5PxADa7iAb/283349”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Michael Johnson”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Twitter Mailbag: UFC's decision to sideline Mark Hunt against his will is a tricky one

If you make your struggle with the effects of brain trauma public, how surprised can you be when a promoter won’t let you fight? But if the promoter won’t let you fight, what do you get to do?

Plus, what’s the fight of the year so far in 2017? And does the UFC flyweight champ need to jump up a division now?

All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

I’m torn on this. On one hand, you want the UFC to be proactive about fighter health and safety. If a fighter tells us that he’s slurring his words and struggling with short-term memory – both major red flags – you don’t want to put that person in a cage to fight for money.

On the other hand, Mark Hunt is currently suing the UFC for what he alleges is a failure to look out for fighter health and safety, so we can’t ignore the context of this move by the UFC.

It’s also worth asking if the UFC just set a precedent that it’s not willing to stick to. Georges St-Pierre has also described issues with his memory (which he attributed to possible alien activity, which is not necessarily any less concerning), but he was never pulled from any fights, and is slated to return for more in November.

Then there’s the question of what you do with a fighter who you’ve deemed medically unfit to fight based on a column he wrote for a website. How can you keep him under contract if you’re not going to let him work?

And if you do release him, does that mean any fighter can get out of his contract by publicly proclaiming his brain to be damaged, only to pop up in Bellator a couple months later declaring that, actually, he’s feeling much better now, thank you?

These are uncharted waters. This wasn’t an athletic commission that pulled Hunt from the fight. And, as far as we know, the decision to pull him wasn’t based on any actual medical testing. UFC officials just read a column with Hunt’s name on it and yanked him, which forces us to wonder about the true motives here.

(Also, if talking openly about brain trauma leads to a de facto suspension, what you’ve really done is ensure that fighters will stay quiet about their symptoms if and when they do appear.)

But again, if Hunt really is experiencing the symptoms he wrote about, he shouldn’t be fighting. I wish the UFC had done more to confirm and investigate that before acting. I also wish it hadn’t decided to make this unprecedented principled stance with a fighter who’s currently battling the promotion in court. Then it would have been a lot easier to know what to make of it.

Are those the only two choices? Because if you told me right now that Rory MacDonald has a goat who he cares for and talks to and secretly feels is the only one in this world who understands him, I would believe that in a heartbeat.

First of all, that’s awesome. Second of all, if ever there was a situation where you don’t want to walk around with an imported IPA in your hand, loudly discussing the superiority of Japanese motorcycles, this is it. Third of all, Roy Nelson? Now that’s natural sponsor synergy, right there. Fourth, remember to have a good time. Fifth, but not so good that you forget to apply sunscreen and end up with the inevitable tank top tan. That’s experience talking, my friend.

Is this love? That you’re feeling? Is this – and here I’m just thinking out loud – the love that you’ve been waiting for?

But I know what you mean. Watching Demetrious Johnson pull off a brand new submission reminded me of one of the things that I’ve always loved about MMA, which is that it’s a sport that’s always growing and changing.

Remember 15 years ago when Tito Ortiz would take somebody down, wedge their head against the fence, and elbow a hole in their face? At the time that felt like a new answer for the relatively old problem of the jiu-jitsu guard. Now it’s the first step to having someone wall-walk their way to an escape.

The nature of MMA – just two humans trying to hurt each other in a cage, with relatively few rules restricting them – makes it an environment that allows for a lot of creativity. The opportunities for evolution are everywhere. New attacks lead to new counters, which then breed new variations on the old moves. Every once in a while, an artist appears to blaze a fresh trail.

You don’t really get as much of that with most other sports. Instead you get people who do the old stuff slightly better than their predecessors. This is one of the things that makes MMA special. I hope we never lose that.

Since we’re talking about a health and safety issue, I’m not sure we want to use “try something – anything!” as our mantra here. Some proposed fixes, like same-day weigh-ins or lengthy suspensions for missing weight, are likely to make things worse, because fighters are still going to take the risks even when it’s a bad idea, and you’re not going to punish your way out of this problem.

I think the best hope for a solution is something along the lines of what California is trying to do, using hydration testing and other methods to determine a safe fighting weight for every athlete, then making the fighters stick to those guidelines even when they don’t want to.

Even that system won’t be perfect. There will be times when it feels like regulatory overreach for a commission to tell someone like Renan Barao that he doesn’t get to be a bantamweight anymore.

Plus, fighters’ bodies change. They get old. Or they just let themselves get out of shape. Just because you determine a safe fighting weight, it doesn’t completely rule out the possibility of fighters trying for last-minute, extreme weight cuts. And if you think it’s a bummer when a fight is scratched due to someone missing weight, wait until a big one is called off because someone is too far from the target weight for the commission to even let them try.

Still, this is obviously an issue. Fighters can literally die this way. Not to mention, it’s just insane to put athletes through that kind of intense depletion a day before the competition. There’s no doubt that performances suffer as a result. Careers are probably shortened, and for what? Just so fighters can face someone roughly their own size in the end?

I support athletic commissions that are serious about changing that culture, but it can’t just be one or two of them. As with anti-doping efforts, this needs to be something the whole sport does if we’re every going to get anywhere.

Ultimately? Antonio Silva is. But I see your point. It’s madness to me that GLORY would even book this fight. What’s the point? To let Rico Verhoeven show out against a big, slow punching bag of an opponent for the sake of some memorable violence? What, to prove some point about kickboxing vs. MMA? Is this some kind of sad, off-brand attempt at a Mayweather-McGregor-esque cross-sport challenge? I don’t get it.

Ideally, the people who love and care about Silva would stop him from doing this, but for various reasons I wrote about back when this fight was announced, that’s not happening. Instead we’re just charging ahead with this like these mismatches aren’t very dangerous, which they are.

I like face-punching and knockouts as much as anyone, but I won’t watch this. I can’t. As viewers and fans, that feels like the least we can do to make this sort of matchmaking stop.


Really, that’s your list? There’s something to spoil every one of those, and I’m pretty sure the last one is a cartoon.

If you ask me to pick a fight of the year that I can still feel good about as of this writing, I have to go with Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Johnson. No one got popped for drugs. The judges didn’t screw it up (because Gaethje didn’t give them a chance). The fight was competitive and rational from a matchmaking perspective.

And if that’s not enough, the action was just bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

That’s not a call for the UFC to make; that’s up to the athletic commission. And no, based on precedence alone, that’s not something that merits an official punishment. We’ve seen fighters get away with much more egregious shots after the bell (looking at you, Germaine de Randamie) and there was no punitive action beyond whatever the referee was willing to do in the fight itself, which is usually nothing at all.

He doesn’t have to, because weight classes exist for a reason. But man, it sure would be great if he did, wouldn’t it?

I can’t help but feel underwhelmed by the thought of watching Johnson keep beating up the same flyweights over and over, all while the UFC has to reach further down the rankings ladder just to find fresh opponents. It feels too easy for a fighter as good as Johnson. He needs a challenge. I’d argue he needs it more than he needs another victory. It’s just a question of whether or not he sees that – and whether or not he cares.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Veteran UFC lightweight Michael Johnson wants top guys if he moves to featherweight


Filed under: Featured, News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos

UFC lightweight Michael Johnson doesn’t have time to waste if he moves down to featherweight.

“The guys need to be in the top 10,” Johnson on Wednesday told MMAjunkie Radio. “I’ve fought so many people at 155 (pounds) over and over again, it’s almost a waste of time. I can’t do it at 145.

“I’m 31. I’m not at a point where I want to fight everybody in the 145-pound division. I need to fight the top guys, get in there and get out, and get my title shot.”

So far, Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) is still waiting for the UFC’s first offer. Although he went big with his first callout and targeted Jose Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC), the former featherweight champ appears headed for a rematch against onetime title challenger Ricardo Lamas (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) at UFC 218 or 219.

Johnson would rather the promotion book him against a known commodity at 145 pounds than run back previous matchups.

“I think we’ve gotten to a time where everybody at the top of the 145-pound division has fought each other,” Johnson said. “Nobody wants to see those rematches down there. So a new face, a new look, some new excitement at 145 sounds perfect.”

Johnson, the No. 12 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, shrugged off any suggestion of a tough transition to featherweight. He said he walked around at 163 pounds during his previous training camp and could easily shed the additional weight.

“I’m a professional,” he said. “The first thing we have to do as professionals is make weight. That’s part of the game. If you’re missing weight, you’re not clocking in. I hold myself very high in winning that first battle and making weight.”

Johnson’s next battle is reviving his UFC career. Although he’s faced mostly top competition, he is 1-4 in his past five outings. A new division offers to turn a new page in the octagon.

“I could fight this weekend if there were a fight card and I needed to, but December is a perfect timeline for me,” Johnson said. “Anywhere from next month to December, I’ll be ready.”

Now, Johnson just wants the promotion to take into consideration his experience when booking his next fight. And that means starting him toward the top of the heap.

After all, he’s been right there in a division that’s arguably tougher.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/nxHab3NKqURKUSym5Zdpog/277376”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Gaethje def. Johnson”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Stream or download MMAjunkie Radio #2541 with Lyoto Machida, Johny Hendricks, Michael Johnson

Stream or download Wednesday’s episode of MMAjunkie Radio with guests Lyoto Machida, Johny Hendricks and Michael Johnson.

Machida headlines UFC Fight Night 119 vs. Derek Brunson on Oct. 28. Hendricks competes Nov. 4 at UFC 217 vs. Paulo Borrachinha. Johnson, looking to compete in December, discussed his possibilities at lightweight or featherweight if he drops down a division.

You can stream the entire episode on AudioBoom.com or listen below.

Filed under: News, Radio, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Lyoto Machida, Johny Hendricks, Michael Johnson

Filed under: News, Videos

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Lyoto Machida, Johny Hendricks and Michael Johnson.

Former UFC light heavyweight champion Machida headlines UFC Fight Night 119 on Oct. 28 against Derek Brunson. Former UFC welterweight champ Hendricks competes on Nov. 4 vs. Paulo Borrachinha at UFC 217. Meanwhile, Johnson is looking to make the move to featherweight and will update us on his progress and any potential targets he might like to face.

MMAjunkie Radio airs from 1 to 3 p.m. ET (10 a.m. to noon PT), live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. You can watch and listen live on MMAjunkie’s Facebook and YouTube pages. Additionally, SiriusXM Rush (Ch. 93) carries a replay later in the day (8-10 p.m. ET) and the following morning (7-9 a.m. ET), or catch a replay on demand.

MMAjunkie Radio listener guide:

  • HOW TO WATCH (ON WEB): Watch a live stream on MMAjunkie’s Facebook or YouTube pages.
  • HOW TO CALL: MMAjunkie Radio takes phone calls from listeners throughout the show. Call into the MMAjunkie Radio hotline at (866) 522-2846.
  • HOW TO DISCUSS: The MMAjunkie MMA Forums has a section devoted solely to MMAjunkie Radio. Stop by the MMAjunkie Radio forum to discuss the show, interact with the hosts, suggest future guests and catch up on the latest MMAjunkie Radio news.
  • HOW TO VISIT THE SHOW: You can watch MMAjunkie Radio live and in person at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. The booth is located in the resort’s Race & Sports Book next to the Mandalay Bay poker room. To plan a trip to Sin City and MMAjunkie Radio, go to www.mandalaybay.com.

Filed under: News, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC's Michael Johnson explains move to featherweight, wanting to fight Jose Aldo first


Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

ROTTERDAM – Last Friday, longtime lightweight contender Michael Johnson made news by announcing somewhat unexpected plans: a move to the 145-pound division.

But the plans, he says, has long been in the making all along.

Although he is coming off two straight losses, first to contender Khabib Nurmagomedov and then to former WSOF champion Justin Gaethje in a “Fight of the Year” candidate, Johnson says he always intended to try his hand at a new division.

“There’s always been a thought in my head to drop down,” Johnson told reporters backstage at UFC Fight Night 115 after announcing his idea during a Q&A at Ahoy Rotterdam in the Netherlands. “Regardless of how I was doing in this division, win or lose, that was kind of a plan of mine – to drop down to 145, test the waters.

“Come back up to 155, maybe, because I fought everybody in the top 10 of the 155. I fought numerous people. I just wanted to see new changes, new faces and to see how I react. It has nothing to do with the fact that I lost to Justin. Even if I would have won, 145 still would have been a thought in my mind.”

Johnson has indeed faced mostly top competition in his UFC career. In fact, including Nurmagomedov and Gaethje, seven of his previous opponents are currently featured on the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings – where Johnson sits at No. 12.

Taking his history into account, it didn’t look exactly out of character when Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) listed former featherweight champion Jose Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) – who’s only lost twice in both his UFC and WEC runs combined – as an initial target.

Aldo, who’s eager to fight in either November or December after a title-costing UFC 212 loss to Max Holloway, seemed OK with the matchup. Aldo’s coach, Andre Pederneiras, took a “put your money where your mouth is” route when asked about it.

After a few days of a balanced diet consisting mostly of ice cream and cake in the Netherlands, Johnson hasn’t yet come up with a plan for the weight-cut. Whatever the route, he already has an idea of when he wants it done by.

“I was looking toward December, and November got brought up, so we’ll have to see,” Johnson said. “We’ll have to see everybody’s schedules and see where they can fit me in.”

The timeline, it just so happens, fits perfectly with Aldo’s own return expectations. But, if for some reason that matchup can’t materialize, who could be a worthy substitute?

“The next toughest guy in line,” Johnson said. “I think that’s maybe detrimental to my career, maybe hurts it a little bit that I always go for the toughest fight. But my first fight at 145, Aldo is a former champ, he’s one of the best in the world – always been.

“So that’s one guy that I would love to fight. I’m not in this sport to fight the guy that’s OK. I want the toughest guy. I want everybody that says he can’t be beat.”

The UFC, Johnson says, is totally fine with his idea to join the featherweight roster. But he clarifies it’s going to take something special to get him to drop those added 10 pounds.

“I think that (the UFC brass and I) have a really good relationship, because I put on good fights,” Johnson said. “Regardless of where it’s going to be, whatever night. So, fingers crossed, hopefully a big fight comes at 145. Because in order for me to make that drop, it has to be a big fight. It’s going to be quite a bit of weight for me.”

To hear more from Johnson, watch the video above.

And for more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/zs7EHJWoebxPiYh7EWasJc/270084”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Gaethje def. Johnson”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Jose Aldo and head coach Andre Pederneiras weigh ex-UFC champ's future options


Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

Former UFC champion and avid sports fan Jose Aldo has always dreamed of fighting in Madison Square Garden. With UFC 217 looming, that dream could very well come true in Nov. 4.

All he needs is a dance partner for the New York City event. And that’s when it gets muddy.

Before losing the belt to Max Holloway at UFC 212, Aldo had already expressed the desire to stay active. With that unchanged by the loss, the first name that was thrown around was Cub Swanson’s (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC), whom Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC)  had met (and made quick work of) before – under the now-defunct WEC banner.

Swanson, whose only reply to the idea was a low-key jab, became a father shortly after. Then, another rematch started being rumored – this time with Ricardo Lamas (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC), who’d unsuccessfully challenged for Aldo’s belt at UFC 169.

So, where exactly do things stand right now? Head coach and manager Andre Pederneiras explained.

“When we started negotiating way back, it was Cub Swanson,” Pederneiras told MMAjunkie on Friday. “But then he got pregnant. So he wouldn’t be ready for November, (which was) the date we wanted. November or December.

“So when I met someone else, they mentioned Ricardo Lamas’ name. They haven’t confirmed it yet. I think – I think that Lamas didn’t confirm it.”

When alerted to the fact a reporter had already spoken to Lamas, who dismissed the matchup rumors, Pederneiras replied.

“I figured as much,” Pederneiras said. “Because I’m trying to follow up, and they’re not saying anything back. But Aldo wants to fight. And the last thing he heard from my mouth was that it could be Ricardo Lamas and it could be either Nov. 4 or December. So we’re waiting.”

Aldo, who’d talked to reporters earlier that day, didn’t go into specifics of matchup negotiations; instead, he said he was expecting to hear good news from Pederneiras. He was quite clear on one thing, though: He wants to return soon. Hopefully, in New York City.

“It’s a dream of mine to fight there, especially at Madison Square Garden,” Aldo said. “I grew up watching boxers fight there. So, for me to fight at that venue, it’s historic, so I do want to be (at UFC 217).”

As for whom he’d like to meet on Nov. 4, Aldo doesn’t have a personal preference. He wants a fight – whether that means facing 145-pound contenders like Lamas or Swanson, or even accepting longtime lightweight Michael Johnson’s (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) recent invitation to be his first featherweight challenge.

“I think (a matchup with Johnson) is great,” Aldo said. “I see no problem with that. First, you have to talk to (Pederneiras). He’s the one who handles this. The more people saying my name, the better. That’s what keeps me up there. I see no problem.”

So if both Aldo and Johnson are down, it should be simple, right? Let’s just say that, after a learning experience with lightweight contenders Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov, Pederneiras is skeptical as to how this one is going to pan out.

“Everyone talks,” Pederneiras said. “(But) when it’s go time, everyone stays behind the curtains. These guys, what they say in front of the cameras, they don’t say behind it – and these are words by the matchmakers.”

Before the loss to Holloway, Aldo had repeatedly expressed another desire: trying his hand at the 155-pound division. That, it turns out, is not yet out of the picture. But it seems the former champion has some unfinished business to tend to first.

“We have this idea of moving up,” Pederneiras said. “But Aldo wants to try the title for a third time. (He wants to) fight for the belt again. We think there’s a good chance. Because in my head, Frankie Edgar is going to beat Holloway. Because their games don’t go together. And then (Aldo) would have a third stab at the belt. He can win the title and then move up.”

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/B84CQRWMH4V4dxLzmg3uQL/269979”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Holloway def. Aldo”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Can Justin Gaethje keep weaponizing his own will? The search for an answer is a thrilling one

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Yep, that’s what a Justin Gaethje fight looks like. It looks like constant pressure, wide-open offense, hurting and being hurt, and never taking a backward step unless it’s a forced, stumbling one. Even then, what would be the prelude to defeat for most fighters is just the very temporary cessation of hostilities for Gaethje.

More than anything, that’s what seemed to get to Michael Johnson in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale in Las Vegas on Friday night.

He hurt Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) plenty but couldn’t escape him. When his legs couldn’t hold him up anymore, Gaethje motioned for him to stand. When he retreated under duress, Gaethje flooded the distance that Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) sought to create.

It was like you could feel him sucking up all the air in the room, just so Johnson would have none left to breathe in the FS1-televised headliner at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The result was a thrilling second-round TKO victory for Gaethje, and it was one he paid for in blood and brain cells. That’s how it happens when you fight the way Gaethje does, using the force of your own will as a weapon. It’s an effective weapon if you’ve got it, and it’s also one that works two ways.

The first is that it provides you with opportunities. Gaethje spent most of the first round exploiting those opportunities as he walked Johnson into the fence, daring him to plant his feet and throw back, hammering him every time he stood still long enough to do so.

It was a pressure game, one that smothers the opponent with offense and forces him to think only about reacting and defending – not about whatever it was he told himself he was going to do here tonight.

But to apply that kind of pressure you’ve got to be willing to withstand some pain, which is where Gaethje’s will comes in. His constant offense provided Johnson with openings to counter, which he did well and with great force at times. Then Gaethje would grab a hold of him, take a breath, and recover.

If he was a cartoon character, here’s where he would have swatted at the little birdies circling his head, chasing them away until his mind had cleared enough for a fresh assault. Somehow, this entire process only took a few seconds.

That’s the other way will can win a fight. Because Johnson? He sees the same things we do. He sees Gaethje taking hard counters on the chin and then shaking off the effects. He sees Gaethje, visibly exhausted with his hands on his knees, yet motioning for Johnson to get up and fight rather than agreeing to get in his guard for a little mutual rest time.

At some point, how could he not wonder what it’s going to take to make a guy like that stop? How could he not at least consider the possibility that he’s not up to it? And that’s how you start to give up. Your hope, your belief in yourself, they begin to crumple around the edges. It’s not a collapse that happens all at once. Maybe it’s not even one you’re capable of doing anything about.

But then, there is that price to pay. Watching Gaethje wallop and wobble his way to victory evokes two primary feelings for the experienced fight fan. They are, in order: 1) an excitement at the overwhelming and enthusiastic brutality of it all, and 2) a knowing dread for where it all leads.

You can’t fight like that for 15 years. You shouldn’t, anyway. The human body and brain just aren’t built for it, which is one of the things that makes it so incredible to watch in the first place.

To watch a fighter like Gaethje in action is to witness a man flinging himself face first into the limitations of the body without regard for consequences. It’s rare, which in turn makes it special. How long can this guy keep this up? How far can he go with it? Is there anyone out there who can withstand and overwhelm the force of his will, or at least hit him hard enough to make him start caring about it?

These are the questions we’ll keep waiting for answers to. The longer we go without getting them, the more exciting the Gaethje journey becomes.

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/zs7EHJWoebxPiYh7EWasJc/257631”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Gaethje def. Johnson”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

TUF 25 Finale bonuses: Justin Gaethje's sick, sick debut was a double winner for $100,000

LAS VEGAS – Justin Gaethje, Michael Johnson and Tecia Torres each earned $50,000 bonuses for their performances at today’s TUF 25 Finale event – and Gaethje doubled up for $100,000.

Gaethje and Johnson earned the “Fight of the Night,” while Gaethje and Torres each won “Performance of the Night” honors.

The UFC announced the winners following the event, which MMAjunkie attended.

Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) made his UFC debut a memorable one, without question, with a late second-round TKO of Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC). Gaethje came to the UFC after relinquishing his WSOF lightweight title and promised to put on shows in his new home. That, he did. Johnson hurt him in the first round and won the frame from all three judges. But not getting the finish came back to haunt him, and Gaethje took him out in the second after hurting Johnson to the body.

Torres (9-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) had been a decision machine her entire pro career. But Juliana Lima (9-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) had the misfortune of being Torres’ first submission victim. When Lima went for a takedown, Torres stuffed it perfectly, worked around to Lima’s back and submitted the Brazilian with a rear-naked choke.

The TUF 25 Finale took place Friday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The card aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/zs7EHJWoebxPiYh7EWasJc/257175”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Gaethje def. Johnson”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

TUF 25 Finale results: Justin Gaethje TKOs Michael Johnson in memorable UFC debut

jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: “https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets”, analyticsCallback: “galleryAnalytics”, fullscreenUrl: “http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/zs7EHJWoebxPiYh7EWasJc/257157”, customAnalytics: true, title: “Gaethje def. Johnson”, feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == “undefined”) ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

The contempt between Justin Gaethje and Michael Johnson finally came to a head inside the octagon, and it was a sight to behold.

Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) overcame nearly being finished twice to storm back for a finish of his own, defeating Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) via second-round TKO in one of the most memorable UFC debuts in history.

The lightweight bout headlined today’s UFC event, The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

“You cannot break me,” Gaethje said. “I promise you. You better put me to sleep.”

It appeared that came close to happening on two occasions during this slugfest. Gaethje was getting the better of some spectacular exchanges with Johnson for most of the first round, until Johnson connected flush with a right hook that badly wobbled Gaethje. Johnson went for the finish, and he might’ve gotten it, though the bell sounded.

Both fighters came out swinging again in the second round, and again Johnson landed a right hand that wobbled Gaethje but didn’t drop him. Though Johnson failed to finish, he settled in and found holes in Gaethje’s defense, allowing him to land the better shots.

That is, until Gaethje hit an uppercut in the final 90 seconds that discombobulated Johnson. From there, Gaethje continued to pour it on with more uppercuts, busting up Johnson’s face until a knee signaled the end when “Big John” McCarthy stepped in at the 4:42 mark.

“‘Big John’ said I was almost out,” Gaethje said. “I was never out of that fight. Never.”

Gatheje, the former World Series of Fighting champion, remains undefeated and seemingly could have his choice of opponent as he’ll almost assuredly climb into the top five of the UFC rankings.

“Where is my equal at?,” he said. “I’m 18-0 with 15 knockouts. Who is my equal? That’s who I want.”

Up-to-the-minute TUF 25 Finale results include:

For more on The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan and Steven Marrocco contributed to this report on site in Las Vegas.)

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie