COMMENTARY | This past weekend, Anthony Johnson knocked out Mike Kyle in spectacular fashion in the co-main event of World Series of Fighting's eighth event. The win was Johnson's sixth in a row since being released by the UFC in early 2012 after a series of problems making weight. The win against Kyle concluded Johnson's contractual commitment to WSOF, making him a free agent. Here is why Dana White should be sprinting to his phone to make the call to bring Johnson back into the UFC fold.
Finally in the Right Weight Class
Johnson's release from the UFC had little to do with his win-loss record in the octagon. In his nearly five years with the promotion, he compiled a 7-4, with one of those losses coming on a controversial eye poke against Kevin Burns and many of those wins coming in spectacular highlight-reel fashion. Instead, Johnson was released due to his well-documented troubles getting his massive frame under the 170-pound welterweight limit. He even tried moving up to middleweight for what would be his final UFC fight against Vitor Belfort at UFC 142, but still wound up coming in 11 pounds over the 185-pound limit.
Now, Johnson has finally embraced his larger-than-average frame and moved up to the light heavyweight division. In doing so, he has safely made weight in all four of his bouts since moving up into the class. As a result, the main concern behind Johnson's initial UFC release, that he could not be relied upon to make weight in a big fight, is finally no longer a worry.
Shallow Light Heavyweight Division
The fact that Johnson is now a light heavyweight should make him even more appealing to the UFC, not only because of the likelihood he will now make weight, but also because of the need for a fresh talent infusion in the division. For one of the first times in the promotion's history, the light heavyweight division is relatively shallow in terms of viable title contenders. Partly because of the dominance of champion Jon Jones and partly because of future hall of famers like Shogun Rua and Dan Henderson nearly the end of their careers, there is not the endless stream of new challengers that fans have been spoiled with in the past.
This is where Johnson could easily come in and not be far from the top of the division. Not to say that Johnson would be likely to beat Jones or the other top challengers, but he would provide comparable size, strength and athleticism to anyone the UFC could match him up against, including the champion. It is not inconceivable that Johnson's one-punch knockout power could give Alexander Gustaffson, Daniel Cormier and other guys at the top of the division issues.
Along those lines, Johnson's appeal doesn't change whether he would be matched up against someone at the top of the UFC light heavyweight division or if he would have to work his way up from the bottom. That is because Johnson brings a kind of excitement to the octagon that not many other bring. Whenever he fights, as shown most recently against Kyle, fans should be on the edge of their seats knowing that the fight is only one strike away from ending in memorable fashion.
It only takes a quick look back at some of Johnson's appearances in the octagon to see this in practice. In his time with the UFC, Johnson scored memorable knockouts against Burns and Charlie Brenneman. In addition, he had all-time devastating wins over Tommy Speer and Yoshiyuki Yoshida that still hold their places among the top knockouts in the UFC's history.
With his power and past success, Johnson could easily be marketed as one of the most exciting fighters in the promotion upon his return. That is why now is the perfect time for the UFC to pounce and bring him back into the fold.
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Del Pearson is a big MMA fan who has been to many live UFC events. His all-time favorite fighter is Randy Couture. Follow Del on Twitter @DelPearson44.
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