Mark Hunt injured, so Lavar Johnson jumps at chance to fight Stefan Struve at UFC 146

Kevin Iole

After earning a $65,000 bonus for Knockout of the Night on May 5 after stopping Pat Barry in the first round at UFC on Fox 3 in East Rutherford, N.J., you couldn't blame Lavar Johnson had he chosen to go on vacation. It was his second KO win in the UFC in four months and both times, the knockout came on national television.

He chose to take only a few days off, however, before returning to the gym on Monday. It paid off for him big-time on Thursday when he was offered, and quickly accepted, a contract to fight Stefan Struve on May 26 on the main card of UFC 146 at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.

Mark Hunt injured a knee in training and had to withdraw from the fight with Struve on the all-heavyweight card next week. The UFC offered the bout to Johnson, who came out of his first-round win over Barry unscathed.

He said he never hesitated in accepting the offer.

"This is what we do and it's my job to fight," Johnson told Cagewriter. "They called me up and I'm still in good shape. A fight is a fight, no matter who it is, or what. My job is to take the fight. I jumped right on it."

Johnson said he weighs 250, so he won't even have to worry about cutting weight to make the 265-pound limit for his fight against Struve.

At 6-11, Struve will have a seven-inch height advantage over the 6-4 Johnson, but Johnson insisted it won't matter.

"His reach is 83 and mine is 81 or 82," Johnson said. "I'm faster and I hit harder. I'm aggressive and I'll be right there in his face."

He was aggressive against both Barry and Joey Beltran, whom he knocked out on Jan. 28 at UFC on Fox 2. He took a few hellacious leg kicks from Barry in the early moments of the May 5 fight, but said he didn't feel them.

When friends brought it up to them, he acted surprised, saying he checked the kicks. But when he looked at the film, he realized he was hit full bore by Barry, one of the hardest kickers in the sport. But Johnson had prepared for Barry by training with kick boxer Carter Williams, himself a great kicker.

"That's what happens when you train with Carter," Johnson said, chuckling. "Eventually, you don't feel a thing."

He was a virtual unknown to UFC fans as 2012 began, known primarily as the fighter who was shot in the abdomen during a Fourth of July family reunion a few years ago. But if he beats Struve, he'll be 3-for-3 in 2012 with seven months still to go.

He hasn't heard much from UFC president Dana White, but said it didn't matter.

"My bonus check said enough for me," he said.

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