Edson Barboza and Michael Johnson have both made runs towards the top of the lightweight division, only to be slowed down. But with Barboza ranked No. 6 and Johnson ranked No. 12 coming into their UFC Fight Night 61 bout on Sunday in Brazil, a win would mark the biggest move either has ever made towards the top of the division.
Johnson opened the fight in a fury, immediately taking the center of the Octagon, cutting off angles, and assuming control. He constantly closed the distance and swung for the fences with his blazingly fast punches. For his part, Barboza was strong in the early going, landing several counter kicks.
Johnson kept pressing, however, and seemed to wear Barboza down a bit as the round progressed, Johnson landing numerous punch combinations in the final minute, while Barboza faded.
Johnson kept the pressure on in the second frame. Although he landed a little less frequently than he did in the first, he rarely gave Barboza time to recover and mount his own offensive attack. Most of Barboza’s offense came from a defensive posture, reacting to Johnson’s blitzing punch combinations.
The third round saw Johnson continue to push forward, but Barboza found a more frequent home for his body kicks midway through the round, although he was still fighting from more of a defensive posture.
It was largely too little, too late for the Brazilian as Johnson secured the fight with a takedown in the waning moments, ground and pounding Barboza until the final bell.
After nearly a year out of the Octagon having served a suspension related to an alleged domestic dispute, Johnson picked up right where he left off, increasing his winning streak to four consecutive fights.
While many fighters say they’ll take whomever the UFC gives them for their next fight, Johnson didn’t hold his tongue, calling out a former champion as he aims for a title shot himself.
“I wanted to finish, but he did a good job moving in and out. I want the belt by the end of the year and this is what I have to do to take it,” said Johnson.
“I guess people wanted to see Benson Henderson versus the winner of this. Benson, I know you don’t have anybody, so lets do it.”