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Michael
Johnson
finds himself in the midst of a difficult stretch and
will seek his first win as a featherweight when he tackles Andre Fili in
the
UFC Fight Night 135
co-headliner this Saturday at Pinnacle Bank
Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. Johnson owns a 1-5 record across his
past six appearances and needs a victory to keep his position of
relevance on the
Ultimate Fighting Championship
roster.

This installment of The Film Room brings the techniques and
strategies employed by “The Menace” into focus.

Not long ago, Johnson was a Top-5 lightweight on the cusp of a
title shot. However, a loss to Beneil
Dariush
in 2015 snapped a four-fight winning streak and touched
off the worst stretch of his career. Having moved to featherweight,
Johnson seeks a fresh start and a return to his former glory.

In his first fight at featherweight against Darren
Elkins
, Johnson looked like the slick boxer of old — until
“The Damage” authored a remarkable comeback and scored an
improbable rear-naked choke submission in the second round. Johnson
has always been known as a counter boxer, but his counter
combinations were of particular interest against Elkins. Every time
Elkins moved forward, Johnson met him with a flurry of counters.
Counter boxers often look for that one perfect shot, but Johnson
elects to go with two- to three-strike combinations.

Johnson still has the one-punch counters and possesses the power to
finish anybody in the division. He was known for his speed and
power at lightweight, and although his speed may not translate
quite as well at 145 pounds, his power certainly does.

In his last fight at lightweight against Justin
Gaethje
, Johnson again looked better than ever before being
victimized by an incredible comeback from the former
World Series of Fighting
champion. Gaethje was clearly caught
off-guard by Johnson’s speed and was stunned twice, once by a lead
uppercut and once by a right hook. Johnson throws his hooks a bit
too wide and leaves himself open for counters, but his hands are so
fast that his opponents have a difficult time reacting.

When Johnson senses the finish is near, he will back his opponent
to the cage and either clinch and look for knees or throw wild
combinations in the pocket. Johnson is not known for his clinch
game, but he relies on it often and can catch opponents off-guard
with unexpected knees from the plum clinch. Johnson often gets
overzealous looking for the finish and throws the same combo
repeatedly, like he did against Gaethje. Again, his hand speed
makes it difficult to counter.

Many have forgotten that Johnson picked apart current lightweight
contender and former interim champion Tony
Ferguson
six years ago, handing “El Cucuy” his first and only
loss in the UFC. He controlled the fight from bell to bell and even
dropped Ferguson once with a shuffling left hook. Johnson may not
have the most impressive record at first glance, but he holds wins
over top contenders like Ferguson, Dustin
Poirier
and Edson
Barboza
. Still just 32 years of age, “The Menace” appears to
have plenty left in the tank despite his recent struggles.


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