Anthony "Rumble" Johnson will always be one of the UFC's bigger welterweights if he continues with the weight cuts. What makes him a problem is that, along with size and strength, he brings speed and athleticism -- needed attributes if he has his sites set on dethroning Georges St. Pierre. But before he can get too far ahead of himself, Johnson has a touch match ahead versus Yoshiyuki Yoshida at UFC 104.
When asked if a win should launch him into the upper ranks of the division, Johnson confidently said, "Oh yeah, of course. After Yoshida, I'm pretty sure they'll put me against somebody that's top 10."
Just to be clear, Rumble is by no means looking past Yoshida. He is very aware of the skills that the former Shooto fighter possesses.
Yoshida, a black belt in Judo, went on a nine fight win-streak. And his ground attack is, well, vicious.Johnson's size and strength is useful against wrestlers, but it may be a disadvantage against Yoshida. He often slides his way into a clinch, where he uses his opponent's weight and momentum to take the fight to the mat.
Though Yoshida used ground-and-pound to earn most of his victories, he is very skilled in submissions as well. His only two UFC wins have come by submission over Jon Koppenhaver and Brandon Wolff. This spells trouble for Johnson if he hasn't improved his inability to pass the guard.
Johnson has the wrestling ability to take anybody down, but Yoshida's Judo background should make him think twice, or even a third time.
Unless he is drastically working on his inactive ground game, Johnson's best bet is to slug it out with Yoshida. He should also put the fear of a take down in Yoshida's mind, similar to Josh Koscheck's game plan against Yoshida last December.
Yoshida likes to clinch and throw rather than sprawl, a fake take down attempt could leave Yoshida wide open for another looping punch; a trait that Johnson carries with him well.
A spectacular win could earn either fighter a chance to fight a top-10 opponent -- Carlos Condit and Martin Kampmann come to mind.
But before the top-10 opponents, and before Georges St. Pierre is UFC 104. Hope Johnson's prepared.