Johnson eyes shot at redemption
But even the fight itself, which he finished with a single right hand just 41 seconds in, didn't satisfy Johnson. He felt stiff. The knockout punch landed cleanly enough, but the previous 40 seconds were, according to him, disappointing. So he asked the UFC to give him another fight right away. He wanted to get the bad taste out of his mouth sooner rather than later. When the phone rang a few days later, he knew he was getting his wish.
Not only did the UFC offer him another bout on less than a month's rest, it offered him top 10 welterweight
"After my performance in my last fight, plus with me not making weight, I just wanted to get back in there and make up for what I didn't do," said Johnson. "Not performing to the best of my ability, and not making weight, I felt like I owed it to the fans and the UFC."
Johnson (8-2) first made fans take notice of him with a highlight-reel knockout of
But missing weight has a way of making people forget how impressive your victory was, especially when it's missed by a whopping six pound. At 6-foot-2 and with a broad frame, Johnson's already big for the division. If his diet isn't just right leading up to the fight, he admits, the weight cut can be a problem. In the run-up to UFC 104, a torn meniscus only exacerbated the problem.
"I had a knee injury and couldn't work out like I usually do," he said. "Then I started eating sloppy and not taking care of myself, but that's my fault. I can't blame the knee injury for that. I should have been eating healthier. The weight is not going to be a problem this time."
What might be a problem is Koscheck's wrestling ability. Though Johnson came to MMA from a wrestling background, as well, he's never faced anyone in the Octagon with Koscheck's credentials. It's no secret that Johnson would prefer to keep things standing, but considering Koscheck's takedown ability, it may not be a choice "Rumble" gets to make.
"He's a great wrestler, and he's a great fighter," Johnson said. "He's explosive, he's entertaining, and really respectable as a human being. I have nothing bad to say about him at all. I'll try to keep it on the feet because that's to my advantage, but you never know. I might be the one taking him down at some point, trying to work my jiu-jitsu."
A win over Koscheck (13-4) would be Johnson's most significant accomplishment to date in the UFC, and even just making weight for the bout would help silence some of his critics. But more than any other, the question this fight will really answer is whether Johnson has the wrestling chops to compete with the division's elite.
Johnson has the knockout power and the striking skills to be a problem for almost anyone in the weight class on the feet. But in a division where grapplers dominate, just staying off your back can be a difficult enough task. If Johnson wants to have any hope at trying his luck against the current champ, he needs a good showing against Koscheck to prove that he could make a fight of it. He may have to spend more than 41 seconds in the cage this time to make it happen, but at least he's likely to get more than a couple days of rest afterward.