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Anthony Rumble Johnson

Gone Too Soon: The Career of Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson

Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson was for a time the scariest fighter in all of mixed martial arts, and for a good reason.

‘Rumble’ came over to the UFC with a record of just 3-0 back in June of 2007, following his claim of RMN welterweight tournament winner.

Anthony'Rumble' JohnsonFollowing a 13-second KO victory in his promotional debut, improving his record to 4-0, Johnson would be submitted (rear naked choke) by 41-fight veteran Rich Clementi in round two of his next bout, before picking up a 51-second KO stoppage over then 11-2 TUF 6 finalist Tommy Speer.

Unfortunate for Johnson, he’d get eye poked a number of times in his next outing against Kevin Burns, a fight he was winning, and it’d ultimately get stopped at 3:35 of the third and final round via those eye pokes.

However, the bout did not result in a no contest. Nope, not even a technical decision or disqualification; the referee awarded Burns the TKO victory as Johnson could not continue.

Luckily for the NJCAA national champion, an immediate rematch would ensue, seeing him victorious via KO (head kick) 28 seconds into the third round.

A pair of back-to-back TKO victories would soon follow, improving his win streak to three-straight before he was then submitted (rear naked choke) by longtime top five talent Josh Koscheck.

‘Rumble’ returned 16 months later to absolutely maul former title challenger Dan Hardy, before KO’ing Charlie Brenneman with a vicious head kick in the opening round of their bout.

Johnson decided to move up to 185 lbs following this victory, where he weighed in at 197 lbs for his fight with former UFC light-heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort. The Brazilian would end up stuffing one of Johnson’s takedowns, spinning around to his back and securing the rear naked choke finish late in round one.

Considering his mishap in missing weight, the third overall time he’d missed the mark, Johnson was released from the promotion.

Johnson’s first victory since his release came over future WSOF two-division champion David Branch (UD) in a middleweight contest both parties missed weight for, before securing back-to-back second round TKO victories to improve his win streak to three-straight once again.

Next came his WSOF debut, where he’d go 3-0 within the promotion with two KO’s, defeating former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski in a heavyweight bout in that time. He broke Arlovski’s jaw badly in this contest, and it’s quite surprising he couldn’t get him out of there considering.

Nonetheless, ‘Rumble’ would return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship in April of 2014 where he was paired up with top five contender Phil Davis, a fight he was a massive underdog going into.

Johnson absolutely battered Davis for all three rounds of the contest whilst stuffing every takedown attempt the NCAA Division I champion brought his way.

You see, Johnson was scary at 170 lbs solely based on his freakish size and power for the division.

What may come as surprising to some of you, he only ever missed the 171 lb limit twice, making the weight eight separate times. He went into two fights that were scheduled at 185 lbs against Belfort and Branch, missing weight for both, and that’s when he decided on a move to 205 lbs.

In the light-heavyweight division, especially once returning to the UFC, we’d never seen a scarier contender, and his return bout against Davis showcased just that.

Following his win over Davis, improving his streak to seven-straight, Johnson then picked up a pair of first round knockout finishes over ‘Lil Nog’ and former title challenger Alexander Gustafsson. The Gustafsson fight, just like the Davis fight, he was a sizeable underdog going into.

This granted him a shot at the vacant UFC light-heavyweight championship, where he’d be facing former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier for the throne, as Jon Jones had recently been suspended for using PED’s.

It’s too bad we never got to see Johnson face Jones, that’s the fight the UFC was initially targeting up until Jones’ suspension, forcing them to go with Cormier instead, who was just coming off the first defeat of his career against Jones himself.

Johnson nearly won the fight in the opening sequence, where he badly hurt and dropped Cormier with a vicious overhand right mere seconds into the bout. But Cormier was able to weather the storm en route to a third-round submission (rear naked choke) victory.

Anthony'Rumble' Johnson‘Rumble’ didn’t stay down for long however, as he rattled off three straight KO victories over the likes of Jimi Manuwa, Ryan Bader, and Glover Teixeira.

He KO’d Manuwa 28 seconds into round two; Manuwa went on to KO both Ovince Saint Preux and Corey Anderson in his next two fights.

He KO’d Bader at 1:26 of round one; Bader went on to win his final two fights with the UFC, both via TKO, and then went on to become a two-division champion in Bellator.

Then he KO’d Teixeira just 13 seconds into round one; Teixeira went on to become UFC light-heavyweight champion.Anthony'Rumble' Johnson

That was a seriously impressive streak, and it granted him another shot at the title in a rematch with Daniel Cormier.

Cormier would submit (rear naked choke) Johnson once again however, this time doing so in round two, and ‘Rumble’ would take an extended absence from the sport following this defeat.

Johnson became the Head of Fighter Relations at BKFC in his absence, until he ended up returning to MMA inside the Bellator cage, entering himself into the Bellator light-heavyweight gran prix.

Anthony'Rumble' JohnsonJohnson secured a second round KO victory in the quarterfinals but withdrew from the tournament with medical issues. Fast forward 19 months later and Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson is dead, passing away on November 13, 2022, with lymphoma at age 38.

Anthony Johnson certainly had his hiccups throughout his career, from missing weight on a few occasions, to being submitted with rear naked chokes in all five of his true defeats (the other coming via eye pokes that he immediately avenged), but there’s no questioning how good he was at his peak.

Had Johnson gotten his fight with Jon Jones, he may have added the UFC light-heavyweight championship to his resume.

Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson leaves behind a record of 23-6 (five wins over world champions), having secured 17 of those wins via knockout with 11 KO’s and six TKO’s. He was awarded five-straight Performance of the Night bonuses for his knockout victories over Nogueira, Gustafsson, Manuwa, Bader, and Teixeira, and he won nine-straight fights before losing to Cormier for the first time. Johnson’s career came to a close with him going 13-2 over his final 15 bouts, only losing to Daniel Cormier.

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