If you haven’t had the privilege of being a UFC fan back when Anthony Johnson was fighting, I strongly implore you to go back and watch some of his most memorable performances which includes a 13-second knockout of former UFC light heavyweight title contender Glover Teixeira. Ever since joining the UFC, Johnson has made one thing certain. He intends to hit his opponents as hard as possible in effort to shut their lights out. The two-time UFC light heavyweight title challenger has had a memorable career due to his exciting finishes and powerful style that resemble an MMA version of Mike Tyson.
Recently, there has been whispers that Johnson could be plotting his return to the UFC. Having competed both at welterweight and light heavyweight, it appears Johnson is interested in competing in the UFC heavyweight division after noticeably increasing his muscle mass since 2017. With the heavyweight division of the UFC more exciting than ever, the addition of Anthony Johnson could spice things up even more and allow the UFC to make some thrilling matchups. The only question? Who is a prime candidate for Johnson to face in his return?
Junior dos Santos:
It’s crazy to think that Junior dos Santos has fought for the UFC Heavyweight Title five times and is only 36 years old! The Brazilian heavyweight veteran will likely go down as one of the greatest heavyweight mixed martial artists to ever compete and continues to fight high level competition with no intention of slowing down. Dos Santos and Johnson are surprisingly the same age, and both prefer to stand and bang using their power and crisp boxing.
Dos Santos has finished 71% of his fights via knockout and is an ideal candidate for the return of Johnson. The American Top Team stand out is always in elite fighting shape due to a prolific team that includes strength and conditioning coach Phil Daru. Although coming off two back to back losses to Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes, dos Santos is a big name who has only lost to top level competition in the recent years. In addition, his style would make for an exciting fight with Johnson as the two would likely stand and try to knock each other out for as long as the fight will last.
A fight with Lewis can either be incredible or disastrous for Johnson’s return. The 35-year-old Houston native is currently riding a two-fight win streak that includes uneventful decisions wins over Blagoy Ianov and Ilir Latifi. Lewis has had difficulty implementing his game plan in his recent fights and continues to struggle immensely on the ground when facing opponents who are well versed in that department.
However, Lewis has had some incredible moments in the octagon which include a comeback of the year candidate knockout at the expense of Alexander Volkov back in 2018. After being dominated for two and a half rounds by the quicker and better conditioned Volkov, Lewis threw a perfectly timed overhand right counter that clipped Volkov clean and sent the towering Russian to the ground. Lewis followed Volkov to the ground where he threw several more thunderous right hands before the referee had seen enough and stopped the fight at 4:49 of the third round. The performance reminded fans that although he may lack speed and cardio, Lewis is truly capable of knocking out any heavyweight with one punch.
A potential bout between Lewis and Johnson could be a fun return fight for Johnson depending on which Lewis shows up. If the Lewis that fought Francis Ngannou back at UFC 226 is a thing of the past, then this could be a straight up brawl between two heavy hitters who will throw everything and anything in the hope of knocking each other out.
Other Potential Opponents:
It’s hard to imagine the UFC not matching up Johnson with a top 10 opponent due to his big name and credible mma resume. Some other names that might be interesting matchups for Johnson include Sergey Pavlovich and Ciryl Gane. Pavlovich is currently riding a two-fight win streak where he defeated Marcelo Golm and Maurice Greene by knockout. Gane is relatively new to the mma scene but has launched his mma career with a hot start by compiling a 6-0 record. The French native is currently 3-0 in the UFC and most recently defeated Tanner Boser by unanimous decision back in December of 2019.
Who do you think Anthony Johnson should face in his UFC return?
Andrew is a lifelong follower of combat sports. His passion began as a child and has only grown as an adult. Andrew holds a bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine University and a master’s from Texas A & M University. Outside of combat sports, Andrew currently works as a program manager for an aerospace manufacturing company. He has trained Muay Thai for seven years and continues to spar and train on the weekends when time permits.