As a fan of Joe Lauzon, UFC Fight Night 26 presented one of the biggest surprises of 2013. Lauzon was a heavy favorite, fighting in front of his hometown crowd in Boston. Most thought this was an easy win for Lauzon, especially after such a close and epic battle with Jim Miller, which resulted in a loss for the Boston native. In addition, Michael Johnson was coming off two straight losses against Myles Jury and Reza Madadi. In fact, many were questioning this bout simply based on where both fighters were in their career, one coming off a fight of the year performance, and the other losing two straight preliminary fights. Clearly, at least prior to fight night, this seemed to be a very peculiar match-up.
Michael Johnson slowly making his mark on UFC lightweight division
In a previous article on MMASucka, it was stated that Michael Johnson would need to have the training camp of his life to truly stand a chance against his most prolific and skilled opponent to date. His wrestling is already considered top level, but against an opponent like Lauzon, versatility really helps deal with his experience and style of fighting. An Ultimate Fighter 13 alumni, Johnson has been trying to find his footing at the top level of MMA, and has relied on his wrestling for the most part. While it helped him secure some victories in the past, it was essential for Johnson to evolve his fighting skills to be able to deal with better talent. It would seem like an extremely daunting and difficult task to overcome, but interestingly enough, he did just that.
Though the odds were stacked against him in every way, Johnson came out guns-a-blazing. His striking was clearly at it’s best and his phenomenal wrestling paid off when Lauzon shot for a takedown. His footwork made it very difficult for Lauzon to keep up, and Johnson made him eat very quick and effective strikes in the process. Without the ability to take it to the ground, Lauzon seemed in trouble from the very start. Johnson was clearly a new fighter with one goal on his mind, defeat Joe Lauzon. With that said, not only did we see Lauzon lose to a very surprising opponent, but he was completely outclassed, which allowed the new and improved Michael Johnson to put his stamp on the UFC lightweight division.
Moving forward, with “The Menace” climbing the lightweight ladder, his next opponent could very well be another tough test that could shoot him even higher in the lightweight rankings. Not that one win over a top class opponent should get you into the contender spotlight, but the way he defeated Lauzon, especially on the main card, should give him an extra edge as the UFC decides his next opponent. While it is highly unlikely he sees a top 10 fighter in his next bout, Johnson will surely get another tough challenge, which should help him rise in the rankings. At just 27 years old, Johnson is finally showing some high-end skill to compliment his already great wrestling. If he continues to show such improvement, the UFC lightweight division should be ready to welcome a new contender.