Anthony Johnson appears to have found a home at 205 pounds. | Photo: D. Mandel
Anthony Johnson (13-4) vs. D.J. Linderman (13-3)
The Matchup: Remember when Johnson patrolled the Octagon as a bloated welterweight, battling the likes of Josh Koscheck, Dan Hardy and Charlie Brenneman? Or when his body nearly shut down as he tried -- and eventually failed -- to make the 185-pound limit for his middleweight clash with Vitor Belfort at UFC 142? In hindsight, it seems amazing that the massive “Rumble” ever made weight at all. Without the burden of a draining weight cut, perhaps the Georgia native can finally realize his potential as a fairly normal-sized light heavyweight.
Johnson has already made two successful appearances in his new division, knocking out Esteves Jones in August and stopping Jake Rosholt with a head kick in September. If the Blackzilians member can continue to pile up the wins in impressive fashion, it is not farfetched to think that the UFC could come calling again.
First, Johnson must get through Linderman, the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship heavyweight titleholder. The 28-year-old Bellator veteran is 3-1 in 2012, with triumphs over Bobby Brents, Mike Hayes and Dale Mitchell to his credit. Linderman mixes solid wrestling with a willingness to mix it up on the feet, but it is unlikely that he has faced an athlete as dynamic as Johnson. Though recent performances indicate that he is not uncomfortable against larger, heavier opponents, “Da Protege” is best suited for 205 pounds.
When things are going well, Linderman can rack up points with a crisp jab backed by a lead uppercut. If his opponent is the more skilled striker, Linderman has no trouble changing levels and looking for takedowns, which is what he did in capturing the CWFC crown from Hayes.
Early returns suggest Johnson has not lost too much of his power at light heavyweight, and he remains capable of starching opponents with punching combinations. He has also has shown an affinity for the head kick, having used the maneuver to finish off Rosholt and Brenneman in recent fights. Stamina has been an issue for Johnson in the past, as grueling weight cuts took their toll in the latter stages of his bouts at lighter weight classes. While the pronounced size edge will be gone, Johnson should benefit from having a deeper gas tank.
The Pick: Linderman is durable, but he will struggle to keep Johnson from imposing his will. Mixing powerful striking with timely takedowns and ground-and-pound, “Rumble” captures a unanimous verdict.
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