Johnson (17-13) vs. Andre Fili
Odds: Johnson (-145), Fili (+125)
Michael Johnson needs some answers quickly. It looked like the St. Louis native's game finally clicked together after a four-fight win streak that saw him beat Edson Barboza in 2015, but he's lost five out of six fights since, even if it's been against a murderer's row of competition. Johnson's featherweight debut this past January, against Darren Elkins, summed up the pros and cons of Johnson rather nicely; the first round saw Johnson absolutely light Elkins up with his quick, powerful boxing game, but once the second round rolled around and Elkins got in on a takedown, Johnson absolutely broke and submitted in short order. Johnson has all the physical skills to make a run, but the mental part of the game has always been a problem; his last win saw him starch Dustin Poirier in about a minute and a half, but losses to Nate Diaz and Justin Gaethje saw Johnson lose his cool and get lured into a brawl, on top of his issues with breaking in other fights. I don't think Johnson's in danger of being cut, even with a fourth straight loss, but a win here against Andre Fili would provide some hope that Johnson can still make some use of his talents.
California's Fili figured to be the next Team Alpha Male prospect to make some noise when he debuted in 2013, but instead it's been an up-and-down UFC career that's seen Fili alternate wins and losses until his current two-fight winning streak. Fili's a baffling fighter to try and analyze; sometimes he's a creative range striker with some surprising power, while other times he comes out with a performance like his UFC 214 loss to Calvin Kattar, where he gets baffled by a crisp, fundamental striking game. Even Fili's last win, a controversial split decision win over Dennis Bermudez, was a bit strange; Fili was surprisingly able to have most of his success wrestling, while somehow losing the striking battle to the much shorter, often rote Bermudez. Fili's got some obvious talent, but while Johnson's strengths and flaws are well-defined, it's seemingly folly to try and know what to expect from Fili, who somehow manages to be inconsistent in how he's inconsistent.
I have to favor Johnson here; he's just as long as Fili is, and figures to be the much more consistent, sharper striker on the feet, as well as the more likely fighter to earn a finish. Fili might have some success with his wrestling in just being able to win rounds, but I also don't see him as the type of relentless takedown or submission artist that's going to mentally break Johnson like Elkins or Khabib Nurmagomedov did. Maybe Fili turns up in career-best form, but even as a pretty good featherweight, he's probably Johnson's easiest opponent in over four years; that step back should be enough for Johnson to break his slump and earn a decision victory.
Next Fight » Hill vs. Casey-Sanchez