Anthony Johnson doesn’t know how to be in a boring fight.
Since returning to the UFC, “Rumble” has turned in three Performance of the Night showings in five fights. The titanic overhand right that landed on the chin of Daniel Cormier in their UFC 187 title fight – Rumble’s only loss in his second UFC run – almost won Johnson the light heavyweight title.
Johnson’s opponent Saturday night in New Jersey, No. 4-ranked Ryan Bader, has won five in a row and has been begging for a title shot for months. “Darth” Bader is a relentless wrestler with a well-rounded game and a large chip on his shoulder from years of pursuing that title shot.
More on Fight Night Newark: Watch it on FOX this Saturday | Sage Northcutt's secret to success | Barberena happy to derail Super Sage's rise | Ortiz ready to cement comeback in Newark| Watch: Rothwell's rise | Watch free fight: Ryan Bader vs. Keith Jardine | Watch free fight: Anthony Johnson vs. Yoshiyuki Yoshida | Watch Road to the Octagon: Alcantara vs. Rivera, Barnett vs. Rothwell, Johnson vs. Bader
A win by either Johnson or Bader puts them at the front of the line awaiting the winner of Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones, which is the expected next title fight at 205. The Fight Night Newark main event is just one reason to watch.
Here are the rest:
As far as title shots go, Josh Barnett and Ben Rothwell can do a lot for their causes in the co-main event.
Rothwell has won his last three fights and all have come by finish. Barnett has won three of his last four and is coming off a huge unanimous decision win against Roy Nelson in Japan.
Both Rothwell and Barnett are good everywhere. Barnett has been around the block, holding the UFC title all the way back in 2002. Twenty-seven of Rothwell’s 35 wins have come by KO.
Leading off the main card on FOX is rising star Sage Northcutt. The 19-year-old Texas product is fighting for the third time in less than four months.
Northcutt is taking on Bryan Barberena at welterweight in a fight that came together when Northcutt’s original opponent, Andrew Holbrook, was forced off the card due to injury. At 170 pounds, Northcutt won’t be as big inside the Octagon, but his speed and athleticism should be a problem for Barberena.
Barberena is an experienced fighter making his third Octagon appearance. He’s been a pro since 2009 and has finished nine opponents in his 10 career victories.
In the FS1 main event, two experienced welterweights with five performance bonuses between them will face off. Jake Ellenberger and Tarec Saffiedine both are coming off losses.
Saffiedine lost to Rory MacDonald over a year ago and has since moved to Canada to join MacDonald’s team, TriStar. Saffiedine is the former Strikeforce champion and is looking to return to the top of the division – now in the UFC. A win over Ellenberger would help.
“The Juggernaut” has dropped four of his last five, but a submission win against Josh Koscheck back in February 2015 showed that Ellenberger still has something left. He’s an aggressive fighter with power, and he’ll be looking to find the sweet spot and deliver a finishing blow to Saffiedine.
UFC FIGHT PASS Prelims
UFC president Dana White’s second big find from his reality show “Lookin’ for a Fight” takes center stage on UFC FIGHT PASS in New Jersey. Randy Brown will make his debut against Matt Dwyer, who is looking to make an impact.
Brown is a perfect 6-0 and has been training since 2005. He is a hungry young fighter who has developed his game in all areas of MMA. Dwyer is fighting for the fourth time in the UFC. He brings a 1-2 record into this fight, but losses to Albert Tumenov and Alan Jouban aren’t blemishes by any stretch. Brown is focused on the task at hand and doesn’t plan to let the hype affect him on fight night.
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC