Anthony Johnson is sick of hearing that wrestling is his weakness. “Rumble” believes he can wrestle with anybody inside the Octagon.
Ryan Bader said that current light heavyweight champion and former Olympic wrestler Daniel Cormier delivered the blueprint to the rest of the division on how to beat Johnson with his third-round submission back at UFC 187.
One of them is right.
Saturday at Fight Night: Johnson vs. Bader live and free on FOX at 8pm/5pm ETPT, we’ll find out which one.
Nobody at 205 pounds is as hot as Bader these days. The No.-4-ranked light heavyweight has won five fights in a row and has been building confidence each time his arm has been raised.
Johnson has put the entire division on red alert since returning to the UFC in April of 2014. The man who once fought at 170 pounds has been knocking people out at 205 like it’s no big deal.
Against Cormier, Johnson struggled to keep the pace of Cormier, the self-proclaimed “King of the Grind.” He landed in the first round but Cormier wore him down before finishing the fight in less than 15 minutes.
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Bader thinks that he’ll be able to set up the takedowns and have the same success Cormier had against Johnson.
“If you look back at who (Rumble’s) fought – Cormier who’s a good wrestler. He’s fought (Josh) Koscheck, who’s a good wrestler. They both got him (down) and finished him,” Bader said. “He’ll take himself down a lot of times, throwing right hands and falling on the ground. It’s how Cormier got him a few times.
“You’re not going to go in there and just take someone down. You have to set it up with your hands and put it all together. I believe that’s what I’ve been getting very good at the last four or five fights. I’ll look to exploit that.”
That mindset is just how Johnson wants Bader to think going into the Octagon on fight night.
“I know he’s going to try and wrestle with me. Once again everybody thinks that wrestling is my weakness. But if he wants to wrestle, come on,” Johnson said. “They want to think that I’m mentally weak, that’s fine. I hope they go into the fight with that mindset, because they’re in for a long night if they do.”
Bader admits that he is going to have to stand with Johnson in this fight. He expects a powerful and eager Rumble when the referee waves them on to fight, but he isn’t concerned.
“He’s going to come out and try to take my head off,” Bader said. “I’m going to try and use what I’m best at and put it all together. That doesn’t mean I don’t think I can strike with him, because I think that I can.”
Johnson said Bader is right there at the top of division. “Darth” has fought the who’s who at 205 pounds and now he’s going to try and add a Top 3 name to his resume. But Rumble is going to keep on employing the game plan that’s won him four of his five fights since returning to the Octagon: aim for the head.
“All I can say is, ‘Keep your hands up and your chin down,’” Johnson said. “That’s all I can say because I can end you in any round I want to.”
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC