Over the past several years, aside from Chael Sonnen, there seems to be a lack of legitimate threats to Anderson Silva’s reign as the king of the UFC’s middleweight division. That all changes on Saturday night in Brazil when Anthony “Rumble” Johnson makes his 185 lb. debut against Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort. Belfort is a true legend in the sport and one of the only fighters to remain relevant in the ever-changing landscape of MMA since his debut in 1996. 16 years of success in MMA, or any sport for that matter, is a truly remarkable feat and Belfort is not an easy matchup for anyone, especially a fighter who is moving up a weight class.
Speaking of weight, consistently struggling to make the welterweight’s 170 lb. limit has plagued Johnson throughout his career in the UFC. He missed weight in bouts with Rich Clementi and Yoshiyuki Yoshida, coming in at 177 lbs. for both fights. This could have something to do with the fact that Johnson is 6’1” with broad shoulders and a Herculean type build. Another problem, which Johnson admitted to on the UFC 142 Countdown Show, is that he was not taking his career as seriously as he should have and ballooned up at one point to 231 lbs. between fights. To have to cut 61 lbs. to make your weight class is just plain crazy.
Johnson claims that his days of putting on 60 lbs. after a fight are over, as he now realizes how much work goes into being a champion in the UFC and he is ready to put the work in to do so. He’ll have plenty of guys pushing him seeing as though he’s recently moved to South Florida full time to train with Imperial Athletics. He’s a member of the newly formed “Blackzilians” team alongside Rashad Evans, Melvin Guillard, Michael Johnson, and Jorge Santiago. Head coach Mike Van Arsdale has implemented a family type atmosphere at the gym and “Rumble” is adamant that he’s constantly improving being able to train with the top-level fighters on a daily basis.
Last Monday on my podcast, Cauliflower For The Ears on blogtalkradio.com, I made the statement that I believed “Rumble” would be the UFC middleweight champion by the end of the year. My co-hosts almost laughed me off the show. I decided to put this prediction in black and white on TheXlog so that I can reference this piece a year from now and enjoy the proverbial last laugh. This is how I see the middleweight division playing out this year….
- Anthony Johnson defeats Vitor Belfort
UFC on FOX 2 (Jan 28th)
- Chael Sonnen defeats Mark Munoz
- Michael Bisping defeats Demian Maia
- Anderson Silva defeats Chael Sonnen
- Anthony Johnson defeats Michael Bisping
Late 2012 (Possibly on the NYE show)
- Anthony Johnson defeats Anderson Silva to become the UFC Middleweight Champion
Anthony Johnson has knockout power in both hands and feet, top-level wrestling, incredible speed, a solid chin, and most likely improved cardio with the less stressful weight cut. He has found a home in the 185 lb. division and will prove to be a true force to be reckoned with. I believe he has all the tools to defeat Anderson Silva. Time will tell if my predictions will come true, but to I’ll be rooting for “Rumble” to rattle some middleweight cages this year.
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Nick Frank is an avid sports fan active in fantasy leagues of all major sports and has been following mixed martial arts closely since the inception of UFC 1 in 1993. Nick hosts RotoRadio's "Cauliflower For The Ears" every Monday night at 9:30 ET on blogtalkradio alongside Brian "The Butcher" Brown and Mike "Delicious" Dolan. You may contact Nick @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @nfrankrotoex