If there is a word that characterizes Michael Johnson in the UFC, persistence would fit his description perfectly. After failed attempts at joining The Ultimate Fighter seasons eight and nine, Johnson was finally selected for season twelve featuring coaches Georges St-Pierre and Josh Koscheck. ‘The Menace’ won his fight to earn his way into the house, and continued to win his next three fights, until losing in the finals. Johnson may not hold one of the best fight records, going 10-9 in the Octagon, however there is no denying that he has faced and defeated some of the best competition in the sport. We look at five notable wins from St. Louis native.
UFC on FOX 3: Michael Johnson vs. Tony Ferguson – May 5, 2012
After starting his UFC career 2-2 following his appearance on TUF, Johnson was matched up with season 13 tournament winner and future interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson. Ferguson was then on a six-fight winning streak.
With both fighters looking to find their range, midway through the first round, Johnson would drop Ferguson. Ferguson would recover, but Johnson would control the pace to win the first.
The second round was more of the same, with Ferguson looking to establish his range and occasionally being on the receiving end of some big shots from Johnson.
In the final round, a right hook from Ferguson would hurt Johnson, but Ferguson would be unable to capitalize. With Ferguson down on the cards, sensing an urgency to win the fight, Johnson would keep composure and make Ferguson pay for overcommitting, setting up his counter strikes and takedowns.
Ultimately, Johnson would take the unanimous decision and be the last loss on Ferguson’s current record.
UFC on FX 5: Michael Johnson vs. Danny Castillo – Oct. 5, 2012
Johnson was originally to face Danny Castillo at UFC 151, but was pushed back to a month later after the cancellation of the event. The Team Alpha Male product was 4-1 in the UFC entering his bout against Johnson.
Johnson would face adversity early, getting dropped by ‘Last Call’ in the first round. Castillo would swarm Johnson, threatening strikes and submissions on the ground. Castillo would continue to pressure Johnson to win the round.
In the second round, ‘The Menace’ would regroup and stay outside of Castillo’s strikes. Just a minute into the round, Johnson would counter an inside low kick with a short left cross to drop Castillo. Johnson would immediately follow up with punches knocking out Castillo for the Henry Hooft-product to win in comeback fashion.
UFC 168: Michael Johnson vs. Gleison Tibau – Dec. 28, 2013
After rebounding from a two-fight losing streak, Johnson would be scheduled to face then 20-fight UFC veteran Gleison Tibau. At the time, Tibau was 30-9, having never been finished with strikes in the lightweight division.
For the first half of the opening round, Tibau would control the grappling exchanges and have Johnson cautious of the incoming takedown attempts. With two minutes to go, Johnson would land a right hook, which buckles the knees of Tibau. Johnson would gain confidence in his strikes, causing Tibau to clinch up for the final seconds of the round.
Johnson would start quick in second frame timing his jab-cross combinations on Tibau. Eventually, Johnson would begin to frustrate Tibau, as the Brazilian would begin to chase Johnson during striking exchanges. Just 90 seconds into the round, Johnson counters a pursuing Tibau with a left straight to the temple to drop the American Top Team fighter, and then put him out with follow up blows on the ground, making Johnson the first lightweight to finish Tibau with strikes.
UFC Fight Night Porto Alegre: Michael Johnson vs. Edson Barboza – Feb. 22, 2015
After defeating Melvin Guillard in March 2014, Johnson would be forced to sit the remainder of the year due to injuries and an investigation due to possible violation of the UFC Fighter Conduct Policy after an arrest in April that year. Johnson would eventually be cleared to return and was scheduled to face kick-heavy striker Edson Barboza in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night Porto Alegre. ‘The Menace’ would enter the bout at +100 underdog.
Early in the first round, Barboza would attempt leg kicks, but would continually get countered by the hands of Johnson, nullifying the strategy of Barboza. Johnson would eventually open a cut under one of Barboza’s eyes, while avoiding dangerous kicks from ‘Junior.’
In the second round, Barboza would attempt to open up with strikes early, but Johnson continue to follow strategy and keep pressuring, taking away some of Barboza’s weapons. Johnson’s strikes are beginning to show with Barboza wincing whenever a strike is landed. Johnson would end the round backing up Barboza to the fence.
With Johnson up two rounds, it was more of the same in the third. Johnson would continue his forward-pressure strategy to keep Barboza threatening with strikes. With less than 30 seconds to go, Johnson would successfully take down Barboza to mark an exclamation point on his victory.
This particular event was notable for 10 of the 11 underdogs winning their fights, including Johnson, costing bookies millions in one night.
UFC Fight Night Hidalgo: Michael Johnson vs. Dustin Poirier – Sept. 17, 2016
The rivalry between South Florida MMA powerhouses Blackzilians and American Top Team continues to grow as both camps try to stake their claim, just 14 miles away from each other. The rivalry brewed as former members of ATT branched off during a contract dispute and lined up with the late Glenn Robinson to create the foundations of the Blackzilian camp.
The Blackzilians quickly established their team, recruiting the likes of Vitor Belfort, Anthony Johnson and Rashad Evans. Johnson would join the team following an invite to help out with Evans’ training camp. With numerous head-to-head battles against American Top Team, Blackzilians was finally one-up winning the TUF 21 team vs. team tournament against their rivals.
Johnson, on a two-fight skid, was scheduled to take on Dustin Poirier, a member of American Top Team since 2012, in the main event of UFC Fight Night Hidalgo. Johnson previously defeated American Top Team members Gleison Tibau and Melvin Guillard. There was bad blood throughout fight week with both fighters trash-talking the other. At the weigh-in Johnson and Poirier had a brief altercation resulting in both fighters jawing at each other and camps separating the fighters setting the stage for this intense match up.
Johnson would open up the fight as the quicker fighter, throwing jabs to the body early. In one exchange, as Poirier closed the distance with a combination, Johnson would counter landing a hook to Poirier’s head. It would happen again in the very next exchange, setting up for things to come.
With 90 seconds spent in the round, Poirier leads with a jab-cross-uppercut combination, but making the mistake of dropping his hands. Johnson would capitalize by countering the uppercut with a left hook-right straight landing flush on Poirier dropping the fighter. Johnson would finish with strikes on the ground, celebrate with his team and taunt Poirier in culmination of the bad blood.