UFC Fight Night 135: Michael Johnson In Must-Win Situation At UFC Lincoln

By Adam Martin

It wasn’t that long ago when Michael Johnson was a bona fide lightweight contender in the UFC. Nowadays, though, he’s fighting for his job. The Ultimate Fighter 12 veteran takes on Andre Fili in the co-main event of this Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 135 event and it’s a must-win fight for Johnson, who risks being cut from the roster with another loss.

It was just two years years ago, at UFC Fight Night 94 in September 2016, when Johnson knocked out Dustin Poirier in perhaps the greatest performance of his MMA career. He’s the only man to beat Poirier since he moved to lightweight, and did so in spectacular fashion. Since that fight, though, things have gone south in a hurry for “The Menace.” The win over Poirier earned Johnson a huge fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 205, but things didn’t go Johnson’s way, as he was dominated with ground-and-pound until succumbing to a submission.

The loss to Nurmagomedov really set Johnson on a downward spiral. His next fight resulted in another stoppage loss, this time a TKO defeat to Justin Gaethje in a 2017 “Fight of the Year” contender. Johnson started off the fight strong and really took it to Gaethje in the bout’s early goings, but faded hard and was brutally finished in the second round. It was the loss to Gaethje that convinced Johnson to move to 145 lbs, but he suffered another rough loss in his featherweight debut, where he was submitted by Darren Elkins in a fight he looked particularly bad in. Johnson now rides a three-fight losing skid into his bout this weekend against Fili.

Prior to the Poirier win, Johnson had dropped decisions to Nate Diaz and Beneil Dariush, so overall he has lost five of his last six fights. He remains on the UFC roster because of his exciting fighting style, but at this point he just needs to get back in the win column, especially with the UFC making a number of cuts to fighters on the roster. Someone on a four-fight losing streak probably won’t stick around, so Johnson has to beat Fili in order to secure his spot on the roster. That won’t be an easy feat, however, as Fili is currently riding a two-fight win streak and finally starting to live up to his potential. But Johnson has to overcome all of that if he wants to stick around the UFC for a little while longer.

Michael Johnson is an exciting fighter with the talent and potential to be an elite competitor, based on his wins over the likes of Poirier, Edson Barboza and Tony Ferguson, but he has really tailed off in the last few years. He has now reached a point in his UFC career where anything less than a win will likely conclude it. He’s had nearly a decade-long run in the organization and has won a lot of fights in the Octagon along the way, and that’s nothing to scoff at. But if he wants to stay on the UFC roster, he has to beat Andre Fili this weekend. With so much on the line, expect nothing less than a great performance, because falling short will likely result in him becoming the latest casualty of the UFC cut list.

UFC Fight Night 135

Andre Fili vs. Michael Johnson

UFC Fight Night 135: Gaethje vs. Vick (formerly UFC Fight Night 135: Gaethje vs. Iaquinta) takes place August 25, 2018 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Click HERE for more UFC Fight Night 135 Pre-Fight Analysis

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