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January has historically been a significant month for Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Bad and good. 

Even more noteworthy than his impressive first round TKO just days ago over Alexander Gustafsson in Sweden, was his fight with Mike Kyle at WSOF 8 January 18, 2014. It marked Johnson’s return to light heavyweight and resulted in a resounding first round KO. Finally he had arrived at a weight he could maintain without losing power. The scales had tipped in his favor and the UFC noticed.
Johnson faced and lost to Vitor Belfort on January 14, 2012 at UFC 142. The fight was a scheduled middleweight bout, that turned into a catchweight contest when Johnson came in 11 pounds over weight. It was the third time he had done so, in his literally up and down UFC career and it came with a loss on top of the poundage. He was let go by the organization and the question was simple, real, and painful–what weight class did Johnson fit in? Fit being the operative word for a man whose career had gone the continuum from heavy to light heavy to middle to even welter with sometimes drastic weight cuts of over 40 pounds in camp.
Talent wasn’t the question. The 30 year old Georgia native had quickness and strength, but sometimes compromised both just to make weight. But that January night a year ago in Hollywood, Florida all was right for Johnson. His comfort level at 205 pounds resonated through his camp and through all who watched his domination of the always game Kyle.
He was embraced once more by the very outfit, that had in essence fired him two years earlier after yet another debacle of trying to find a weight class. He too embraced the second chance, and basically a second career now centered on the light heavyweight division. He has put together a three fight win streak in this UFC return with a unanimous decision over Phil Davis at UFC 172, his eye-opening 44 second knockout of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, and culminating with this latest victory over Gustafsson, the only man who arguably has truly tested the great champion Jon Jones.
Johnson is not experimenting with where to fight, his weight struggle over. “Rumble” has shaken up the ranks zooming from second chance to number one contender. A title shot against Jones is next. When and where depends on how Jones handles his personal problem after testing positive for cocaine last month, followed by an inexplicable one night rehab stay.
But the fight will happen, has to, and when it does the UFC couldn’t lay out a better marketing scenario. The oft times polarizing champ returning from his own battle against the most exciting knockout fighter in the league who has defeated his own weighty issues. The drama of humans mixed with the inherent drama of a title fight; UFC belt on the line subtitled “Problems solved everywhere but in the Octagon.”
Just as remarkable as the win by TKO on January 24 (his 13th of 19 wins via knockout), has been Johnson’s attitude throughout the many interviews about weight and where he should be, or could be as a fighter. In several Inside MMA appearances there has never been a brooding, bitter, excuse laden discussion. Johnson has been up front about his problems with making weight, even acknowledging this is where he should have been long ago.
Now he has arrived and there is no question about that. The focus will now turn to how he can beat the close to unbeatable Jones. It might take another year for that to happen, again depending on the champ’s personal issue, but January has been a month of meaning for Rumble so he has that going for him. Sooner the better though, for Johnson’s weight is over as far as speculation, he’s found his way to a shot at the top.


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