DALLAS, Texas (105.3 THE FAN) - Heading into Saturday night's fight against #2 ranked light heavyweight Alexander "The Mauler" Gustafsson, UFC light heavyweight title contender Anthony "Rumble" Johnson is one of the true stories of redemption in the fight promotion's recent years.
In 2012, after a loss to Vitor Belfort amid a history of failing to make the 170 pound welterweight and 185 pound middleweight limits, the once promising prospect was unceremoniously cut by the organization. The weight problem started with the fact that Johnson walked around at well north of 200 pounds, and he seemed to be the last person who still believed that he could cut the weight. After being submitted by Belfort in the first round, Johnson told me that it was on the plane ride home that he vowed to work his way back into The UFC, finally letting go of the stubbornness that had cost him his position in the world's premiere mixed martial arts organization.
Listen to Richard Hunter talk to Anthony Johnson about his evolution that led to UFC title contention:
While he never seriously contended for a title at the lower weight classes, Johnson enters into Saturday night's contest ranked #3 in the light heavyweight division, and a win over Gustafsson could likely lead to a title shot against champion Jon Jones.
His return fight this past April (and his first in The UFC at the 205 pound light heavyweight limit) saw him upset the favored Phil Davis in a 30-27 unanimous decision shut out, and he followed up that stellar performance three months later with a 44 second first round knock out of Rogerio Nogueira.
Johnson will enter The Octagon Saturday night once again as an underdog, a testament not to his lack of skills, but rather to the threat that Gustaffsson posed to the champion Jones in their first fight. It proved to be the biggest challenge of Jones' career, and since then UFC fans have been clamoring for a rematch. That rematch will happen if Gustaffson sees his hand raised Saturday night, but should Johnson prevail, Jon Jones may find himself preparing to "Rumble" against a reborn fighter with a mission on his mind.
UFC Fight Night: Gusaffson vs. Johnson airs live from Stockholm, Sweden on FOX (8:00pm ET/5:00pm PT) Saturday night.
Follow @RichardHunter for breaking mixed martial arts news and live fight updates.
(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
for more features.