September 21, 2016

UFC Fight Night 94: After UFC Hidalgo, Michael Johnson Charts Uncertain Course In the Lightweight Division

By Raphael Garcia

Michael Julian Johnson is a testament to the age-old idea about fighting records and mixed martial arts. The 17-10 lightweight earned what was perhaps his biggest win to date when he defeated Dustin Poirier at UFC Fight Night 94. Over his career, Johnson has experienced a number of ups and downs, but his win this past Saturday night may be the most important in determining the future of “The Menace.”

Poirier was clearly the favorite heading into this fight. The former featherweight was riding a four-fight win streak and the move to 155 pounds was a huge boost to his career. Yet Johnson needed less than two minutes to land a massive punch and stop the Louisiana native. That shot ended Poirier’s winning streak andt also gave Johnson his first his first win in more than a year, halting a two-fight losing streak that had many MMA pundits questioning his position in the division. Johnson has a long track record of up and down performances. When he joined the 12th season of The Ultimate Fighter, he was expected to win the entire competition. Jonathan Brookins snatched that opportunity away, but Johnson is the only man from that season still competing in the Octagon. Nearly six years later he’s been rising and falling at a consistent pace. On two separate occasions

Johnson has strung together a streak of at least three wins to earn an opportunity against a high-ranking opponent, only to lose that fight and then drop another immediately after. However, Johnson also has wins over Tony Ferguson and Edson Barboza, two men who sit within the top five of the UFC’s internal contenders’ rankings.

The question now becomes where Johnson can go from this point. He’s already faced many of the men ranked ahead of him, achieving varying levels of success. It’s still too early to relegate Johnson to “gatekeeper” status, but it would be difficult to book him against the fighters in the top of the division, as his name doesn’t carry as much value as it once did. However, two names that stand out are Michael Chiesa and Rafael dos Anjos, with Chiesa looking like the better candidate.

Either way, Johnson is now in an intriguing position within the lightweight division. He’s not in a situation to demand a title shot, but he’s also not enough of a contender to be an attractive opponent to someone ranked above him. Johnson needs to take the situation into his own hands and call out the opposition that he seeks to face. The idea of waiting for the UFC to make a decision is an antiquated one that Johnson can’t afford to indulge at this point in his career. With more than six years of time in the UFC, it’s now a make or break moment for Michael Johnson after what many will consider the biggest win of his career.


UFC Fight Night 94: Johnson vs. Poirier took place on September 17, 2016 at State Farm Arena in Hildalgo, Texas.

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