Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight strikers Josh Emmett and Michael Johnson will duel this Saturday (March 30, 2019) at UFC on ESPN 2 from Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
It’s been a long road back to the Octagon for Emmett. In the 13 months since his knockout loss to Jeremy Stephens (watch highlights), Emmett has endured multiple broken bones and facial surgeries that kept him sidelined (details). Nevertheless, the Featherweight contender has finally made a fully recovery and is ready to step back into the fire. Opposite him will be one of the sport’s most active scrappers in “The Menace,” who’s fought a ridiculously high level of competition over the years. Johnson never quite managed to earn a title shot, but he’s earned some tremendous wins along the way and proven trustworthy in delivering a fun fight.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each man:
Key Wins: Ricardo Lamas (UFC on FOX 26), Felipe Arantes (UFC Fight Night 118), Scott Holtzman (UFC on FOX 22), Jon Tuck (UFC Fight Night 87)
Key Losses: Jeremy Stephens (UFC on FOX 28), Desmond Green (UFC 210)
Keys to Victory: Emmett is a fighter who tends to operate in quick bursts. Relaxed and lightly bouncing around the cage, Emmett is known for exploding suddenly into combinations that overwhelm opponents.
In his three Featherweight fights, Emmett has scored six knockdowns.
In general, Johnson is likely to give Emmett the fight he desires, as Johnson does not usually look to pressure relentlessly. This fight will mostly go down at distance, with Emmett trying to land the big combinations while Johnson attacks with a more consistent, rangy output.
As such, Emmett’s main key to victory is accuracy. To that end, targeting the body first is a larger target and makes follow up head shots more likely to land. In the interest of mixing it up even further, it would be nice to see Emmett shoot for a double leg or two should he notice Johnson out of position — that may not be Emmett’s usual approach, but he is a talented wrestler. Considering Johnson’s notoriously poor bottom game, he should at least attempt a few takedowns.
Key Wins: Tony Ferguson (UFC on FOX 3), Edson Barboza (UFC Fight Night 61), Dustin Poirier (UFC Fight Night 94), Gleison Tibau (UFC 168)
Key Losses: Darren Elkins (UFC Fight Night 124), Khabib Nurmagomedov (UFC 205), Nate Diaz (UFC on FOX 17), Myles Jury (UFC 155)
Keys to Victory: Johnson has seen it all inside the Octagon, but it’s very clear where Johnson wants to fight. The Southpaw has an extremely quick left hand and does his best to throw it frequently, willing to exchange punches one-for-one if need be.
A major deciding factor in this bout will be range. Emmett wants to suddenly get inside the pocket, move his head, and throw heat — that much is to be expected. Johnson is certainly comfortable with pocket exchanges, but it would make more sense for the veteran to do his best to maintain more of a kickboxing range.
“The Menace” is a few inches taller and longer than his foe. Perhaps more important, Johnson generally uses distance strikes more often: he’s sticking opponents with a long cross, jab, and large amount of kicks, too. Johnson can land effectively from a range that will require a lot of motion from Emmett, so it should be his objective to keep the fight in that range as much as possible.
Bottom Line: This should be a lot of fun.
It’s a hugely important fight for Emmett, who is looking to return in a big way following his first Featherweight loss. Prior to that defeat and his recovery, the Team Alpha Male-trained athlete was ranked within the top five and closing in on title contention. This bout will go a long way in helping to figure out what’s next for Emmett — is he ready to jump back in with top-flight competition or is more time needed?
As for Johnson, his Featherweight career began with a rough start, but he’s now won his last two bouts. Back when he was a Lightweight, Johnson was a Top 10 mainstay, but he’s yet to achieve that success at 145 pounds. A win here could change that, introducing “The Menace” to the rankings in his new weight class and potentially setting up a big opportunity for him next time.
No matter who wins, fireworks can be expected.
At UFC on ESPN 2, Josh Emmett and Michael Johnson will go to war. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?