Michael Johnson explains how he turned things around going into Saturday night’s fight with Poirier, wants big money and the title (w/Keller’s Analysis)

By Wade Keller, MMATorch editor

Michael Johnson knocking out Dustin Porier at UFC Fight Night (photo credit Sean Pokorny © USA Today Sports)

Michael Johnson upset Dustin Poirier with an impressive first-round TKO, and he made it clear he is looking for a money fight soon, if not next. Anthony Pettis said on Twitter after Johnson’s win that he’d be open to fighting him in New York City next month.

“It feels really good, after about two losses in a row, just to get a victory, being healthy, I’m ready for whatever UFC throws at me,” he said.

Although he says he’s ready for anything, what he really wants is a title shot or a no. 1 contendership fight next. “These rankings mean nothing,” he said on the FS1 post-game show on Saturday night. “The only spot that matters is the top spot as the champion. I beat two guys that are in the top five already. I think I’m at the top of the division. If nobody’s ready to fight for that title, I’m right there for a number one contender’s fight.”

Is he open to fighting Pettis? “Yeah, Anthony Pettis could be [next]. I want the best of the best and I want the guys at the top. I want big money right now. (Nate) Diaz and (Conor) McGregor made serious league dough and I’m trying to put my name on that money and get paid.”

He said he believes he’s found his key to victory, and added a new technique to make him even more lethal. Tyron Woodley, a panelist on the FS1 post-fight show, called him “the Sugar Ray Leonard of MMA.” He said his speed has always been there and is perhaps his biggest asset differentiating him from other top contenders.

“That’s what we trained for two months with, and that’s what I counted on,” he said regarding utilizing his speed against Poirier on Saturday night. “Dustin hits hard, he’s a heavy lightweight, but my speed kills, and that’s what happened tonight.”

The new twist is his lateral movement, on display early in Saturday night’s fight. “Yeah, me and my coaches have been working on that,” he said. “That lateral movement is a new thing I’ve added. Speed kills, and when I keep that movement, I’m unstoppable in this cage.”

He also has improved his attitude and mental approach. “This game’s 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical,” Johnson said. “As long as my mental game is tight, I’m unstoppable. I go to sleep listening to (inspirational speakers) Alan Watts, Les Brown, and Eric Thompson. I stay focused and keep my mind on the task at hand.”

Keller’s Analysis: Saturday night is an example of how one fight can change everything for a fighter. If he gets a high-profile match against Pettis or someone of that caliber and wins, he’ll have a great case for a title shot next. With his enthusiasm and brash drive to be great and earn big money, he can sell a fight. I expect UFC to find a path that provides big tests and big opportunities for Johnson, but one good showing doesn’t wipe out the two previous bad showings in the Octagon, so he still has something to prove. When a fighter can point to some changes in skillset or mental approach that explains a turnaround, it helps make that impressive latest performance seem more like the new norm and less like a fluke.


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