Gleison Tibau (28-9, 13-7 UFC) vs. Michael “The Menace” Johnson (13-8, 5-4 UFC)
An interesting little bit of matchmaking brings us this lightweight preliminary bout between 2 reps of South Florida’s prominent MMA gyms. What is interesting about this fight is that on one hand we have Johnson, a younger, up n coming fighter, trying to find both a fighting identity and some consistency. And on the other we have Tibau who has been in a similar position for his entire lengthy UFC career.
With a career a career unlike almost any other fighter, Tibau has been with the UFC since 2006 and has never ascended past the top 15 or so. He’s good enough to win quite regularly but loses just often enough to stop him from fighting the top guys. Ironically, this has likely contributed to his longevity because if he fought more top guys he could possibly lose enough to get cut. It’s crazy I know.
-Tibau’s biggest asset is his monstrous size and immense physical strength. Coming to the UFC a healthy sized welterweight, he then hooked up with ATT and together they concocted the ultimate weight cutting fighter. Most impressive about this is Tibau will rarely if ever miss weight and his performances do not seem to suffer at all.
-Grappling is the bread and butter of the massive 155er and he is a perfect blend of size, wrestling, and BJJ. Unlike most Brazilian fighters with good takedowns, Tibau comes from wrestling and not from judo. This is obvious when you watch him rack up countless double leg takedowns on just about everybody he faces. He likes to smother guys from on top and against the cage and if he is going to snatch up a sub it almost always a choke. Also, Tibau has the 2nd best takedown defense in UFC history at 92%, behind only LHW king Jon Jones.
When you look at a guy like Tibau and consider his considerable skills you have to wonder why he hasn’t broken the top 10. Well for one he is not effective enough in the striking game. He hits plenty hard but is lacking in the accuracy and volume he would need to be more effective. He is also susceptible to a fighters who only a tad weaker but much faster, Jim Miller for example.
TUF 12 runner up and veteran of the Midwestern USA fight scene where he grew up, Michael Johnson is a young and still developing fighter. He’s been hot or cold thus far in his UFC run and currently trains out of the Blackzillion headquarters in South Florida and looked great in his last fight putting a serious beating on UFC bonus machine Joe Lauzon.
-Michael Johnson is one of the better fighting athletes currently competing in the UFC 155 lb class. The vast majority of his game is made possible by his solid speed, strength, and athleticism. He is at his best and most effective when he can dart in and out of striking range and light up opponents and is quite capable in most facets of mixed martial arts.
-The menace has good, fast, punches with some nice power on them and is equally nice with the right or left hand. His last fight in particular he showed a nice boxing game and completely outworked and out-fought his foe. He does have KO power and he can pick guys apart, and throws enough kicks to keep things interesting.
-An interesting intangible that Johnson has going for him is the possible element of surprise. He works with a great team and he has the youth and athleticism to show up at any time with a brand new wrinkle in his game.
The knock on Johnson is he is a fighter who is good at almost everything and great at nothing. Obviously that can change, but for now it is likely what has held him back from moving up a level. He doesn’t have that ace in the hole to fall back on. Also worrisome for the 27 year old is his inconsistency. He started 2012 with a very solid 3 fight win streak, and then he gets completely blown out in his next 2.
We know for sure what Tibau is capable of and he is a very consistently good fighter. Johnson is still young but with this fight being his 10th in the UFC it is entirely possible we’ve seen his best as well. Johnson has the athletic ability to replicate a Jim Miller type strategy against Tibau but I don’t think he has the technique, and he will fall just short in this one, losing a close split decision.