Johnson, who had been sidelined since 2009 with a knee injury, stepped up and destroyed former No. 1 welterweight contender Dan Hardy Saturday at UFC Fight Night 24.
For Johnson, it was a big win that shows that when he's healthy and in shape, he's a force to be reckoned with at 170 pounds. For Hardy, the showed, a year after he lost his welterweight title fight to Georges St. Pierre, that he still doesn't have much in the way of takedown defense or ability to fight off his back. Any good wrestler is going to give Hardy problems until he shores up those weaknesses.
Johnson leveled Hardy with a huge head kick a minute into the first round, jumped on him and dominated Hardy from the top for the rest of the round. However, considering how much Johnson had controlled the first round, Hardy had to be happy that he made it out of the round relatively unscathed.
Early in the second round Johnson took Hardy down and got on top of him again, and he stayed on top for about four full minutes before the referee finally stood them up. It wasn't the most action-packed round, and it left the crowd booing, but it was a round that Johnson clearly won, thanks to his superior size, strength and wrestling ability.
Prior to the third round Hardy's corner told him that he needed a knockout. So it was surprising that Hardy, instead of swinging for the fences, went for a takedown at the start of the third round. Johnson went to the ground with Hardy but got on top of him yet again, and he controlled things the rest of the way. Although Johnson wasn't able to finish the arm-triangle choke submission he attempted, Johnson won easily and deserved the decision he got, 30-27 on all three judges' cards.