Tyrone Spong, Anthony Johnson look for Blackzilian synergy at WSOF

Tyrone Spong says he feels no pressure leading into his debut mixed martial arts bout at Saturday night's World Series of Fighting card in Las Vegas.

And really, what reason do we have not to believe him? The 27-year old Spong has fought in high-level kickboxing bouts the world over, so it's not like he's some fresh-faced kid who has never competed in front of a crowd.

"There's no pressure," said Spong, who meets light heavyweight Travis Bartlett on the NBC Sports Network-broadcast main card at Planet Hollywood. "I'm doing this first of all for myself. I'd like to put on a great fight for the fans and all the people who stand behind me. I don't feel any pressure at all."

It helps quite a bit, of course, if you've got a teammate in the same weight class fighting on the same card. Spong's Blackzilians campmate, Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, meets D.J. Linderman in the evening's co-main event. With Spong and Johnson boasting distinct strengths and weaknesses, both say they've been able to help push each other and become more well-rounded fighters leading into Saturday night's event.

For Johnson, having Spong around has helped refine his striking game.

"Just working with Tyrone is an honor," Johnson said. "His style of of just being aggressive, putting pressure, the combination of the kicks and the punches, so much power and speed behind everything, it's been a great help to me, it makes me want to fight that way. Just working with him period, one on one, he helped elevate my level of striking."

It's no secret which aspect of Spong's game needs the most work. But having a former national junior college wrestling champion to work with in Johnson is helping to bring him up to speed.

"I've done a lot of training with Anthony, he's well experienced," Spong said. "He's been doing MMA a long time, [has a] wrestling background and everything. Of course everyone knows I need to work on my ground game. So, for him to work with me and find out the things I have focus on and work on, I benefit a lot about it, that's it."

Which leads to an obvious question: Just how much will Spong be tested if the fight hits the ground? For his part, Bartlett, a fighter out of Bangor, ME who has a 7-2 record but hasn't fought since 2010, says he's not afraid to go into Spong's wheelhouse.

"I have no secrets, I fight one way," says Bartlett. "If he stays outside and plays a leg kick game and dances around, if he goes that route, I'll try to take him down, but if he wants to stand and bang, I think it's a fight sport first, not a sport fight first, if he wants to stay in the middle of the ring, I'm game. ... I'm a man of my word, if I have to, if he's keeping his distance the way he wants and playing that game, then I'm going to have to pressure him and go for the shots and do all that. But if he wants to go mano y mano in the middle of the cage, I'll welcome it."

Of course, you can't mention Johnson without discussing his legendary struggles with pre-fight weight cutting. Now that he's fighting at light heavyweight instead attempting to reach welterweight or middleweight, Johnson has settled into a groove, winning three straight fights at 205 since being cut from the UFC early this year.

"I just feel good, I'm just happy I don't have to lose all the weight that I was losing. I'm good. I'm more happy than I've ever been, and uh, I feel more complete as a human being and as a fighter. As long as I'm smiling when I'm cutting weight, everything's good."

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