LAS VEGAS -- Anthony "Rumble" Johnson stood backstage at Planet Hollywood with all the proof he needed that his opponent, D.J. Linderman, had indeed poked him in the eye: An hour after his fight, Johnson's right eye was still blood red.
It wasn't the first time Johnson was on the wrong end of an eye poke in the City of Sin: His infamous 2008 bout with Kevin Burns was ruled a no-contest when Johnson couldn't continue after multiple eye pokes.
This time, though, Johnson wasn't going to let it get the best of him. Second after referee Herb Dean refused Johnson's request for a timeout after an alleged poke, Johnson blasted Linderman with one of the 2012's most visceral one-punch knockouts.
"It's like it happens every damn time I fight, it seems," Johnson said. "Can't get through a fight without getting poked in the eye."
Johnson was well on his way to winning round one when he landed the winning blow. Johnson outstuck Linderman throughout the round, scored the fight's only takedown, and landed several knees when the fight got back standing.
After an exchange seconds later, Johnson (14-4, one NC) gestured to Dean for a timeout after the apparent eye poke. Dean signaled to continue fighting, Linderman (14-4) charged toward Johnson, and ran right into a tremendous right hand to the jaw. Linderman crashed face-first to the mat and Dean called off the fight at 3:58 of round one.
"It wasn't like I was mad or anything," Johnson said. "He just came rushing at me, he left himself wide open, and I took advantage. Not bad for a 170-pounder."
Thus continued Johnson's MMA redemption. The former welterweight and middleweight had a well-documented series of issues with pre-fight weight cuts, which eventually led to his dismissal from the UFC earlier this year. Since then Johnson, who has moved all the way up to light heavyweight, has won four times, the last three by KO/TKO.
Johnson says he's happy with where he is, both in weight class and promotional affiliation. "Things are good," he said. "I'm comfortable with where I am right now. I'm not even thinking about the UFC. The World Series of Fighting is my home. I'm with the WSOF."