Esther Lin photo
LAS VEGAS -- Fighting Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve can be like a bit like solving the world's biggest Rubik's Cube. In addition to his size and reach advantage over his foes, the 6-foot-11 1/2 heavyweight is a well-rounded fighter who can also handle himself either standing on the ground.
"I don't have a game plan really other than, hit him in the mouth," the fighter known as "Big" said. "That's all I can do."
Pursuit of such a straightforward game plan has gotten the Madera, Calif. native this far. He's pocketed $130,000 in knockout of the night bonuses in his first two UFC bouts, as he's finished Joey Beltran and Pat Barry. And 15 of his 17 wins have come by way of knockout or TKO.
So even though he's training with one of the country's more advanced gyms in San Jose's American Kickboxing Academy, Johnson doesn't figure to stray far from his game plan of hitting his opponent hard and often.
"He's going to try to get it to the ground If he can get me there," said Johnson. "We start off the fight standing. If it happens, it happens. Hopefully it doesn't have to go to the ground. Hopefully, we'll put on a show. I say, save the jiu-jitsu for the jiu-jitsu tournaments, and the UFC's for fights, so let's fight."
With 21 days between fights, Johnson is looking to become the fighter to score two UFC wins on the fastest turnaround since Chris Leben turned the trick two weeks apart back in 2010, beating Aaron Simpson on June 19 and submitting Yoshihiro Akiyama on July 3.
Often, fighters who take back-to-back fights on such short notice scored quick victories in their first bout, whether it be a flash knockout or a quick submission. But Johnson's May 5 win over Pat Barry was a bruising affair, nearly a full round of hard-hitting, back-and-forth action before Johnson took control of the fight and won via TKO.
Still, Johnson had no hesitation when he was asked to take the bout with Struve, after Mark Hunt needed to drop out due to an injury.
"I just got a call out of the blue," Johnson said. "They said someone might be hurt and might not be able to take their fight, so, I said ‘Alright, I'll take it.' I don't mind getting some extra money."
The way Johnson sees it, fighting so soon after his last fight will work to his advantage.
"It takes a lot of pressure off me," he said. "I didn't have a lot of time to think about it, I feel like I have nothing to lose. I just have to go out there and do my job and perform."
And if Johnson does perform, maybe he'll take home a third straight knockout of the night bonus, no easy task on a card filled with heavy hitters.
"I'm hoping to get this third one," he said. "That's the only way I like to win is by knockout or TKO. I don't see myself submitting anybody. I'm a heavyweight, that's what the fans like and that's what I'm going to give them."
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