“Rumble,” of course, squared off with Cormier in a UFC 187 match to fill the vacant UFC light heavyweight title. Cormier took the acclaimed knockout artist’s best shot, survived, and went on to win via submission in the third round.
So Johnson understands why the average fan might look at this matchup and wonder how it might play out any differently.
And to that, he has a simple retort: Kevin Burns.
“Ask Kevin Burns what happened when he had a second fight with me,” Johnson (22-5) said at Thursday’s open workouts in Buffalo.
Johnson’s 2008 matchups with Burns, a fighter who would otherwise be forgotten by now, was seemingly a lifetime ago, when “Rumble” fought at welterweight.
But the series represents the only time in 27 fights Johnson has rematched an opponent until Saturday night’s meeting with DC in at KeyBank Center.
In the first fight, Johnson lost a highly controversial TKO to Burns after several fouls, including one of the nastiest eye pokes you’ll ever see, which most felt should have resulted in a disqualification of Burns. In the rematch, Johnson all but knocked Burns’s skull into the crowd in Las Vegas with a ruthless third-round head kick.
“We’re going to see how everything plays out,” Johnson said. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt this loose, I don’t think I’ve ever felt this great. I’m happy, I’m focused. It’s the second opportunity for me and it’s not good for the other person. Ask Kevin Burns.”
Of course, Burns is no Cormier, and Johnson isn’t taking the only opponent who has defeated him in his past 13 fights lightly. And while Johnson insists he’s no one-trick pony, he admits it would be extra sweet if he made Cormier (18-1) his 17th career knockout victim.
“It’s sweet to knock out anybody,” Johnson said. “But knocking out Cormier would be the icing on the cake, you know what I mean? It will be worth it if it happens, but if it doesn’t happen, if we go five rounds, we go five rounds. I’m gonna fight. A knockout will be better, I’d love it, the fans would love it. Let’s see what happens.”
Johnson says he’s on target for his weight cut, teasing reporters who asked him about it by pointing out he’s no longer making the insane weight cuts down to welterweight, or middleweight, for that matter.
“This isn’t 170 no more, [you’re] asking the same questions as when I was at 170,” Johnson said. “Back then I’ve got something to worry about. Now it’s peaches and cream, I’ve got 10 pounds and that’s that. Who can’t lose 10 pounds in two days, you know what I mean?”
“Rumble” is also not sweating the idea the former longtime light heavyweight champion, Jon Jones, will loom over the proceedings, as he’ll be in the building in Buffalo come Saturday night.
“I haven’t been thinking about it,” Johnson said. “If he’s here, it’s great for the fans. I think it’s awesome overall to have the top three guys in the world in the building together. There’s so much energy there between all three of us. DC beat me, Jon beat DC, everyone picked me to beat Jon. If it happens, it happens, but I’m not focused on it.”