Johnson is arguably the greatest mixed martial artist in history, and he's coming to ONE Championship looking to continue his title-winning ways. He'll face Yuya Wakamatsu in his debut, and if we're honest, not many people are going to give the Japanese athlete much of a chance to win in his home country.
However, there is a reason the bouts don't take place on paper. Let's take a closer look at this historic bout that will be the last non-title match on the ONE: A NEW ERA card.
Wakamatsu will have a two-inch height advantage over Mighty Mouse, but that's nothing the all-time great isn't accustomed to dealing with in his career. At 5'3", there are few athletes his height. He's learned to use that as a bit of an advantage. He's already incredibly elusive, and his shorter stature grouped with his speed, and cat-like reflexes make him a tough target to hit. At 5'5" Wakamatsu probably isn't going to be long enough to make much of a difference in this regard.
Johnson is more of a grappler than a pure striker, but part of the reason he's one of the best in the world is because of his well-roundedness. He has no real weaknesses.
We've seen him knock out elite competitors like Joseph Benavidez with one punch. We've also seen him decimate Henry Cejudo with knee strikes.
Johnson seems to prefer to take opponents down, but he can handle himself well if the battle stays on the feet.
When it comes to raw power, Wakamatsu probably has the edge. His big right hand is his favorite and most dangerous weapon. Johnson will have to be wary of it throughout the bout, but especially early in the first round before both men can get warm.
The battle on the ground is the area where Johnson will have the most significant advantage. He's a world-class wrestler and a submission magician. Johnson is capable of pulling off the kinds of submission maneuvers that dominate highlight reels.
No matter how much Wakamatsu has attempted to train to prepare himself for Johnson on the ground, he'll never catch up. His best approach would be to avoid going to the mat at all.
Chances are if Johnson can secure a takedown with enough time to work remaining in any round, Wakamatsu may not expect that frame before being forced to tap out.
Age and Experience
Wakamatsu is still just 24 years old. His best days in the sport should be ahead of him. Johnson is 32, which isn't old, but he's at a point in his career where he may no longer be in his prime.
The question is: is Wakamatsu catching Johnson at the opportune time when his skill level is rising while the veteran begins his decline? That may be his only chance to win.
Johnson has been in with the best of the best from bantamweight to flyweight, and he's beaten every one of them except for Dominick Cruz.
In total, Johnson has had 31 professional bouts, and the last 14 of them have been championship matches. That's more than Wakamatsu has had pro bouts–period. It's easy to see who has the edge in experience.
If there is pressure on anyone, it's Johnson. He's the big name, former champion and the guy making his promotional debut under lofty expectations. A loss would be a significant setback for an athlete who is expected to ascend to a championship level because that's what he's done before.
If Wakamatsu even challenges him, it will cause fans and others in the mixed martial arts community to wonder aloud if Johnson has indeed lost a step. Remember, for the first time in seven-plus years; he's coming off a loss in his last bout.
Failure is seldom-visited territory for Johnson. With that dynamic in place, Wakamatsu should be able to compete free and easy. No one expects him to win, so any piece of success he enjoys will boost his stock. An upset win would be one of the biggest in recent history–if not all time.
Who Has The Edge?
While there are a few reasons to think there's a slight chance Wakamatsu can be competitive, the far more likely scenario sees the young Japanese athlete outclassed in a relatively brief striking sequence before Johnson takes him down and finishes him with ground-and-pound or a submission.
Johnson would be the favourite to beat just about any person in his weight range, and while Wakamatsu is a talented young KO artist, he's no different in this regard.
However, this is a fight and anything can happen. Wakamatsu could just as possibly land a big punch that Johnson doesn’t see coming.Published 27 Mar 2019, 17:11 IST