Prospect in the Spotlight (Apr 23-24): Tony Johnson Jr.

Introduction

Friday, April 23rd, American heavyweight prospect Tony Johnson Jr. will be in action for ACA, where he will be looking to continue his winning ways against veteran Dmitry Poberezhets. He will be looking for another win, as Johnson looks to defend the ACA Heavyweight Championship and maybe inch toward a UFC contract. He represents a number of respected camps in MMA. Let’s take a closer look at this prospect as this week’s “Prospect Spotlight.”

Strengths

Wrestling: Johnson wrestled at Iowa State, a respected Division I college, so of course the biggest asset he has in the cage is his wrestling. He as the size and explosiveness, but he’s also technical when it comes to going for takedowns. He’s strong against he cage and will work to get on top. Once he gets on top, he is difficult to get out from under. He’s a massive heavyweight who cuts to make the 265-pound maximum limit. He’s also experienced on the ground, which is why he’s able to dominate guys and threaten with submissions. Of course, it’s his massive ground-and-pound which is the center piece of his nasty, top-heavy ground attack.

Knockout Power: Don’t let the belly fool you (although if you know Roy Nelson, it shouldn’t). Johnson is an immensely powerful guy with everything he does, from takedowns and slams to his hands. Johnson isn’t going to wow you with his kicking arsenal, but Johnson has dynamite in his hands. Most people will recognize it on the mat with his ground-and-pound, and rightly so, but he can put you to sleep with one big shot on the feet. In his most recent outing, he blasted UFC vet Daniel Omielanczuk with a short right hand that put the Polish striker’s lights out. That proved he doesn’t need a huge wind up to generate great power.

Needs Improvement

Fighting Off Back: Johnson has good grappling, but when he’s put on his back, he can find himself in trouble. It happened against Vitaly Minakov and Evgeniy Goncharov, where he was grounded by both of them (was also outstruck by Minakov). Once his opponents got Johnson on the mat, they were able to land big strikes and keep him down. He’s got good enough wrestling that he should be able to wrestle more effectively from a defensive standpoint, but he has had that exposed in the past (including the 2019 Goncharov fight).

Outlook

UFC Midcarder: Tony Johnson Jr. is talented, no doubt. You don’t become the ACA Champion without talent. He’s also quite experienced, as his pro debut came in 2008. All that considered, I would love to see him in UFC Venum gear sooner rather than later, especially since he’s at our prospect age limit of 35 years old. Johnson has a good skill set, combining strong wrestling with powerful boxing and a tough disposition. His experience is quality, taking on names such as Daniel Cormier, Derrick Lewis, Alexander Volkov, Cheick Kongo and Vitaly Minakov along the way. He’s fought under top promotions such as ACA, ONE an Bellator, so he’s not adverse to the bright lights. He can be a guy that joins the UFC roster and moves up the rankings at a solid rate.

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