There’s a fairly large group of MMA fans who have no interest in seeing a super-fight between Anderson Silva against Georges St. Pierre. They view it as a (potentially) one-sided route for Silva, who is just too big for the welterweight to handle. When contemplating a style clash, too many people can’t get past the size difference.
St. Pierre himself has trouble with the notion. He says he’d need time to add 10-15 pounds of muscle if he were to attempt a fight at 185 pounds. GSP avoiding a size mismatch has become a sticking point.
Theoretically, Anthony Johnson should carry a little extra intrigue as he makes his way toward St. Pierre’s belt for this very reason. He’s still far from that shot, but Johnson cuts the weight equivalent of a Keeshond each time he enters the cage. Johnson weighs in the 215-220 pound range at his farthest orbit from fight night; that’s in the ballpark of Silva’s walk-around weight, and Silva is a considered big for a middleweight.
What does that make "Rumble"? A gargantuan welterweight with a yogi’s gift of self-compaction. Or, more directly, a large middleweight interloping as an improbable 170-pounder.
If you watched the fight this weekend, you know that Johnson had to have been around 190 pounds by the time Bruce Buffer introduced him. Poor Charlie Brenneman never stood a chance. Just as Dan Hardy never did. After experimenting with cutting weight -- and failing on a couple of occasions to make it -- Johnson seems have figured out a way to touch base at 171 pounds, race to the fridge, and then reappear as the Incredible Hulk 24 hours later.
Whatever his secrets are, this could be disconcerting to St. Pierre at some point in the not-so-distant future. If Johnson gets a couple more wins without repeating a Rich Clementi or Yoshiyuki Yoshida incident (where he couldn't even get within six pounds of his mark), St. Pierre would be faced with a size problem without leaving the division he’s ruled so long to find it. In this way, Johnson would be bring the middleweight division to GSP, which would be a strange twist to things.
But a potential fight with St. Pierre is intriguing for other reasons besides just the size difference. Since Rumble has began fighting smarter -- using his wrestling, patiently picking his moments, using his length and athleticism to dictate the fight -- he’s looking like a far more complete fighter.
When Dan Hardy tried to lure him into a brawl, Johnson coolly brought things to the ground and fought intelligently (another adjective to describe it could be “boring”). When the wrestler Brenneman tried to shoot, whatever he found attached to Johnson’s ankles was immoveable.
St. Pierre has made a career of stifling his opponents' strengths since losing to Matt Serra in 2007. With Johnson, he’d be facing an athlete who can wrestle, who’s long, who’s heavy, and who’s fighting with an overall purpose more centered on winning than simply obliterating people.
St. Pierre-Johnson is a long way from actually happening, of course. Johnson will likely need to beat a couple of top-10 welterweights to get there, prove he has a gas tank, prove that the Josh Koscheck fight was, if not an aberration, at least a lesson learned. And who knows if GSP will have already fled by then, anyway?
But Johnson does bring a different challenge up the rungs, and it’s sort of fun to think about.