Prediction: Charles Johnson vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov | UFC Fight Night 215
Two extremely talented, but unranked flyweights, will go toe-to-toe to determine who gets a crack at the rankings.
Charles Johnson is 11-3 as a professional but just 0-1 in the UFC. While having just one fight, which was a loss, is minimally exciting, do note that the fight was against flyweight phenom Muhammad Mokaev, and Johnson had moments during that fight. His opponent, Zhalgas Zhumagulov, is 14-7 professional and just 1-4 in the UFC. Quite similarly, the 1-4 UFC record is by no means indicative of Zhumagulov’s talent, as he has shown well in just about every fight and has fought mostly killers during his UFC tenure.
Both Johnson and Zhumagulov are talented but non-winning fighters, so they each will look to showcase not only their skills come Saturday, but show their fans – myself included – that they understand how to win fights and begin their climb up the flyweight division.
Charles Johnson is a -165 favorite ver Zhalgas Zhumagolov.
As stated in the introduction, I am a big believer, and fan, of both of these fighters. In fact, I spoke on Charles Johnson just a few months ago and am on record with stating to target him big come his next fight. While his opponent makes me less bullish on the degree of backing, the talent of Johnson cannot go understated.
The first attribute I want to discuss is the sere size of Johnson, as he is a tall and strong flyweight. The combination of height with strength is quite unique for this division, thus giving him the tools to present a significant problem for his opponents. The problem extends beyond size alone, as he is truly a well-rounded fighter. This is perhaps surprising if you look at the stat sheet from his last fight, as he was taken down 12 of 26 times. But, when understanding who took Johnson down is a flyweight phenom, and the stat sheet begins to tell a different story. What I mean by that is Johnson stuffed greater than 50% of shots against an elite wrestler, and, was able to get up off the mat – 12 total takedowns indicate this. Having this ability is impressive, but when you add the fact that Johnson looked knowledgeable on the mat against an elite wrestler, the result is that his grappling acumen is far greater than what he gets credit for.
The lack of credit on the mat is certainly accompanied by the fact that Johnson does get a lot of credence to his striking. Being tall and strong, Johnson can truly crack on the feet and looks quite comfortable doing so. Having serious power, with an underlying sense of comfort on the feet, is a dangerous combination and is why I am so bullish on him as a fighter.
My affinity for Johnson is nearly equal for Zhumagolv. This is because the man gets little to no respect, has fought an extremely difficult slate of UFC opponents, and most importantly, has had scorecards go in the opposing direction when it could have very well gone his way. While losing close decisions is indeed unlucky, it does speak to the difficulty Zhumagolv has with separating himself from his opponent as the fight ensues. But, separating from very talented challengers is difficult for nearly any flyweight, as this division often has the closest fights due to a lack of power and damage on the feet, Zhumagolv being no different.
Lacking power is a concern for him, but the talent in the striking department is still there. Particularly, he does a good job closing distance when offensively striking and has a very nice check left hook when his opponent rushes in on him. The former is far more important, given he seeks to close distance and wrestle his way to victory. While he has a somewhat lackluster takedown success rate, the relentless pressure he puts on his opponent allows him to eventually find the takedown, and once on the mat, he is quite comfortable.
I will state once more how good these two fighters are and how they should be targeted bets in the near future. With that said, a winner must be had, and for me, the style of this fight greatly favors Charles Johnson contrary to Zhumagolv. I believe this because he will have the size and power advantage on the feet, and, has the defensive grappling to keep the fight standing long enough to land his power. While I do expect Zhumagolv to clinch-wrestle his way to the mat, I also expect Johnson to get up, circle out, and separate himself on the feet to win the bout.
Bet: Johnson to win (bet now at MyBookie)