UFC Fight Night 73 preview: Michael Johnson vs. Beneil Dariush

Michael JohnsonUFC Fight Night 73 takes place this Saturday, Aug. 8, in Nashville, Tenn., and will broadcast live on Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2, with early prelims on Fight Pass. Let's take a look at the co-main event, an exciting lightweight matchup between Michael Johnson (16-8) and Beneil Dariush (11-1).

Neither of these men will be next in line for a title shot – Khabib Nurmagomedov likely has that honor after Donald Cerrone – but a win would likely put Johnson much closer to a title shot or help Daruish explode into the top ten of the division.

Johnson has no doubt been on a bit of a tear lately.  After back-to-back losses to Myles Jury and Reze Madadi, he’s put together four straight wins (three unanimous decisions and one KO) over Joe Lauzon, Gleison Tibau, Melvin Guillard, and Edson Barboza, his last fight, in February of this year.

Dariush only joined the UFC in April of last year, but has already fought six times (5-1), with his lone loss coming at the hands of Ramsey Nijem (first-round TKO).  He does have some impressive wins, including his most recent victory, a unanimous decision win over Jim Miller.

The betting lines favor Johnson in the fight and he is the favorite at -150 while Dariush is a slight underdog at +130.  This is a very thin line and I would stay away from betting on it as either of these fighters could not only win but finish the fight before the final bell.

Johnson is an excellent kickboxer, and a range-y one at that.  He uses his range effectively and isn’t afraid to close the distance as he showed against Barboza.  However, six of his eight losses are by submission, and while his defense has improved in his time in the UFC, he needs to keep the range against an opponent with solid submission skills, and Dariush is just that.

Six of Dariush’s eleven wins come by submission.  Like Johnson has improved somewhat on his submission defense, Dariush has improved somewhat on his kickboxing, but he should be very hesitant to stand and trade with Johnson.  The key to his success his getting Johnson on the ground and working his dominant top game to grab onto one of Johnson’s arms or force Johnson to give up his back.

Look for Johnson to keep the range for as long as possible, and in the event he drops Dariush but doesn’t immediately KO him, he’ll be hesitant to join him on the ground, rather, allowing the referee to stand Dariush back up.  There’s no reason for Johnson to be in a hurry because he knows he has the power to take Dariush out at any time.  He knows he has little to fear from Dariush’s striking, and given Johnson’s counterpunching abilities, don’t be surprised to see Johnson appear to give up the dominant position on the feet to Dariush in an attempt to lure him in for a T/KO that comes via a counterpunch.

Dariush needs to get Johnson down fast – even if Johnson takes his time and fights from a distance, those shots will add up quickly.  However, with Johnson’s solid takedown defense and quick movement, Dariush will likely end up shooting from too far out and running right into an uppercut from Johnson.  Regardless of where the shot comes from, look for Johnson to end it by T/KO late in the first.