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Five Fighters Who Could Welcome Rumble Johnson To Heavyweight

Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson shocked the MMA world earlier today when he announced that he will be making a return to the UFC as a heavyweight next year.

It’s a move that had been rumoured for quite some time given the frankly gargantuan frame that the former light-heavyweight title-challenger had been boasting of late and yet, when the news was confirmed to ESPN, the sport’s community were left ecstatic.

The heavyweight ranks, at present, are certainly lacking in quality given the ageing pool of talent occupying most of the top-15 but as things stand, there is the sense that there is a new wave on the rise – something that will only be further confirmed with the introduction of Rumble.

His manager Ali Abdelaziz has stated that his fighter is hoping for a top-15 test upon returning to the UFC but even if that doesn’t happen, we believe that there are several fighters who could offer Rumble the perfect test when he arrives next year.

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 20: Anthony Johnson celebrates his first-round knockout win over Glover Teixeira in their light heavyweight bout at the UFC 202 event at T-Mobile Arena on August 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images)

Junior dos Santos

This is a fight that would have been an absolute dream had it happened a few years back but even now, with JDS now entering the final stages of his career – matching him up with another hard-hitter like Rumble could be a recipe for violence. Dos Santos’ chin has certainly seen better days but if you ask us, setting Johnson up against someone who will throw down with him no matter what is the move to make because if he can pull off the win, then fast-tracking him to a title-shot would be a no-brainer.

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 13: Junior dos Santos exits the octagon after defeating Stipe Miocic (not pictured) by unanimous decision in their heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at the at U.S. Airways Center on December 13, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Alexander Volkov

Volkov would represent an interesting stylistic clash for Johnson. A striker at heart and residing on the periphery of the divisional top-5, this lengthy Russian would truly allow Rumble to shake off the cobwebs and test his technical ability. It’s important to remember that Johnson hasn’t competed in over two years and will likely be three years removed from his last outing by the time he steps into the octagon. Matching him up with Volkov would be the ideal way for us to know exactly how battle-ready he is upon finally making the walk.

Andrei Arlovski

These two threw down back in 2013 during Rumble’s exile from the UFC in a fight that stood as his first and only foray into the weight-class. Johnson came away with the unanimous decision on the day but with a return to 265lbs on his mind, perhaps throwing him there against the veteran Pitbull would be a move that could allow him to really make a statement in a winnable but still tricky matchup.

ROTTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - MAY 08: Alistair Overeem (L) of the Netherlands and Andrei Arlovski of Belarus compete in their Heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night 87 at Ahoy on May 8, 2016 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Derrick Lewis

This one would be a lot of fun. Lewis may be riding a two-fight streak of losses after sustaining back-to-back defeats to Daniel Cormier and Junior dos Santos, but he remains one of the most electric competitors in the heavyweight division – a man who is more than capable of giving Johnson a very rough welcome back to the world of mixed martial arts. A firefight between these two power-punchers would be a perfect addition to any major PPV.

Francis Ngannou

We’ll admit that we’re well and truly taking the piss with this one. Ngannou is now riding a three-fight streak of knockouts and could easily sit on the sidelines and wait for his crack at the heavyweight title without setting foot in the octagon again this year. Still, it’s hard not to like the sound of the two hardest-hitting fighters in the history of the sport throwing down and to be honest, who knows how things will play out in 2020 when Rumble does finally make his return.

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Author: Cillian Cunningham

Lead mixed martial arts writer who can be contacted at [email protected]