UFC Fight Night 171: Michael Johnson vs Thiago Moises

I hope you guys enjoyed the fights on Saturday night as much as I did.

There were a couple of intense throwdowns that were eventually overshadowed by a spectacular main event between Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson.

The (+170) underdog Justin Gaethje did his thing in there and was even able to finish the seemingly indestructible “El Cucuy” in the 5th round.

There were people out there that said referee Herb Dean should have let him make it to the final bell. For what? More brain damage.

He was in such good shape that it was very difficult for Justin Gaethje to hurt him with punches even though they were flush and frequent.

Once Tony displayed that funny gait, Herb wasted no time in stepping in. It was a wide-based staggering gait which is common in the literature of diagnosing head trauma and even indicative of impending death.

Most boxers that have died hours after competition, have had that unsteady gait.

Tony Ferguson, though, made it through the first night and seems to be enjoying his time in this hospital.

How can you not love that guy? I hope Tony takes some extended time off for once and we can hopefully see an even better El Cucuy when he makes his return.

The last man to defeat Ferguson before Saturday was also the first fighter to welcome Justin Gaethje to the UFC. The ever-dangerous Michael Johnson takes on Brazilian standout Thiago Moises this Wednesday night.

In my opinion, this should be the co-main event over Ben Rothwell and OSP but it is what it is.

BetOnline.AG has the betting options for us this week. Let’s get to our prediction for what looks to be an exciting striking battle between two hungry dogs.

Michael Johnson (-112) vs Thiago Moises (-102)

This one is pretty even, obviously, according to the odds but I have one of these guys at (-160).

That’s about a 7% difference in the implied probability of the betting odds and the probability we are giving to the projected winner. A 7% difference is about the minimum number I look for when determining if we have an edge on the bookmakers or not.

I will tell you right now. I’m not certain this fight will go over or under 2.5 rounds.

Michael Johnson is such a banger! The dude gets after it!

Moises is kinda like the 145-pound version of Vicente Luque minus much of the success and many of the knockouts. He doesn’t move around very much but always seems to be defending fairly effectively and scoring efficiently.

What is efficient scoring? He doesn’t have to throw much to land much.

Thiago lands 62% of his strikes. That is very very good, especially at 145 against lightning-fast opponents. 62% is pretty rad. How many significant strikes landed per minute, though? 2.47…

Unless you have Ngannou-level power in your hands, that is a recipe for failure. This averages out to just under 4 strikes THROWN every minute.

Like I said, if you don’t have a great deal of power or wrestling ability, throwing 4 and landing 2.5/minute is not good enough to win decisions on a consistent basis at this level.

Michael Johnson, conversely, is not nearly as accurate landing his significant strikes at a rate of 37%. He lands more punches (4.15) per minute than Thiago throws.

Please Note:

You’ve got to be active. I’m a big believer in the ability of Moises. I think he has excellent striking technique and even though his wrestling isn’t the strongest, his submissions are and that keeps opponents from trying to take him down.

Thiago has yet to get a signature win inside the Octagon. 1-2 so far with his only victory against Kurt Holobaugh one year ago today, actually.

Kurt is a tough kid from Louisiana but that was his third straight loss in the UFC and the first two were by finish. Fighting Beniel Dariush in your first UFC appearance isn’t advisable but Moises gave it a go anyway.

After rebounding with the Holobaugh win, he took on Damir Ismagulov. I remember watching tape on this fight and going into it with the inkling to take Moises.

I’m glad I did my research because the Brazilian was out-classed on the feet but the Thailand-trained Russian. Anytime you see those three words together “Thailand, trained, and Russian”, look out!

Phuket is overflowing with bears who don’t fear the takedown. Give them REAL Muay Thai on top of that and you have a killer on your hands. So, the journey has been tough for Moises.

Michael Johnson isn’t the same fighter but the comparison to Benny Dariush is about the closest we are going to find. They are both longer than Thiago with very good takedown defense and underrated power in their hands.

Michael Johnson has had quite a career. Much like Cowboy Cerrone, he has his fair share of losses but he has also been a company man taking fights on short notice and signing on the dotted line whenever he was asked.

Johnson isn’t the type to hand-pick opponents.

I mentioned he defeated Tony Ferguson and was back and forth with Justin Gaethje until the now Interim UFC Lightweight Champion finished him in the 4th.

Johnson has defeated Edson Barboza, Andre Fili, and Dustin Poirier over the past several years and lost to Nate Diaz, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Gaethje. All 6 of these fighters are on a different level than Moises.

Most recently, though, Johnson has lost two in a row. He was TKO’d by Josh Emmet which is understandable. That guy puts people TO SLEEP.

That was in March of last year but it was in October that Michael disappointed his fans and a lot of bettors when he lost to journeyman Scot Stevie Ray. He was out-worked in that one more than out-classed.

Michael is only 33, though, and 6 months off seems perfect to me. It’s enough time to get your head back on straight but not enough to let your body go to crap.

He was scheduled to fight in April so I think he has had enough time to prepare. He shouldn’t even have to get on a plane either heading north up the coast from Boca.

The difference in reach is significant. 3 inches counts when both fighters are less than 6 feet tall.

I think Michael fights smart and establishes his jab early and often. He is the more dynamic fighter and holds a considerable edge in explosiveness and overall athletic ability.

Mike is also a southpaw and that will be another small advantage that adds up to a decent edge on the sportsbooks. He isn’t 19-14 for no reason, though. Johnson is very hittable but it’s usually when he’s attacking.

The Brazilian will have to hang in nice and steady if he wants to counter Johnson effectively. The length, experience, and athletic ability make the difference for me here.

My Pick

In Conclusion

Alright, team, I hope you agreed with me here. I am having more difficulty finding value on this card than I did UFC 249.

We were very successful at 10-4 and an ROI above 50% if you bet 1 unit per wager but it took me days of reviewing material before I felt highly confident in most all of them.

I do like this one, though.

It’s always a sweat with Michael Johnson. His fighting style is very aggressive and I made the point in a Facebook post about how Gaethje was the first striker as aggressive as Johnson that Tony had faced since then. It showed.

I don’t think Johnson would have beaten him again on Saturday. That was all Justin Gaethje but if you can put a front foot fighter on their back foot, it changes their whole approach.

I even tipped the Gaethje pick on social media but stuck with the even money payout on those two going more than 12 minutes and 30 seconds.

Johnson could very well overextend and the ultra patient Brazilian could have something planned out. Johnson can’t give him that time, though.

Da Menace should keep leather in the face of his opponent, using his long arms and legs to control the distance and score points.

Get your bets in now directly from this article, guys, and enjoy the show this Wednesday night!

Mike Pruitt / Author

Mike has been covering sports professionally since 2017 but on the amateur scene for 25 years since when he was 12. Before the internet changed the world, he would keep detailed statistical box scores of NFL and NBA contests, write recaps, and voluntarily commentate games and fights alone in his room. Mike's military experience, Bachelors Degree, and employment thereafter were always rooted in engineering, science, and teaching. Now he enjoys being able to express himself through writing about football, golf, and car racing among other sports but most of all fighting as his life has been rooted in mixed martial arts including competing and teaching for the past 15 years.