Lavar Johnson Plans to KO Pat Barry: “I’m Not Trying To Go To The Ground At All”
By Kelsey Mowatt
Prior to 2012, Lavar “Big” Johnson’s future with the Zuffa organization appeared to be uncertain, after the heavyweight had dropped back-to-back bouts to Shane del Rosario and Shawn Jordan to close out the year.
On account of his winning record with Strikeforce, and a resume filled with stoppage wins, however, Johnson was granted a UFC appearance against Joey Beltran on January 28th. When Johnson stepped into the cage at the UFC on FOX 2 show, the 34 year-old-fighter had a clear understanding about what was riding on his Octagon debut.
“It was a must win situation,” said Johnson about his first UFC appearance, which saw the 6’3, 240 pound plus fighter stop Beltran in the first round. “If I had lost that I think they would have just let me go. That probably would have been it for me.”
“I’ve been in the game for almost ten years,” Johnson added. “I went through my injuries, and to me, making it to the UFC is a dream come true. Now that I’m here, everything else is just a bonus, and it gives me an opportunity to compete against the best athletes in the world.”
Not only did Johnson record his 15th pro win to come via TKO or knockout at the UFC on FOX card, he became the first man ever to stop the resilient Beltran. To follow up the memorable win, Johnson (16-5) has been matched up with another feared striker in Pat “HD” Barry, who he will face at the UFC on FOX 3 card, May 5th.
“I guess they were impressed by my victory and first fight,” Johnson said. “They’ve given me a chance to improve myself and stepped up the name with a big name fighter like him. I’m definitely excited and happy about getting this opportunity.”
Of course on paper, the upcoming match-up certainly appears to be one that will please striking fans, and give grappling enthusiasts less than a few moments to scrutinize.
“I’m not trying to go to the ground at all,” Johnson conceded. “My frame is bigger than him and he doesn’t have that much wrestling. Maybe if I started to get kicked in my legs a lot, I’d try to take him down, try to tire him out, but I don’t want to submit him. I don’t want to wrestle him on the ground; I want to finish him by knockout.”
Similar to Johnson, nearly all of Barry’s wins have come through his striking abilities, since the experienced kickboxer transitioned into MMA. In January, at the first UFC on FX card, Barry (7-4) ended a two fight losing skid by knocking out the much larger Christian Morecraft in the first round.
“The angles he takes, and he kick with either leg, I mean he’s a powerful, fast guy all around,” Johnson noted about the 32 year-old Barry. “I have a lot better reach than him; I’m going to use that to my advantage. The main thing I’m worried about is his leg kicks.”
A win for Johnson on May 5th would likely further discussions about what impact Strikeforce’s heavyweights have had on the UFC, since Zuffa decided to end the former’s division and bring over several of its top fighters.
“I don’t know if it’s a whole representing Strikeforce thing,” said Johnson. “I just feel like the Strikeforce heavyweights and UFC heavyweights are all on the same level. I just think it’s good for the fans to have everyone in the mix competing against one another. I don’t think there was a difference in the talent level, it’s just the names of the organizations.”
Now Johnson continues to live out his dream, while he prepares for his second UFC bout, nearly three years after being randomly shot twice on July 4th, 2009.
“I always thought I would make it to the UFC, and you always have speed bumps, but the only reason I think I’m here in the UFC, healthy, is because God has given me the opportunity to tell my story.”