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Death, Taxes, and Lavar Johnson

Death, taxes, and if you trade punches with Lavar Johnson – he will knock you out.In the UFC, there are a few givens fight fans and would-be opponents should have accepted by now as failing ventures, like exhausting Frankie Edgar or choking out Jon Fitch or someone ever beating Anderson Silva. In 2012, we all learned that if you‘re staring across the Octagon at Johnson then your gameplan better be takedowns and submissions, because striking with him is futile. Whether one has a granite chin, K-1 experience, or is 7 feet tall, everyone‘s best and possibly only chance against the knockout-ready hands of Johnson is definitely on the ground. There‘s no secret to fighting the Californian; it‘s either take it to the floor or he‘ll put you through it. “I hit really hard,” reveals Johnson. “I’ve been told by my teammates and everyone that it is a lot harder than everyone else. They hold the mitts for the other guys and then they hold the mitts for me and it’s like a big difference. I really believe in my hands. And I’m getting faster. I don’t know how it is happening, but I am getting faster. I guess it’s all the pad work and the wrestling that is improving my standup. I feel good. I feel like I can compete with anybody in the UFC.”Last January at UFC on FOX, it was Johnson‘s fists that did the unthinkable and knocked out the seemingly un-knockout-able Joey Beltran. Not only did he knock Beltran out, but he did it in the first round. Previously, Octagon enthusiasts had seen “The Mexicutioner” nearly devour heavy leather thrown at him by Matt Mitrione, Pat Barry, Aaron Rosa, and Stipe Miocic. Even after the bludgeoning by Johnson, Beltran stood toe-to-toe with James Te Huna for all three rounds, and Te Huna is a proven KO artist, earning seven of his last nine wins by knockout. “Some people are just born to hit hard, and that’s my talent,” estimates Johnson. “I think it’s just natural for me. I’m not big on the jiu-jitsu, as we all know. I’m trying to pick it up and have been working with some good guys. It just comes natural to me to hit hard.”The Beltran bout netted him his first Knockout of the Night bonus, and Johnson secured his second in his second Octagon appearance against Barry in May at UFC on FOX. Two fights, two first round finishes, two KOTN awards, and he was quickly enjoying life in the UFC. Johnson‘s next move was a surprising one, accepting a short notice scrap with Stefan Struve at UFC 146.The 35-year-old from Madera signed up for a showdown with the Dutch “Skyscraper” Struve only 21 days removed from the win over Barry. As he looks at really any fight on paper, he thought he could put his 6‘4” frame with his 81 inch reach to work on Struve, whose three losses inside the Octagon all come by way of one punch knockout. In theory, it wasn‘t that bad of an idea, but the 7 footer is quickly becoming one of the craftier submission artists in the UFC heavyweight division, and Struve caught Johnson in something special. “I thought I was going to be able to knock him out, honestly,” he said. “That’s why I took the fight on such short notice. I thought I was prepared. He had a really good game plan. I didn’t have the chance to wrestle or roll or get anything ready. But he fought a good fight and outsmarted me, I guess you could say.”It only lasted a minute, but the fight went exactly as it had to go for Struve to win. The action began with Johnson crossing the cage and belting Struve to the face and body, which noticeably caused damage. And with that, “Skyscraper” jumped guard and transitioned into an armbar before Johnson even touched the floor. That‘s how it had to go down or Struve would‘ve been put down by another series of Johnson‘s punches. After his first year in the UFC, Johnson is 2-1 inside the Octagon with two bonus checks in the bank. To think, Johnson began his foray into combat sports with a Toughman Competition in neighboring Lemoore, California to tell his kids and his grandkids that he did it once. Nowadays, he has an impressive scrapbook of stories, like how he put a former kickboxer to sleep on network television and how he became a featured heavyweight fighter on Pay-Per-View. The surreal experience is far from lost on Johnson, who had more than a few butterflies in his stomach before these three UFC fights, but still knuckled-up when it was showtime. “It was amazing; life changing,” tells Johnson. “It’s everything that we train for as professional fighters. Everyone wants to be in the UFC, that’s the main goal. I was just so blessed to be there to fight and compete with these guys. A lot of people know who I am now. The only fights I’ve thrown up before were my last three in the UFC (laughs). It’s a little different, for sure. You know that the world is watching. It’s just the UFC, period. You knowing that you’re at the Super Bowl. I think I’m going to be all right now. I don’t get scared, I’m just getting comfortable. I…

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