A lot of fight fans pretend to love technical classes—fighters who show the kind of textbook precision that makes coaches stand and applaud. I like those kinds of fights too, but I'm not afraid to admit it—there's something special about a heavyweight slugfest.
Too often fighters promise to stand toe-to-toe with an opponent, knowing full well the game plan involves grinding wall-and-stall or stick-and-move tactics. It's the worst kind of bait and switch; the kind that turns fans into cynics.
Say this for Pat Barry and Lavar Johnson: When they told the world they intended to bang it out, their noses didn't grown even a single inch. They came to do harm, and who can deny harm was done?
In the end, Johnson's size proved too much for Barry. He utilized a tremendous height and weight advantage to control the smaller man in the clinch, casually throwing knees that looked capable of demolishing buildings. If the fight game fails him, Lavar Johnson can rent out his services as a wrecking ball.
To the surprise of many, the fight actually went to the ground for a time. Even there it was a slugfest of sorts—Barry's submission attempt was an Americana, an armbar that requires as much strength as it does technique.
When Johnson finally escaped, he made up for lost time, absolutely walloping Barry with haymakers. Five, 10, 15 power punches thwacked against Barry's shoulders, hands and noggin. It was frightening, especially if you've ever seen a professional mixed martial artist train.
Their blows fall with such remarkable power and precision, it's enough to make you thankful you aren't on the receiving end. If you don't have religion, you'll at least ponder your place on the human food chain. Junior dos Santos sits on top. Most of us are so far down it, we need to squint just to see him in the distance.
The fight was just one of many great ones on a memorable night in New Jersey. Johnson's is a remarkable story. Almost three years ago he was shot and nearly killed at a family barbecue. Today he's probably another significant win from title contention. And after last night, the guys calling his name out will be few and far between.
Lavar Johnson just landed on the heavyweight map. Lord help whoever wants to try to make him budge.