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Talking points: Rumble, Rothwell, Sage and more

Anthony Johnson’s power may be the scariest in all of MMA.

Just think how Ryan Bader felt trapped underneath “Rumble” Saturday night in their main event light heavyweight contender eliminator fight at Fight Night New Jersey.

For Bader’s sake, the fight didn’t last long. After Johnson stuffed a takedown and then defended a kimura attempt from Bader, he scrambled and took top position. From there he proceeded to rain down huge blows for a few seconds before the referee came flying in to save Bader.

Joe Rogan may have said it best: Once Rumble got on top and in mount, Bader was doomed.

Here are the Fight Night New Jersey Talking Points:

More from Fight Night New Jersey: Full results | Post-fight bonus recap | Johnson makes quick work of Bader | Rothwell, Rivera earn wins | Barberena hands Northcutt first professional loss | Saffiedine, Ferreira and Natal among winners at Fight Night New Jersey prelims | Randy Brown wins in his UFC debut | Backstage interviews: Anthony Johnson, Ben Rothwell, Jimmie Rivera, Bryan Barberena, Tarec Saffiedine, Rafael Natal, Alexander Yakolev | Octagon interviews: Anthony Johnson, Ben Rothwell, Bryan Barberena, Randy Brown | Best images from New Jersey

1. Smarter "Rumble" proves he learned his lesson 

Ever since Daniel Cormier pulled himself off Johnson at UFC 187 following a stifling performance to claim the vacant light heavyweight title, the word on Rumble is that his power can be neutralized with a little wrestling.

That’s what Bader thought. He explained that his game plan was to try and use his striking to set up his wrestling.

But Johnson said he gassed a little bit against Cormier and learned a valuable lesson.
 


A smarter – yet still powerful – with-a-ground game Anthony Johnson is loose in the 205-pound division? Now, that’s scary indeed.

“People can say whatever they want to say about me,” Johnson said. “I’m always going to train hard, I’m always going to do my best, I’m always going to come out here and perform to the best of my ability.”

Now Johnson will likely play the waiting game as Jon Jones should be up next for champion Cormier. But given another crack at the title, Johnson said he’ll be ready, no matter who holds the belt when he gets there.

2. Rothwell sets sights on more than title

Ben Rothwell has had his eyes on the title for a long time in the heavyweight division, but he isn’t concerning himself with its pursuit these days.

“I think the belt is going to come secondary because my number one priority is laying waste to this entire division,” Rothwell said. “Tonight wasn’t about dancing or laughing; it was about making a statement. And I made it tonight.”
 


That statement was emphatic when he became the first fighter in history to submit Josh Barnett in an MMA fight. Barnett has 42 pro fights and is a former BJJ world champion.

Rothwell said after the fight that even if he goes on to win the title he’ll likely look back on beating Barnett as one of the highest achievements of his career because of the respect he has for “The Warmaster.”

Whatever comes next for Rothwell, he said he’ll be ready.

“I don’t know. Do they remake the champ versus the former champ? Then that’s going to leave me and Stipe (Miocic), I believe,” Rothwell said. “If they want to move things around and they want to put me in, I’ll crush (Fabricio) Werdum and I’ll take his belt.”

3. Jimmie Rivera lives up to expectations

Pegged by UFC commentator Brian Stann as one of the top young prospects in the game heading into 2016, Jimmie Rivera lived up to the praise against Iuri Alcantara.

Stann said during the 2016 UFC preview show that Rivera can do it all inside the Octagon, and “El Terror” showcased all of his skills against Alcantara. He stood up and struck with the veteran and found his openings to get the fight to the ground.
 


With three wins now in the UFC and a tough test against an experienced fighter like Alcantara under his belt, Rivera is now looking to move up in competition and fight a Top 10 opponent in the bantamweight division.

4. Not all doom and gloom for Sage Northcutt

“Super” Sage Northcutt came out as quick and aggressive as ever against Bryan Barberena, but the hype train driving the 19-year-old came flying off the tracks when “Bam Bam” submitted Northcutt in the second round with an arm triangle.

The holes in Northcutt’s developing game have been apparent, even in his wins, but at 19 years old it’s only natural the young lightweight with only seven pro fights had some learning still left to do.

He received a few more lessons from Barberena at welterweight after his original opponent – Andrew Holbrook at 155 – had to pull out just two weeks out from the fight.

There are several bright spots in this one for Northcutt despite the disappointing loss. He realizes that there are areas of his game that need to be improved, and that’s OK at this early stage of his career. Sometimes fighters have to go through adversity and be in dangerous positions inside the Octagon to grow and learn.

One thing Northcutt doesn’t need to improve on is his sportsmanship. He took the loss in stride. And although he said in the back that he was very disappointed, he was very respectful in defeat.

5. Randy Brown shines in debut

All eyes and the pressure of a reality show (“Lookin’ for a Fight”) were on Randy Brown in his debut against Matt Dwyer on the UFC FIGHT PASS prelims.

After a convincing unanimous decision victory, Brown said he barely noticed the pressure.

“It was no different than any other fight, really,” Brown told Joe Rogan inside the Octagon after his win. “It was the first time I fought someone with decent standup and that’s my height. It kind of threw me off a little bit so I had to make some adjustments. But other than that, I feel amazing and it was easy work.”

Brown’s athleticism was on full display in the fight.

After a slow start in the first, Brown was able to find his rhythm and his range. “Rude Boy” landed a number of kicks and knees in the final 10 minutes to secure the win.

The future looks bright for the undefeated Brown.

“I feel like it wasn’t my best performance tonight,” he said. “But I promise you, I promise you, I’m bringing the heat. Stay tuned.”

Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC

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