Lavar Johnson's tools for UFC on FOX 3 victory: hard head and acting skills

NEW YORK CITY – Lavar Johnson makes his network-television debut on Saturday as part of UFC on FOX 3's main card.

And, the heavyweight said, he expects it to be a successful one when he meets fellow striker Pat Barry.

After all, he's got two tools that should work just fine against a fighter such as Barry: a remarkably hard head and – when in a pinch – Oscar-worthy acting skills.

"I've never been knocked out," Johnson said on Wednesday during UFC on FOX 3 open workouts. "Car accidents, motorcycle accidents, football – no concussions, anything. I've got a hard head, I guess."

Johnson (16-5 MMA, 1-0 UFC) hopes his concrete cranium is up to the task on Saturday. He and Barry (7-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC) meet at IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on FOX following prelims on FUEL TV. The 5-foot-11 (on a good day) Barry could have trouble reaching 6-foot-4 Johnson's noggin, but it's a risk the Strikeforce vet wastes little time worrying about.

"Hey, if it happens, it happens," he said. "You can't go in there being afraid to be knocked out. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen. There's nothing you can do about it. You could be kicking a guy's ass for the whole round, and he could close his eyes ... and hit you one time, and it's over. You see (Junior) Dos Santos hit Cain (Velasquez) with one punch and that's it."

Dos Santos vs. Velasquez was the first of the UFC's FOX-televised heavyweight fights. Now, fresh off a UFC-debut "Knockout of the Night" victory over Joey Beltran at UFC on FOX 2, Johnson fights in the second one. Johnson, who snapped a two-fight losing streak in Strikeforce with the UFC victory, and opponent Barry are unlikely to fight for a title anytime soon. However, the heavy-handed heavyweights are the type of crowd-pleasers who will always be used to spruce up big UFC cards.

But don't expect a drawn-out, strategic and grinding affair. Johnson enters the cage with the intention of leaving it as quickly as possible.

"I think me and Pat are going to go at it," said Johnson, who owns 14 knockouts in 16 career wins. "Us heavyweights, we're lazy. We don't want to be there all night fighting for 15 minutes. So the quicker it's done, whether I knock him out or he knocks me out, as long as it's a good show, I'm happy.

"I just think that I'm bigger and I'm stronger, and I just have better leverage over him. I think I'll be able to wear him down in the clinch. If we do tie up, he has to be inside to hit me. I think I have a good boxing inside game too. He can't hit very good if he's going backward, so I'm just going to keep the pressure on him and keep him backing up."

Barry, of course, was an accomplished kickboxer before he turned his talents into an MMA career. He joined the UFC in just his fourth pro bout, and though he's an even .500 since then, he leaves fans on the edge of their seats. With each stinging leg and head kick, and with each wild power punch he flings, the crowd becomes a bit more electric.

At some point in a scheduled three rounds, Barry is very likely to ring Johnson's bell at least once. After all, Johnson said "speed kills," especially in the big-man division and with a fighter who possesses Barry's power. But he knows how to handle it.

"I'm a good actor," said Johnson, who trained with K-1 vet Carter Williams for this fight. "I've been hit hard a few times, and I wanted to look at my corner like, 'Do something. Throw the towel in or something.' But I put my game face on, I keep coming forward, and I think that changes it up.

"If somebody hits you with their hardest shot, and you're still coming at them, it breaks their confidence."

Since a 2009 gunshot wound put him on the shelf for a year, Johnson is 3-2. But a 2-0 start to his UFC career could help him break through to the next level of the heavyweight division rather quickly.

Millions of folks will be watching, and like UFC officials, they have great expectations for the heavyweight clash.

Once the door closes, though, Johnson said it's business as usual.

"A fight's a fight, regardless," he said. "As soon as the first punch is thrown, everything will be out of the window, and it will just be a regular fight."

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