- Associated Press - Saturday, January 30, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Anthony “Rumble” Johnson scaled the octagon and beckoned at the fans to cheer for him even louder.

With a dominant performance behind him, he’s calling for a title fight next.

Johnson pounced on Ryan Bader and finished the light heavyweight bout with a series of ground strikes to win by knockout in the main event of UFC’s Fight Night on Saturday night.

Johnson (21-5) was almost perched atop the fence longer than his actual bout.

Up next is a likely title match by the end of the year.

“I will be waiting for whoever has that belt,” Johnson said.

Johnson was choked out by current division champ Daniel Cormier last May. Jon Jones, who had his title stripped following a string of personal issues, could be on deck for Cormier. UFC said it should have an announcement on a potential bout within days. Jones beat Cormier by unanimous decision in January 2015.

“Jon and I will fight one day,” Johnson said. “I think we definitely want to challenge each other and see what we’re made of.”

Bader (21-5) came right at Johnson but his offense wouldn’t last long. Johnson sat on Bader’s back and swung away with powerful punches to the back of the head to win the match at 1:26 of the first.

Bader’s attempt at a quick takedown backfired and he was soon getting pummeled with the most potent punches of the night.

“People can say whatever they want to say about me, I always train hard, I always do my best,” Johnson said. “I just want to have fun when I’m out here, I’m not trying to prove anything to anybody.”

Ben Rothwell (36-9) choked out former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett (34-8) in the second round of their heavyweight bout at the Prudential Center.

Both fighters in the heavyweight bout stalled and heard boos in essentially a warm-up round where the lone highlight was Barnett’s jab to Rothwell’s nose that left him bloodied.

Rothwell soon left Barnett in a heap next to the cage.

Rothwell grabbed Barnett out of nowhere by the neck, cinched in the choke and won at 3:48 of the second. Barnett, who beat Randy Couture in 2002 for the heavyweight belt, submitted for the first time in his career.

“My No. 1 priority is laying waste to this entire division,” Rothwell said.

With his fourth straight win, the 265-pound Rothwell may soon be in line for a heavyweight title bout.

“If they stay in my way for a belt, I’m going to crush them,” Rothwell said.

The rest of the division may have heard the shoutout from a physical therapy center.

Heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum and former champ Cain Velasquez are both injured and had their planned rematch set for next week scrapped. Without a heavyweight headliner, UFC 196 in Las Vegas was pulled from pay-per-view and moved to cable on Fox Sports 1.

The canned main event wasn’t the only blow this week for the world’s leading MMA promotion.

New York again slapped a “no shirt, no shoes, no service” sign on the state’s biggest arenas that had clamored to hold a UFC card. UFC remained stuck an off-Broadway production - the Prudential Center is roughly 14 miles west of Madison Square Garden -and remains banned in New York.

Republican Sen. Joseph Griffo said this week the Senate will vote to legalize the sport this year for the seventh time and will put it in its budget proposal. Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, a Democrat, said they’re getting “very close” to having enough Assembly votes to pass legislation to regulate the sport. UFC targeted the fall for its debut should the legislation pass.

Assembly critics blocked the bill in the past, saying the mix of boxing, wrestling, kick boxing and jiu-jitsu is too violent.

The thrill of that violence is what earned UFC a primetime spot on Fox as part of a large deal with the network.

Sage Northcutt, at 19, the youngest fighter on the roster, and Bryan Barberena were both bloodied in the first round of their lightweight bout that opened the main card. Barberena choked out Northcutt in the second round and the crowd erupted.

Without The Garden as an option, UFC is right at home in the Garden State. New Jersey was one of the first states that embraced UFC, and president Dana White credited cards at the Trump Taj Mahal for helping the company grow into a heavyweight among the best sports leagues in the world. New York is the only major state debating whether MMA is more ferocious than other contact sports like boxing and football.

The organization moved up from casinos to holding UFC 32 in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, New Jersey. UFC took a break from Las Vegas for its annual Super Bowl weekend show and sold out the Prudential Center in 2014.

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