When the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) linked arms with media conglomerate FOX I daydreamed of the possibilities. This sport that I watched grow from an ugly, violent duckling had transformed into a beautiful swan that would be featured as a major sport alongside National Football League (NFL) coverage.
One of my pipedreams was for the lighter weight-classes to get their date in the sunlight and thus far, a year and change into this expedition nobody under 155-pounds has had their chance to steal the show on the big-stage until this Saturday night.
Not only on the main card but at the top of the billing, the runts of the litter get their shot with the 125-pound title on the line as Demetrious Johnson defends against John Dodson.
When I look at this fight I foresee a large percentile of it being contested as a high-tempo kickboxing match so let’s take a look at the striking repertoire of each combatant.
The pair of flyweight speedsters are both accomplished strikers but bring a different style of kick-fighting to the table – Johnson uses his speed and agility to put on a boxing clinic and evade danger while Dodson doesn’t like to be in as tight with his striking and doesn’t point fight, he throws heat with his powerhouse left-hook and always looks for the knockout.
With this fight though, his aggression could come back to haunt him. While he showed good patience in his last fight as he found his opening against Jussier da Silva the Greg Jackson-trained fighter might not have the composure to deal with Johnson’s pitter-patter attack for five rounds.
If ‘The Magician’ gets overzealous and tries to rush the 125-pound king of the hill it would majorly backfire as the champion has excellent counter-striking.
In many ways, Johnson can be compared to the divisional ruler ten-pounds north, Dominick Cruz who has an unpredictable offence that has been dubbed ‘point fighting’ by their detractors but if you pay close attention both men throw punches with intent, they just lack the power to put in the coffin nails.
Each 125-pound star has a diverse skillset with their striking too, each likes to mix things up with powerful lead leg kicks, crushing knees and dangerous elbows. When I look at the striking game of both participants I feel that Johnson is technically the more sound and accurate striker but Dodson has an ace up both sleeves – His unorthodox nature and his crushing knockout power.
What makes Dodson such a hard fighter to prepare for is that he is such an athletic fighter and has the ability to flip, turn and contort his body in any direction like an Olympic gymnast so he can flip in the air during a fight and also has a deadly flying knee that you have to watch out for.
Plus, when he hits you, you’re probably going to fall to the mat and pounced on with thirty lightning-fast hammer fists.
While most of the fight will plausibly be contested with gloves, knees and elbows the wrestling of both men has the chance to change the outcome of the fight completely. Neither chooses to use their wrestling in the conventional sense but we do have two accomplished wrestlers here.
I feel that Johnson pound-for-pound is the superior wrestler and can get Dodson to the canvas but I am unsure if he can keep him there. The New Mexico native is constantly active and will look to wall-walk and get this back to a kickboxing match at the first chance he gets.
The key reason I see “Mighty Mouse” having the advantage here is that I am unsure if Dodson can get him down. I expected it to be a wash that bantamweight title-challenger Joseph Benavidez could overwhelm Johnson with wrestling to snatch the first 125-pound crown but he didn’t get him down once after 7 attempts.
Cardiovascular fitness is going to be a factor here as I have seen both men have susceptible gas tanks in the past. Several years ago when Dodson challenged for his first title against perennial top-ranked flyweight Pat Runez his fitness ultimately cost him his first championship.
Dodson dominated the beginning of the fight, almost finishing the unbeaten Arizona Combat Club fighter in the first two frames before that train fell completely off the tracks and Runez took the reins and cruised to a decision.
Similar to his Jacksons training partner Diego Brandao he didn’t pace himself for 25 minutes, he fought to finish in the first frame and when he didn’t there was nothing left in the tank. I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt though, he was 24-years-old in his first title fight but it certainly hurts my confidence in him as he hasn’t been five rounds since.
Johnson isn’t exempt from criticism either. I was cage side for his semi-final bout in the flyweight tournament in Sydney, Australia against ‘Uncle Creepy’ Ian McCall who wore him down in the clinch before flooring his overwhelmed foe with takedowns and dominating Johnson with hammer-fists while on his back and seeking submissions.
Realistically, if my fellow Countrymen at the New South Wales control board didn’t make a mathematical error calculating tallies and this fight went through to a deciding fourth round Johnson likely wouldn’t be the George Washington of flyweight champions, merely a contender fighting for a chance at the top prize.
This is a fight that has the potential to set Chicago ablaze with an action-heavy, fast-paced war as the flyweights fight for respect and all the marbles in their burgeoning division.
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