Demetrious Johnson is arguably the planet’s best Mixed Martial Artist.
The UFC Flyweight champion has notched up eight title defences since becoming the inaugural 125-pound champion. He has pretty much cleared out the division. Therefore, it came as no surprise when the UFC came up with an idea to hold a season of The Ultimate Fighter based entirely on getting Johnson an opponent. Sixteen champions were brought in from the regional scene to earn the opportunity. Former UFC flyweight Tim Elliott succeeded. This weekend he will get the chance to produce his ‘Matt Serra moment’.
Elliott is a gritty, effective flyweight. His first stint in the UFC showed that he was talented but he ultimately would come up short when he fought against title-contender calibre opponents. One could argue his move to the UFC came too early in his development. He has since won off three impressive wins for Titan Fighting Championship and was able to run off four wins on the show. Despite this, it will be a massive shock if he is able to stop Demetrious Johnson from notching a ninth title title defence.
Demetrious Johnson is a rare-breed of scientific technique, elite level cardio and some of the best transitions between facets of striking and grappling. In his last fight, a TKO win over Henry Cejudo, Johnson showed that he is simply on a different level. However, he has not been able to translate that in to popularity and PPV buys. That has often led to questions on his standing in the sport. Last year, Mike Fagan asked the question – how do you book Johnson? The answer simply may be that he needs to go and chase another division and world title.
Johnson was an effective bantamweight when he first came over to the UFC. He picked up wins over notable names such as Kid Yamamoto and Miguel Torres. He thenwent on to lose a title fight to the division kingpin, Dominick Cruz. The landscape at 135 pounds may have the same ruler but the division is far more stacked now. The likes of Cody Garbrandt and Jimmie Rivera would be interesting tests for Johnson. Or maybe he goes down the route of challenging the exciting John Lineker who alluded him when they were both in the flyweight division. There are options there for Johnson.
The real question from this weekend’s fight should therefore be more on when should Johnson attempt to become a two-weight UFC champion? It is hard to disagree with the statement that the latest series of The Ultimate Fighter has shown that there is a good talent pool of 125-pound fighters outside of the big leagues. That being said, the majority are still years away from hitting the level it would take to be a legitimate threat to the elite talent at the top of the division. That is where the stalemate will come for Johnson. Should he spend another year or two dominating the division or does he go looking for big money fights? I know which one fans would prefer.
It just may be time for the promotion to dangle the golden cheese in front of ‘Mighty Mouse‘.