Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson relies on his speed. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
The flyweight division has been slow to catch on with the casual fan, as a number of perfectly entertaining bouts featuring the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s smallest fighters have brought out the boo birds at recent events. Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson, the headliners for UFC on Fox 6, have experienced the wrath of the uneducated observer already, but the promotion is counting on the pairing of these two fast-twitch phenoms to convert a few non-believers on Saturday at the United Center in Chicago.
If flyweight fare does not pique your interest, UFC on Fox 6 has plenty more to offer: the potential Octagon finale for Quinton Jackson, a bad-blood lightweight showdown between Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis and an intriguing featherweight clash pitting Ricardo Lamas against Erik Koch.
Here is a closer look at the card, with analysis and picks:
Sherdog Fantasy MMA: UFC on Fox 6 Free Fan Pick’Em
UFC Flyweight Championship
Demetrious Johnson (16-2-1, 4-1-1 UFC) vs. John Dodson (14-5, 3-0 UFC)
The Matchup: For much of his Zuffa career, Johnson has played the role of the underdog, but after a longer-than-expected route to the UFC 125-pound belt, “Mighty Mouse” enters his first title defense as the favorite. The AMC Pankration representative has earned the designation; beating Ian McCall and Joseph Benavidez, two of the world’s Top 5 flyweights, back-to-back is a significant achievement.
Johnson mixed punches and kicks well against Benavidez at UFC 152, out-landing his opponent by 33 significant strikes over the course of the five-round affair. Perhaps even more impressively, he landed five takedowns while defending all seven of the Team Alpha Male product’s attempts. In winning his rematch with McCall in June, Johnson demonstrated improved conditioning from their initial meeting while consistently beating “Uncle Creepy” to the punch.
However, Dodson represents a different type of challenge than Benavidez or McCall. While it was generally believed that both of Johnson’s previous foes held a strength advantage over the former World Extreme Cagefighting talent, Dodson combines size, power and explosiveness unlike anyone the champion has faced to date. If Dodson cannot match Johnson in the speed department, he comes pretty close.
The Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts member blasted through the bantamweight field on “The Ultimate Fighter 14,” concluding his run with a first-round stoppage of T.J. Dillashaw at the finale. As soon as the UFC added the flyweight division, “The Magician” relocated, scoring victories over Tim Elliott and Jussier da Silva in his first two 125-pound outings.
Dodson showed good patience against da Silva, who was once considered by many to be the world’s No. 1 flyweight. After engaging in a feeling-out process in round one, Dodson showed off his powerful left hand in the second round, dropping the Brazilian twice before finishing the contest with strikes on the ground. With his compact muscular frame and quick hands, Dodson might be the greatest knockout threat in the division.
Johnson is not especially easy to hit, but he was staggered by a Benavidez right hand in the fourth round of their title bout in September. Dodson probably has as much -- if not more -- power than Benavidez, particularly in his left hand. An adept counterpuncher with a solid understanding of movement and angles, Dodson has the potential to hurt Johnson on the feet if he picks his spots correctly. “Mighty Mouse” has proven to be the more accurate striker of the two, as he has been able to consistently land combinations with speed and accuracy. The quickness of his attacks also allows him to effectively set up his takedown shots, even against physically stronger opponents. Dodson has a good sprawl and balance, however, and the New Mexico native has yet to be taken down in UFC competition.
Dodson has shown no signs of serious fatigue in the Octagon, but a potential 25-minute bout against Johnson, who sets an incredibly frenetic pace throughout his fights, will give the challenger’s gas tank a serious test. In a back-and-forth battle that will likely be difficult to score, the fresher fighter down the stretch will have the chance to make a definitive statement in the championship frames. Dodson figures to be significantly larger than Johnson on fight night -- he has been known to cut from as much as 160 pounds -- and his ability to control the wrestling aspect of the fight could be pivotal in stealing a round or two. Still, maintaining dominant position against Johnson is a tall task.
The Pick: Dodson is the more powerful and innovative striker, but Johnson has a tendency to outland everyone he faces thanks to his blinding speed. However, Dodson is not as likely to be overwhelmed by Johnson’s speed as his previous foes have been. Without the usual edge in athleticism, Johnson could run into some rough patches against the more powerful Dodson. While scorecards could be all over the place in this one, Dodson edges Johnson to become the new 125-pound ruler.
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