’s 2013 Fighter of the Year

Demetrious Johnson

By Brian Knapp Jan 8, 2014
Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson reigns over the flyweight division. | Photo: Dave Mandel/

2. Demetrious Johnson

The UFC’s smallest champion casts one of its largest shadows.

Johnson successfully defended his flyweight crown on three different occasions over the past 12 months, cementing his place as one of the sport’s premier pound-for-pound performers with consecutive victories over John Dodson, John Moraga and Joseph Benavidez. Though some have expressed interest in seeing “Mighty Mouse” return to 135 pounds for potential super fights, the 27-year-old Madisonville, Ky., native wants to take care of business closer to home.

“I appreciate it and I appreciate all the love fans give me, but there’s a lot of work that needs to be done at 125 [pounds],” Johnson told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Cheap Seats” show. “I need to dominate and clean out the entire division and then I can start thinking about going up to 135. Like I said, I’m happy to be at 125. I love training hard. I love the weight cut and I love fighting guys that are five-three and five-four.”

Johnson kicked off his remarkable 2013 campaign in the Windy City. Pushing a merciless pace, he retained his flyweight crown with a unanimous decision over Dodson in the UFC on Fox 6 headliner on Jan. 26 at the United Center in Chicago. All three cageside judges scored it for Johnson: 48-47, 49-46 and 48-47.

Dodson spent himself in the first and second rounds, dropping the champion to a knee with a stout left hand in the first before staggering him with another in the second. “Mighty Mouse” -- who secured takedowns in all five rounds -- never stopped moving forward and eventually wore down “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14 winner. In the fourth frame, Johnson brought the Thai plum into play, as he bludgeoned Dodson with repeated knees to the head and body. Much of the same unfolded in the fifth, where the champion appeared close to a stoppage on more than one occasion. Though Dodson kept his nose in the fight, the decision was lost.

According to FightMetric figures, Johnson out-landed his challenger in terms of significant strikes in all five rounds.

“Mighty Mouse” was far from finished. He defended the flyweight title again in the UFC on Fox 8 main event, as he submitted John Moraga with a fifth-round armbar on July 27 at Key Arena in Seattle. Moraga conceded defeat 3:43 into round five, his seven-fight winning streak a thing of the past.

Johnson was simply outstanding and showed why most view him as one of the sport’s top technicians. The AMC Pankration export went a perfect 12-for-12 on takedown attempts, passed Moraga’s guard 13 times and out-landed the Arizonan by a 67-32 count in significant strikes and 112-53 in total strikes. A Matt Hume protégé, Johnson struck for beautifully disguised takedowns in all five rounds, effectively neutralizing the challenger’s heavy hands. Moraga did his best work in the fourth frame, where he countered the oncoming champion with a straight right to the face. The blow staggered Johnson and left him with a visibly damaged nose, but he recovered and picked up where he left off, blood be damned.

With a little more than a minute remaining in round five, Johnson grounded Moraga again, moved to side control and fished for a kimura before transitioning to an all-in armbar. His limb hyperextended and on the verge of real physical damage, Moraga had no choice but to opt out of the fight. It was the latest stoppage in UFC history, having occurred with just 77 seconds remaining in the 25-minute clash.

However, Johnson saved his best effort for last. He knocked out Team Alpha Male’s Benavidez with a clean right hook and follow-up punches in the UFC on Fox 9 headliner on Dec. 14 at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, Calif. Benavidez, who had never before been finished, succumbed to the blows 2:08 into the first round.

After a relatively uneventful first half of round one, Johnson backed Benavidez towards the cage, clocked him with a right hook and rendered him unconscious with four jackhammer rights on the ground. The 27-year-old champion had not stopped a fight with strikes in nearly four years.

“A lot of people were saying I don’t have knockout power, but I’m always getting better working at AMC with Matt Hume,” Johnson said. “My coaches [and I] were trying to work on settling my weight down and landing a big power shot. We’re just showing a little bit of what we can do at AMC, and there are more things to come.”

Continue Reading » Number Three: Vitor Belfort


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