Demetrious Johnson took every minute of each round at UFC 174. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Demetrious Johnson peeled away all the suspense.
Johnson kept his stranglehold on the Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight title with a unanimous decision over two-time combat sambo world champion Ali Bagautinov in the UFC 174 main event on Saturday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. “Mighty Mouse” swept every round on all three scorecards, securing 50-45s across the board.
A fighter without peer in the still-fledgling flyweight division, Johnson has won his last six fights and become a fixture in the pound-for-pound discussion.
In wake of UFC 174 “Johnson vs. Bagautinov,” here are half a dozen matchups that ought to be considered:
Related: UFC 174 -- By The Numbers
Rory MacDonald vs. Johny Hendricks: Yes, all signs point to the winner of the Robbie Lawler-Matt Brown battle at UFC on Fox 12 being the next welterweight title contender, but it could be argued that MacDonald has done as much -- if not more -- than either of those men to warrant a crack at the gold. The Tristar Gym representative suffocated Tyron Woodley with his vast set of offensive tools, cruising to a unanimous decision in the UFC 174 co-main event. MacDonald, 24, has rattled off seven wins in eight appearances, though his defeat to Lawler in November still provides fuel for his critics. Hendricks captured the vacant welterweight crown with a unanimous decision over Lawler at UFC 171, but an injury and subsequent surgery have kept him on the sidelines ever since.
Ali Bagautinov vs. Ian McCall-Brad Pickett loser: Bagautinov failed in his bid to unseat Johnson and watched his career-best 11-fight winning streak come to an end in the process. The 29-year-old Dagestani grappler had trouble navigating Johnson’s speed and technique, as he was forced to eat knees, punches and kicks while attempting to close the distance. Bagautinov managed two takedowns in 16 attempts but never secured a dominant position, allowing the champion to rise to his feet and resume picking him apart. Even in defeat, Bagautinov does not figure to fall far in the pecking order at 125 pounds. McCall will face Pickett at UFC Fight Night “McGregor vs. Brandao” on July 19 in Dublin.
Tyron Woodley vs. Robbie Lawler-Matt Brown loser: The fact that Woodley was not competitive in dropping a unanimous decision to MacDonald should give his supporters pause. He did not look like a man who was ready for a shot at the welterweight title. The American Top Team representative had no answer for MacDonald’s length, reach and offensive variety; Woodley, a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler, even surrendered a third-round takedown to him. The setback halted Woodley’s two-fight winning streak and perhaps more importantly erased much of the equity he had built in victories over Josh Koscheck and Carlos Condit. Lawler and Brown will duke it out in the UFC on Fox 12 headliner on July 26.
Ryan Bader vs. Ovince St. Preux: UFC 174 could not have gone better for Bader. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 8 winner steamrolled former Strikeforce champion Rafael Cavalcante behind a series of takedowns and damaging ground-and-pound. Bader fed “Feijao” one knee after another on the ground, some pelting the thigh and ribcage, others targeting the buttocks. Under constant duress, Cavalcante’s gas tank ran dry. St. Preux improved to 4-0 inside the Octagon, as he forced onetime Maximum Fighting Championship titleholder Ryan Jimmo to submit 2:10 into the second round. The 31-year-old has won 12 of his last 13 fights, a decision loss to Gegard Mousasi in December 2011 the lone misstep.
Andrei Arlovski vs. Stefan Struve-Matt Mitrone winner: Arlovski may not have turned back the clock, but the former UFC heavyweight champion made a successful return to the Octagon by picking up a split decision over “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 10 finalist Brendan Schaub. The 35-year-old “Pit Bull” had not competed under the Ultimate Fighting Championship banner since knocking out Jake O’Brien at UFC 82 more than six years ago. Arlovski will carry a modest three-fight winning streak into his next appearance. Struve and Mitrione will collide at UFC 175 on July 5 in Las Vegas.