Demetrious Johnson was spectacular on Saturday in Seattle. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Up until the moment Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight titleholder Demetrious Johnson touched gloves with John Moraga prior to their UFC on Fox 8 headliner, the spirit surrounding the event had all but dissipated.
So drab was the co-feature between world-ranked welterweights Rory MacDonald and Jake Ellenberger that it had sucked the life right out of the venue. To say the fans inside KeyArena in Seattle were displeased with the three slumber-inducing rounds brought forth by MacDonald and Ellenberger would be a gross understatement.
Luckily, those who enjoy mixed martial arts were treated to one heck of a performance in the main event, as the little guys did not disappoint. Johnson systematically dissected Moraga, demonstrating his diverse and technical skill set along the way. Moraga stayed engaged, but “Mighty Mouse” was simply too much for him to handle.
The challenger had his moments. Moraga popped the champion with a short right hand in the fourth round, appearing to break Johnson’s nose; and he escaped several submission attempts that were thrown his way. However, “Mighty Mouse” never allowed Moraga to find any sort of rhythm. In the end, Johnson executed a beautiful kimura-to-armbar submission, retaining his flyweight crown and nailing down the latest stoppage in the UFC’s 20-year history.
Even though there is an extremely short list of fighters capable of hanging with Johnson for 25 minutes, it will be difficult for the 26-year-old AMC Pankration standout to reach the level of superstardom fighters like Georges St. Pierre, Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture have enjoyed. Why? He is simply too small. One sad truth plagues combat sports: the casual fan tends to care more about the big men. Once in a while, a smaller fighter will rise up and turn the sport upside down, but for the most part, bigger-bodied bruisers always seem to steal the spotlight.
Hardcore fans understand the intricacies involved with the smaller weight classes. Not every fight ends in a knockout, but the combination of speed and technique that is prevalent at 125, 135 and 145 pounds is something to behold. Still, in MMA, boxing and other combat sports it is nearly impossible to sell the casual fan on greatness in lower weight divisions. Remember, there was a time when the lightweight division went dark in the UFC, even after Yves Edwards scored one of the most spectacular knockouts in history against Josh Thomson.
If any promoter can turn Johnson into a household name, it is the UFC. He is after all one of the top 10 pound-for-pound fighters on the planet and one of the most entertaining fighters competing in MMA today.
Miscellaneous Debris: By now, the majority of MMA fans have gotten over the numbing encounter between MacDonald and Ellenberger. With the win, MacDonald is certainly worthy of receiving a crack at the UFC’s welterweight title, depending on what happens in the forthcoming title bout between St. Pierre and Hendricks in November; but after watching MacDonald do just enough to turn away Ellenberger, does he actually deserve it? ... There once was a time when Robbie Lawler was hailed as the second coming of Mike Tyson. He has enjoyed a successful career but hit a few stumbling blocks along the way. Having returned to the UFC in February, Lawler has never looked better. If the former EliteXC champion’s performances against Josh Koscheck and Bobby Voelker are any indication of what is to come, then everyone at 170 pounds had better take note, including St. Pierre and Hendricks ... It is hard to figure out whether or not Melvin Guillard is back on track in the lightweight division or just a beneficiary of a fading Mac Danzig. Guillard’s second-round knockout was equal parts spectacular and violent, as he handed Danzig his third loss in four fights. The next outing from “The Young Assassin” should tell us a lot more.
Follow Mike Sloan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mikesloan19.