Demetrious Johnson continued to clean out the flyweight division at UFC 186. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Demetrious Johnson apparently still has some work to do if he is to become a needle-moving superstar.
As the championship rounds arrived in the UFC 186 main event on Saturday evening and Johnson continued to impose his will on a seemingly helpless Kyoji Horiguchi, fans at Bell Centre in Montreal began to head for the exits.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise considering that many of those in attendance had no problem voicing their displeasure earlier in the bout as “Mighty Mouse” dragged his Japanese foe to the canvas again and again. Perhaps Johnson was simply too good for his own good, because his dominance sucked most of the drama out of the flyweight headliner -- at least until the end.
With one second remaining in the bout, Johnson submitted Horiguchi with an armbar, the latest tapout victory in UFC history. “Mighty Mouse” has displayed something of a penchant for late-round theatrics in his career: His submission triumph over John Moraga 3:43 into round five at UFC on Fox 8 was the latest finish in promotion history until Frankie Edgar stopped Cub Swanson at the 4:56 mark of the final stanza last November.
“My record got broken not too long ago for the latest finish. I figured if I waited until the last second the only way they would beat it was if there was six rounds. That’s what we were focused on,” Johnson quipped at Saturday’s post-fight press conference.
Those who left early to beat post-fight traffic missed out on that little slice of history, not that UFC President Dana White cared.
“I didn’t notice,” he said. “I don’t give a s--t what people are doing. I’m watching the fight. [It’s like] you’re walking out when you think your basketball team is losing, and they come back and win the game.”
While Johnson continues to run roughshod over his division, his greatest challenge remains winning over the fans. Despite a résumé that includes wins over Joseph Benavidez (twice), John Dodson, Ali Bagautinov, Ian McCall, Moraga and now Horiguchi, the champion hasn’t been able to really get over with the people that buy tickets and pay-per-views.
White is confident that Johnson is on the right track to stardom.
“It’s kind of sad that Demetrious Johnson has got this thing hanging over his head that he’s not this, he’s not that,” White said. “His cardio is unbelievable. He’s the fastest guy in the sport. He is technically perfect. He does everything the exact way he supposed to. He comes in with a game plan and follows it to the letter.
“He’s just one of those guys that‘s got to put his head down, keep doing his thing and you have to respect him. Anderson Silva wasn’t the biggest star ever while he was champion. Chuck Liddell wasn’t a big star for a while. His day will come.”
Johnson should be an interested observer when Dodson and Zach Makovsky square off at UFC 187 next month, as the winner of the bout is likely the next title challenger. Dodson is largely viewed as the most intriguing opponent for the Matt Hume pupil because of his dangerous knockout power. The Jackson-Wink MMA product rocked Johnson a couple of times early in their first bout at UFC on Fox 6 before “Mighty Mouse” wore him down over the later rounds.
While Johnson has balked at the prospect of a Dodson rematch when the subject was broached in the past, on Saturday night he seemed more open to possibility.
“I’ve never shied away from any rematch or a fight from anybody in the flyweight division,” he said. “I’m just not the person who goes out there and seeks it. The champion doesn’t seek challengers. Challengers find me. That’s where we’re at. If he gets past Zach Makovsky, we can get him up again.”