Popular opinion has Wilson Reis staring up at MMA’s equivalent of Mount Everest.
The Alliance MMA standout challenges Ultimate Fighting Championship flyweight titleholder Demetrious Johnson in the UFC on Fox 24 main event this Saturday at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. There, Reis will attempt to succeed where Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, John Moraga, Ali Bagautinov, Chris Cariaso, Kyoji Horiguchi, Henry Cejudo and Tim Elliott have all failed, some of them in spectacular fashion. The 32-year-old challenger has the wind of a three-fight winning streak in his sails, having last appeared in a unanimous decision victory over former Shooto Pacific Rim champion Yuta Sasaki at UFC 208 on Feb. 11 in Brooklyn, New York. BetDSI.com lists Reis as a +540 underdog.
Those long odds are more a reflection of Johnson’s dominance at 125 pounds than the Brazilian’s viability as a contender. “Mighty Mouse” has made nine consecutive successful title defenses since he took ownership of the flyweight championship in 2012. A 10th would tie him Anderson Silva for the most in UFC history. Johnson has not lost a fight in nearly six years.
As Reis approaches a career-defining showdown with the Madisonville, Kentucky, native, here are five things you might not know about him:
1. He keeps exclusive company.
Reis was one of was one of six fighters to capture a championship in EliteXC, along with Antonio Silva, Murilo Rua, Robbie Lawler, Jake Shields and K.J. Noons. He laid claim to the Gary Shaw-fronted promotion’s bantamweight crown with a five-round unanimous decision over Abel Cullum on Sept. 26, 2008.
2. Chokes are his specialty.
A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Roberto Godoi, Reis has an affinity for the neck. All 10 of his submission wins have resulted from chokes: seven by rear-naked and three more by arm-triangle. World Extreme Cagefighting veteran Scott Jorgensen, Team Alpha Male’s Hector Sandoval and onetime Bellator MMA champion Zach Makovsky are among the victims.
3. Quality matters.
Reis has only lost to top-flight opposition. The five men who have beaten him -- Jussier da Silva, Iuri Alcantara, Eduardo Dantas, Patricio Freire and Joe Soto -- own a cumulative 115-25 record and all have won championships at various stops in their careers: da Silva in Shooto Americas, Alcantara in Jungle Fight and Dantas, Freire and Soto in Bellator.
4. He has taken a liking to the flyweight division.
Undersized as a bantamweight and featherweight competitor, the diminutive 5-foot-4 Brazilian has gone 5-1 since downshifting to 125 pounds. That run includes an October 2014 arm-triangle choke submission of an overweight Jorgensen at UFC 179.
5. Navigating deep water has not been an issue.
More than half (16) of Reis’ 28 professional bouts have gone the distance, including decision wins over notable grinders like Bryan Caraway and Dustin Ortiz.