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Demetrious Johnson: Muhammad Mokaev Can Dethrone Alexandre Pantoja



Based on what he saw in the UFC 301 headliner, Demetrious Johnson believes Muhammad Mokaev can dethrone reigning flyweight champ Alexandre Pantoja.

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Johnson was not impressed by Pantoja’s unanimous decision win over Steve Erceg in the main event at UFC 301 on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro. Johnson saw a one-dimensional showing from “The Cannibal,” who failed to land much damage on Erceg despite ground control time of over eight minutes.

“When I was watching the fight, I didn’t feel like [Alexandre] Pantoja was a better fighter…” Johnson said on his YouTube channel. “His grappling is his strongest suit. If you can keep him away from his grappling then you can pretty much, I feel, you can take advantage of him. He can’t fight in the clinch, there’s no elbows, there’s no dumping him to the side. It was basically running at you with my hands down and punch and go for a takedown and then take you down.”

Johnson also deems Pantoja’s performances to be lackluster in comparison to those of former UFC flyweight champs — including himself. According to the reigning ONE Championship 135-pound title holder, Pantoja starts strong but struggles to get through the fight as it progresses.

“And I feel Pantoja cuts too much weight. Even though he looks tired, he’s not tired but that’s where he fights,” Johnson said. “When I look at the past champions, when I look at Figgy [Deiveseon Figueiredo], absolutely amazing champion, power, great athleticism. When I look at Henry Cejudo, who’d move and move so good, he’s finishing people. And then when I look at myself, I was moving and finishing people. And then when I look at Pantoja, it’s almost like he’s getting through the fight, he’s not excelling through the fight. What I mean by excelling: It’s not like he’s getting stronger as the fight goes on. It’s almost like he starts strong and then kind of plateaus.”

While Johnson thinks Erceg could defeat Pantoja in another year or two, he believes Mokaev could best the Brazilian champion now.

“I think you give Steve Erceg another year, two years, I think he beats Pantoja. That’s the problem with the flyweight division, it’s that there’s not a lot of athletes there,” Johnson said. “Now you do have Mokaev. I think Mokaev can beat Alex Pantoja, because one, he’s better on the feet. Two, he has a better wrestling background. Three, I think he’ll be better about not making a decision like, ‘Hey I can beat Pantoja on the feet, I don’t need to take him down.’”

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