Somewhere between the soap opera that has become Conor McGregor and UFC 200, episode after episode of “As The Octagon Turns” ; and somewhere around dissecting the less that stellar return of Jon Jones in his distance going decision win over Ovince Saint Preux, there is one story, one man who really stood out. The one who stands 5’3″ weighing 125.
Demetrious Johnson remains the one and only UFC flyweight champ, winning the inaugural crown in 2012 at UFC 152 against Joseph Benevidez and since reeling off 8 title defenses. The latest last week, a don’t blink 1st round TKO demolition of Olympic Gold Medalist Henry Cejudo might have been his best. In taking out Cejudo he has virtually wiped out the competition in the flyweight ranks.
Cejudo entered the match as the number 2 ranked contender. He joins a division who’s who of those who have heard the roar and felt the wrath of “Mighty Mouse.” Number 1 contender Benavidez has lost twice, Number 4 Ian McCall did have a majority draw in the tournament way back when, but he lost the rematch in that same tourney. Number 5 Kyoji Horiguchi and 6th ranked John Moraga have also gone down, as did Ali Bagautinov ranked 10th. Chris Cariaso eventually retired and after two losses in as many tries, John Dodson moved back to bantamweight. All conquered by Johnson.
Which leaves less than a handful, no one ranked higher than 6 in the UFC standings as a possibility for a challenger. He is in control the way Georges St. Pierre once owned the welterweight ranks and Anderson Silva was untouchable in the middleweight division. Silva’s record 10 straight title defenses is certainly in plain sight for Johnson.
Pound-for-Pound can be an overused, overblown calculation of a fighter. It’s fun to debate and usually the lighter weight fighters get the edge over heavyweights. Johnson is universally regarded as the second best in the P-4-P behind Jones. After his latest victory he could easily be at the top because he brought another arsenal to his repertoire, at least a rediscovery of something. He had won 3 of 4 via decision, but the TKO of Cejudo was his first since 2007 although there have been two straight out KO’s since including one (over Benevidez) in the string of title defenses, this was a different looking Johnson.
It was the whirling, non-stop display of knees and punches that shows continued growth as a fighter, those tireless hours at AMC Pankration in Seattle paying huge dividends in the cage. He has had only one coach for his career, the highly esteemed Matt Hume, the fight veteran who has coached and managed world wide, he sees daily the specialness of Johnson.
“What makes him different is you get guys who are athletic, have technique, are mentally tough and have an abundance of cardio and speed. But it’s very rarely that you get a guy who has everything and even if they do they burn out because they don’t have the love for the sport,” Hume assesses. “With D.J. you have all those qualities in one in addition to the fact that he has a passion for fighting and learning that only gets stronger.”
No doubt the UFC will find another contender, move someone up the ranks a little quicker or just have another rematch. But it is the most difficult division to match up now because of Johnson’s dominance. He is the star that doesn’t always get the attention but shines the brightest when he needs to, that fire that Hume talks of driving him in workouts, training camps and in the octagon. It has made Mighty Mouse the mightiest and flat out unstoppable.
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