The Greatest Title Fights in UFC History Part Three: Flyweight
In this ongoing series for TuffGnarl.com, I am isolating a single UFC title fight from the annals of history and identifying it as, by far, the finest of the pack—the single greatest division-specific championship bout in UFC history.
Welcome back. We previously examined the greatest title fights in both the male and female bantamweight divisions, but, in doing so, completely skipped the UFC’s lightest titled group, the 125-pound flyweights. Today, we’ll rectify that.
Event: UFC on FOX 6: Johnson vs. Dodson
Fight: Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson vs. John “The Magician” Dodson
By the time this fight happened in early 2013, flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson had already gone through the mini gauntlet of a four-man tournament to decide the inaugural 125-pound UFC champion and had come out on top, edging out fellow former bantamweight challenger Joseph Benavidez in a five-round contest that, despite boos from the crowd, is remembered fondly for its competitiveness.
The UFC next slotted him against The Ultimate Fighter winner John Dodson, who was dropping down from bantamweight. His proportions almost mirrored Johnson’s and his credentials (longtime Greg Jackson pupil, explosive knockout power, comparable speed and athleticism) made him a compelling next opponent for “Mighty Mouse.”
UFC on FOX 6: Johnson vs. Dodson marked the first occasion in the organization’s history that the flyweights headlined a card. Check out some of these undercard bouts:
- In the co-main event, Glover Teixeira handed Quinton “Rampage” Jackson his last loss in the Octagon, sending the former light heavyweight champion off to Bellator MMA.
- In the sub-co-main event, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis absolutely obliterated Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, turning in one of the most artful performances in lightweight history.
- Ricardo Lamas starched former featherweight #1 contender Erik Koch, mashing him into a bloody pool on the mat and solidifying his place as the next rightful challenger to Jose Aldo’s throne.
- On the preliminary card, TJ Grant knocked out Matt Wiman, Clay Guida eked out a close decision against Hatsu Hioki, Ryan Bader choked out Vladimir Matyushenko, Shawn Jordan TKOed Mike Russow and Rafael Natal welcomed Sean Spencer to the UFC with third-round mounted arm triangle.
Go ahead and tell me how the UFC isn’t stretching itself too thinly.
But the best was yet to come. In the main event, Johnson and Dodson put on a terrific performance, earning “Fight of the Night” and supplying fans with several memorable moments. Dodson knocked Johnson down twice in the second round, visibly wobbling the defending champion the second time and, although DJ eventually recovered and went on to dominate in the last two rounds of the fight, the threat of a connecting punch from Dodson kept “Mighty Mouse” wary of over-committing and leaving himself vulnerable. Conversely, Johnson did to “The Magician” what absolutely no one had been able to before: land a takedown. In fact, he landed 5/15 takedowns over the course of the fight (compared to Dodson’s sole successful takedown in the fifth round).
After getting his head smashed around by the challenger, something in the fourth round clicked for DJ and he realized an area where he had a considerable advantage over Dodson: the clinch. For the next two rounds, he turned the tide (he’d lost two of the previous three rounds), locking on the Thai plum behind Dodson’s neck and slamming knees and elbows into his head, opening up the Greg Jackson pupil’s scalp in the process.
The reason this fight earns top billing instead of Johnson vs. Benavidez 1 and Johnson vs. Moraga (which, although not close, provided fans with Johnson’s first finish inside the Octagon in the fifth round and his first since 2010) are fourfold:
- It was just plain more exciting than the other two. More punches were landed, more grappling exchanges were contested and it truly had that see-saw effect that characterizes great title tilts. And unlike Johnson vs. Benavidez, there weren’t boos so audible that the broadcast team felt compelled to comment about it.
- Animosity doesn’t always breed interest, but this fight in particular has taken on a more alluring complexion since it ended. Demetrious Johnson, as gregarious and even-tempered as they come, has made it evident that something about John Dodson rubs him the wrong way and, according to Dodson, snubbed him after the fight. A rematch between the two was all but a foregone conclusion (and one of the four key steps in drawing more attention to the oft-ignored flyweight kingpin I wrote about previously) until “The Magician” suffered an injury sidelining him for an entire year. However, when that year is up, take note of how quickly that fight is put together.
- Both fighters exposed vulnerabilities in the other. Although Johnson’s cardio and clinch control eventually won him the fight, Dodson’s performance still stands as the one that most threatened the ruler of the 125 pound division.
Check out some gifs of the fight below:
A freelance MMA, entertainment and business journo born, raised and residing in Miami, FL, Jesse Scheckner is a musician, cinephile and recovering ne’er-do-well who still believes Mickey Rourke’s finest days in film have yet to come. He isTuffGnarl.com‘s editor-in-chief. Follow him on Twitter: @JesseScheckner.
(Slider Image: Getty Images.)
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