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The UFC Champion Most Fans Don’t Recognize



This Saturday’s UFC 197 event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada was slated to feature a grudge match between the UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Daniel Cormier and former 205 LBS title holder Jon Jones, who was stripped of the belt last year after his hit-and-run incident. Cormier won the vacated championship after he submitted Anthony Johnson in May of last year and then won a split decision in a contest against Alexander Gustafsson a few months later. Still, Jones had previously defeated Cormier before his laundry list of legal problems derailed his rising career. Nearly a year and a half after the pair fought, Jones, who continues to have traffic incidents, is scheduled to return to the octagon, and the intense rivalry between the two athletes created much anticipation for the rematch.

However, just three weeks ago, Cormier was forced to cancel his scheduled fight after sustaining a foot injury in training. The bitter rivalry won’t be settled this weekend and UFC management was sent scrambling to find a replacement for the return of one of the sport’s top fighters. Ovince Saint Preux, who has shown flashes of brilliance during his career, was selected and provides a solid test for Jones. The 33-year-old is known mostly for his powerful striking, but has also displayed quality grappling skills during his time in the UFC, where he has a 7-2 record with a 19-7 overall record.

That being said, Saint Preux isn’t necessarily a major threat to defeat Jones and in many ways, UFC 197 has somewhat of a “consolation card” atmosphere around it, mostly because the a rematch was hyped since Cormier claimed the belt. Granted, the injury was beyond the UFC’s control and you have to credit Saint Preux for being willing to accept a fight with one of the top fighters in MMA on short notice. But, there just isn’t going to be the same draw for the event as a Cormier/Jones fight would generate. For Saint Preux, it’s a win-win situation because he either shocks the world to defeat Jones or if he loses, a loss to one of the best fighters in the world after taking a fight on short notice won’t damage his status in the division.

Despite all that, UFC 197 will still showcase one of the best fighters in the world defending the title against a formidable challenger, but unfortunately, most of the causal fans will probably overlook it. Demetrious Johnson, the UFC’s first (and as of now only) Flyweight champion will defend his title against undefeated challenger, Henry Cejudo. With an overall record of 23-2-1, Johnson has used tremendous technique and skill to bring a nine fight winning streak into the cage for this bout. Spectacular defense and precise striking, along with great grappling skills against some of the top fighters in the 125 lbs division have prompted many to argue that he might be the best pound-for-pound fighter in MMA today.

So, why hasn’t Demetrious Johnson received the same fanfare as some of his championship contemporaries?

There are a few reasons for it, most of those pertain to the weight division that Johnson reigns as champion. In a culture where athletes look more and more like super heroes, the general public just isn’t going to be as drawn to fighters of a smaller statue. Along with the 125 lbs weight limit, there will naturally be less power displayed or one punch KOs that are seen in the heavyweight division. Another aspect is that most of Johnson’s wins in the UFC are often one-sided decisions and causal fans often overlook the top-notch technique displayed in those victories. Basically, Johnson’s style carters to the die-hard MMA fan base that understand the technical side of the sport. However, that doesn’t always translate to a main stream draw. For example, Floyd Mayweather was a lighter weight fighter and was boxing’s top act, but his impressive skills inside the ropes aren’t what translated to box office numbers, but rather his villainous persona. In truth, most of the general public weren’t necessary impressed with the tremendous boxing ability, as it wasn’t going to produce wild brawl and instead fans often paid just to see if he would be defeated. That’s another reason behind the lack of main stream draw for Demetrious Johnson, he’s a quiet and humble fighter that goes into a contest, and dominates an opponent to get the win. That’s not to say that he should suddenly rant to sell a pay-per-view because he shouldn’t have to, but just the disappointing aspect of the situation that his great skills don’t get buzz from the general public.

His opponent for UFC 197, Henry Cejudo is an Olympic gold medalist in freestyle wrestling and as mentioned, brings an undefeated record of 10-0 into the contest. Despite the previous accomplishments, Cejudo hasn’t fought anyone on the level of Johnson in MMA and I would say that Johnson will use his speed, and technical striking ability to retain the title via unanimous decision.

It’s disappointing that Demetrious Johnson’s skills and possible victory against an Olympic gold medals will probably go mostly unnoticed, with the exception of the die-hard fans that already recognize his greatness, but make no mistake about it, the flyweight title fight at UFC 197 is one of the reasons mixed martial arts is a great sport.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts, opinions, feedback and anything else that was raised.

Until next week
-Jim LaMotta

E mail | You can follow me on Twitter @jimlamotta

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