7 consecutive successful title defenses. Undefeated as a flyweight in 10 UFC fights. Pound for pound best fighter in the world today? Not so fast. In my humble opinion, Demetrious Johnson still has a little bit of work to do.
He’s the only champion in the short history of the flyweight division and saying he’s cleaned it out wouldn’t be a false statement. Below, we’ll take a look at some potential opponents for “Mighty Mouse” and discuss whether his next fight should take place at flyweight or if he should move up to bantamweight.
Johnson has beaten five of top ten ranked men in his division – some of them twice. Two men that he has yet to face, Henry Cejudo and Jussier Formiga, will collide on November 21st at the TUF Latin America 2 finale.
With a 2-0 record as a flyweight (3-0 overall) since being signed by the UFC, Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo has looked dominant inside of the octagon thus far. If he can get past his most formidable opponent to date in Formiga, you could easily sell him as DJ’s toughest test yet. Cejudo is easily the most decorated wrestler in the flyweight division and he has the ability to give the champion fits if he can somehow match the impossible work rate Johnson has put out fight after fight since becoming flyweight champion.
Johnson has been taken down 11 times during his 10 fights as a UFC flyweight. Cejudo has taken down his opponents 7 times during his 2-fight UFC flyweight career. Also of note, Johnson was taken down a whopping 24 times during his 6 fights at bantamweight with Zuffa. Now that John Lineker has been forced to move to bantamweight after missing weight every other fight, Cejudo is easily the biggest 125 lb’er on the roster. Simply put, he wrestles like a featherweight.
With losses to Benavidez and Dodson (Johnson has beaten both men twice) it’s tough to make an argument for Formiga as the next title contender at flyweight. If you’re trying to sell this man as your top P4P fighter in the world you simply cannot continue to insult the intelligence of your audience. Henry Cejudo is the only man at 125 lbs. who makes sense for Demetrious Johnson next.
Johnson currently holds an ultra impressive record of 23-2-1 as a professional mixed martial artist. What’s even more impressive is his 11-1-1 record during his time with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The man responsible for the 1 in the middle of 11-1-1, Dominick Cruz, has only fought once since defeating Johnson back in 2011 due to a horrific and unprecedented string of injuries that forced him to vacate his bantamweight title. If Cruz can return to action in early 2016, there are only two fights to make; a title bout against T.J. Dillashaw (aka Cruz 2.0) or a superfight of sorts against Demetrious Johnson.
Earlier in this very article, we mentioned that DJ was taken down 24 times during his 6 fight stint as a UFC bantamweight. Cruz was responsible for 10 of those. For Johnson, this is ancient history. That said, I have a tough time calling him the best P4P fighter in the world if his last fight against someone outside of his current weight class was that lopsided. There is no better time than now for this dominant flyweight to move back up to 135 lbs. Should he vacate his title? Absolutely not. The flyweight title can stay around Johnson’s waist for as long as long as it needs to without being defended and no one will complain. Let’s make this fight a #1 contendership bout for the UFC bantamweight strap. Winner gets Dillshaw. NEXT!
If Demetrious Johnson can avenge the lone loss of his 13-fight UFC career by defeating Dominick Cruz he more than earns the rare opportunity to join Randy Couture and B.J. Penn as a 2-division UFC champion. It’s no secret that Johnson has requested a purse of 2 million dollars in the past to take on current UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. Sorry, DJ, you’re not worth it. And you know it. Dillashaw has also made it clear that would even move down to 125 to take on Johnson, where he could make his own history by becoming a 2-division champ. The problem is, Johnson has cleared out his division. Dillashaw has not. If Johnson, the worst PPV draw in the history of the sport, can agree to somewhere around 200 or 300K instead of 2 million we may just see this fight happen.
During Anderson Silva’s record-setting title run he moved up in weight 3-times to fight guys like Forrest Griffin, James Irvin and Stephan Bonnar. While 145 lbs may be a little much for “Mighty Mouse,” a fun move up to 135 to co-main event an upcoming PPV. The biggest here is Urijah Faber.
No one really wants to fight Faber at 135 or 145 lbs which is evidenced by his upcoming match up against Frankie Saenz at UFC 184. With a record of 0-6 over his last 6 title fights, Faber isn’t in line for a title shot again anytime soon. He’s entered that part of his career where he can either help put over lesser known fighters or he can take on the role of a “superfighter” and take on fighters like Demetrious Johnson, or even a returning B.J. Penn if the promotion decides to visit Hawaii sometime soon. A win over Faber may be what Johnson needs to win over the fans who simply just are not tuning in to watch him fight.
UFC 249 has a long and adventurous story
UFC 249 was originally planned to take place on April 18th in New York but, due to the ongoing pandemic, governor Cuomo restricted mass gatherings and sports events, confining everyone to their homes, leaving them with little more to watch than reruns of old fights and perhaps Game Changers. UFC president Dana White then announced that the event was still on but the location will change. Later, it was announced that it will take place at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California. ESPN and its parent company Disney didn’t like this, though, pressuring White to suspend the event for the time being – which he did. Finally, the event was rescheduled for May 9.
Meanwhile, interesting news started circulating about a potential location for future UFC fight nights that, if it becomes a reality, might put an interesting spin on the world of mixed martial arts.
UFC Fight Island
Even before the issues with the event, White planned to arrange a brand new location where fight nights could be organized: a private island where athletes could train and fight.
“All the infrastructure is being built right now and getting put in place,” he told the press back in April. “As we get closer to that, then I’ll start figuring out booking fights, getting guys ready. Plus, I can ship guys over there earlier, and they can start training over there, on the island. So, once that’s all in place – we’re looking at like a month – I’ll have that all put together, and guys can start training and can go there.”
The UFC is serious about it: it has already registered several trademarks around the “UFC Fight Island” brand, covering several types of goods, services, even jewelry.
When, and Where?
The “where” is still a mystery. Although he spoke repeatedly about the arrangements being made for athletes to be able to train and stay on the island, White has not revealed its location yet. Some theorize that it may be somewhere in international waters so it could serve as a place where international athletes could stay without restrictions, perhaps off the coast of California. But this is just a theory – all will probably be revealed in due time.
The “when” is a bit less vague: White told the press that UFC Fight Island will be operational by June. It will have amenities like an Octagon on the beach, and hotels for the fighters to be lodged at. And most importantly, it will allow international fighters to participate in fights, even with the pandemic-related travel restrictions still in place.
The idea of an island dedicated to fighting may sound familiar – it was the topic of the 2006 martial arts movie “DOA – Dead or Alive” and 2007’s “The Condemned”, among others. Let’s hope this one will have a happier ending.
As for UFC 249 ‘Ferguson vs. Gaethje’, that event will now take place at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
What Justin Gaethje’s past fights tell us about his chances at UFC 249
It’s fair to say that Justin Gaethje has firmly taken up the role of underdog ahead of his clash with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on May 9th. The latest Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje betting offers present Ferguson as the clear favourite, after his opponent was drafted in at the last minute to replace Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is on lockdown in his home country of Russia.
Gaethje is relatively inexperienced in the world of UFC, having fought just six times in the competition in the past. But his calibre from prior ventures in MMA, notably the World Series of Fighting, means that he is a fighter not to be trifled with, and while he won’t represent as formidable a challenge for Ferguson as Khabib would have, there is much to admire about the 31-year-old.
To understand fully Gaethje’s chances ahead of UFC 249, it’s important to analyse his performances in recent fights. Indeed, his past three bouts have resulted in impressive victories, with Gaethje winning Performance of the Night awards in two of those fights — against James Vick and Donald Cerrone respectively.
But his UFC started off in disappointing fashion, with just one win from his first three fights. That victory came against Michael Johnson in the reality show The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale, but from there he failed to gain a strong foothold in the championship. He suffered back-to-back defeats against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, including a knockout at the hands of the former, as he struggled to adapt to the competitive nature of the UFC.
Those defeats obviously shook Gaethje into life, because he has come roaring back in his last three fights, mustering up a trio of impressive performances to bring him to the level he finds himself at today, where UFC chief Dana White is drafting him to replace someone of the calibre of Khabib.
The first of this trio of victories was a win over James Vick in August 2018, where Gaethje produced a fine display which silenced some of the doubters who had perhaps questioned his ability at the highest level. He won Performance of the Night for that one, and was then involved in the Fight of the Night the following March as he defeated Edson Barboza by knockout in Philadelphia. His most recent victory was a TKO triumph over UFC veteran Donald Cerrone in October last year, where Gaethje once again walked away with the Performance of the Night accolade.
All three of his most recent wins have come via first round knockout or technical knockout, proof that Gaethje has the ability to overpower opponents in the opening stages of a fight. Of course, to do this against Ferguson will be a whole different ball game, as he is the most high-profile fighter Gaethje has faced so far, but perhaps the key lies in ensuring he comes out all guns blazing early on.
Gaethje’s Performance of the Night wins indicate that he is capable of producing a show-stopping performance on any given night. He is undoubtedly the underdog going into the fight against Ferguson, but with a few good wins now under his belt, who’s to say he can’t spring a surprise on May 9th and truly announce himself in the UFC.
UFC to provide a welcome sports fix for hungry fans
UFC 249 had promised to be a rare occasion of a sports event going ahead, but the April 18th showpiece ultimately fell victim to the coronavirus outbreak, and was cancelled. However, UFC chief Dana White is not one to be put out, and so came the recent announcement that there would be a series of UFC fight nights in May.
It’s a great chance for fans to see some sporting action, for fighters to keep in shape and perhaps make a name for themselves in these strange circumstances, and for people stuck in lockdown to have some alternative entertainment, something a bit different from Joe Wicks workouts or Zoom quizzes! Here, we look at why these UFC fight nights will be welcomed by so many people.
The sporting world has basically been at a standstill since the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the globe. It feels like an eternity ago that we were watching horse racing’s Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s exit from the Champions League, but the measures put in place by the government to protect the public meant that most events had to be cancelled.
And so, the news that there will be some live sporting entertainment in the form of several UFC fight nights will give sports fans that much needed fix of live action. Sports nuts all over the world have been forced to make do with virtual championships and races, or with trawling the archives to reminisce on past sporting occasions, but now White and co. have brought some welcome live sporting action back to our screens.
Of course, these are not just any old fighters going head to head. Some of the best in the business will be battling it out, not least Tony Ferguson who takes on Justin Gaethje on May 9th. The Tony Ferguson odds have him as hot favourite for the bout, but Gaethje will be a man on a mission on fight night to prove he has what it takes to cause a stir at the highest level of the sport.
May 9th sees two other interesting clashes, as Henry Cejudo takes on Dominick Cruz for the Bantamweight Championship, and Francis Ngannou meets Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The Cejudo vs Cruz fight features two men with similar records, and will therefore be an intriguing clash as both try and prove themselves on the big stage. Meanwhile, Rozenstruik will be trying to defend his 10-fight unbeaten record as he takes on Ngannou, and so there will be plenty on the line in that one.
A welcome distraction
Perhaps one of the key benefits of these fight nights is that they will provide a welcome distraction from the sad news and gloomy headlines we’ve all been reading in recent weeks. Sport has the power to unite people and spark a feel-good factor among the public.
Although the UFC may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a chance for a lot of people to get to know a sport they perhaps wouldn’t have considered watching before, and few sports have to power to grip and entertain like mixed martial arts. Many people are craving a dose of live sporting action, and thanks to the UFC, that sporting fix is not too far away.
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