Are you not entertained: Demetrious Johnson makes history in more ways than one

On Saturday night in Las Vegas, Demetrious Johnson, UFC flyweight champion, broke Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defences in breath taking fashion. He threw another man in the air, and caught him in an armbar on the way down. A few moments of struggle and a tap later and it was all over. To try this in practice is strange enough, to do this in a potentially historic title fight is insane. However, when you have dominated the previous 23 minutes like Johnson had, why not go for the spectacular? Particularly when you are treated as second fiddle to a pretend belt with a promoter who actively rubbished this matchup and barely promoted this event, directly affecting your bottom line. To some extent, this is the story of Demetrious Johnson’s UFC career, constantly being under promoted and put behind larger men in the sport, and yet still dismantling his opponents.

Johnson comprehensively dominated a man in Ray Borg who had never been submitted and trains at one of the top MMA mega gyms in the world, as if he was a total novice to the sport. Johnson out struck Borg 172-22, took him to the mat all 8 times he tried as opposed to Borg’s 3 out of 10 and passed Borg on the ground as if he were a white belt. You could say this was dominance on a whole new level, if it weren’t “Mighty Mouse” we were talking about.

This is even before pulling off an unprecedented submission that could well be the best ever in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. A suplex from the tight waist position is rare enough at the highest level, the ability to lift another man off the ground and throw him while he fights every step is rather difficult, to then chain this with seizing an armbar on the man as he falls back to earth is simply ridiculous.

The contest, if you could even call it that, was largely dominated by Johnson on the ground, from his favoured positions of side control and the crucifix. It seemed that Borg’s preparation was largely focused on defending the Americana submission from this position, a double wristlock hold descended from catch as catch can wrestling. This worked out in that Borg did not get submitted in this fashion. Instead, he simply got pummelled, dominated and eventually bloodied.

Borg also, rather bizarrely, gifted Johnson this position at times, going for guillotine submissions off takedown attempts and from other positions, allowing Demetrious Johnson to just pivot his body around to a perpendicular orientation and free his head. At one point in the clinch Borg leapt onto Johnson’s back to either wear on the champion or attempt to set up a rear naked choke to pull off the greatest upset of all time, and Mighty Mouse simply broke his arms apart and shook him off, completely dismissive of this usually advantageous position.

The question for Johnson now is what comes next. He has for a long time said he would like to fight for a second belt at bantamweight after breaking this record. Both men fighting for the UFC’s bantamweight belt next month in Madison Square Garden, TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt, have expressed a desire to come down ten pounds in weight to challenge the best pound for pound fighter in the sport. This comes after a spat between Johnson and UFC president Dana White over the summer regarding protections the champion wanted in order to agree to a fight with Dillashaw after Garbrandt pulled out of the pair’s prior fight with a back injury.

This dispute largely came down to Johnson wanting to be guaranteed his pay if Dillashaw missed weight, due to him never having made the 125 pound flyweight limit or for Dillashaw to take another fight in the division first to prove he could do it. However, this was reframed by White and Dillashaw among others as Johnson being afraid of a real challenge as opposed to a division he had cleared out of top contenders. A rebuttal swiftly came accusing White of threatening to shut down the division on multiple occasions as well as saying he had implored Johnson to

“do it for TJ”,

as opposed to for himself. This would seem to set up a natural feud if Dillashaw regains his belt in a matchup with more than its fair share of bad blood between former training partners.

The main question with either of these opponents is which champion is moving division. Ordinarily with super fights one man moves up in weight to face another, due to cutting less weight being easier than cutting more. However, in this case there is an element of machismo in play of coming and taking a man’s title away from him. In a recent interview Garbrandt’s coach called coming down to stop Johnson notching another defence a

“gangster move”

and making reference to the belief a minority hold that the true record is eleven defences due to one challenger to Silva not making weight but the fight still going ahead. No matter which of these two he faces at what weight, Demetrious Johnson’s next fight will be must see from a number of perspectives. The disrespected great versus a man Dana White calls the UFC’s next superstar or a man with close ties with White. The best pound for pound fighter trying to prove it taking on a champion from another weight class. All that we can do is sit back and watch with anticipation for what Mighty Mouse may try next.


Callum McPhail

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Featured image courtesy of ‘Riana’ via Flickr


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