Sunday, August 05, 2018

Mouse, Trapped

My interest in the UFC has severely waned over the last few years, though I'd be remiss if I didn't note Demetrious Johnson losing the flyweight title last night.  The "Mighty Mouse" has been the 125-pound champ literally since the division began in September 2012, and after a record 11 straight defenses, he finally got got.

The upset special was provided by Henry Cejudo, who Mighty Mouse easily knocked out in less than a round back in 2016.  That result, plus MM's general dominance, led me to assume that this would another easy victory, yet Cejudo made me and many others eat some crow.  It was, to be fair, a very close fight --- a split decision, with all three judges scoring the rounds 3-2 for one fighter or the other. 

As close as it was, I think the right call was made.  The difference here was that Cejudo was able to manage a few takedowns and more or less stifle Johnson with wrestling, even if Cejudo didn't really do much damage or threaten for submissions while he had the champ down on the ground.  If anything, Johnson might've actually impressed the judges more by making flashy escapes from the ground on a couple of occasions.  Still, it was enough to narrowly eke out the fight for Cejudo on pure octagon control --- Johnson was the better fighter in the standup game, yet couldn't capitalize to hand out much damage.  It was a rare instance of seeing MM actually look a bit flustered, as his strikes weren't having too much effect on Cejudo, and Johnson also couldn't really follow up with combos since he was worried about being taken down.

The fight was definitely close enough that a rematch seems necessary, though Johnson apparently suffered foot and knee injuries during the fight, so we might not see him in action for a while.  Cejudo challenged the bantamweight champ (T.J. Dillashaw) to a fight at 135 pounds, but slow your roll, Henry.  The UFC has developed an annoying habit of keeping legit contenders on hold in order to pursue superfights between champions and/or bigger names, so it wouldn't surprise me to see Cejudo vs. Dillashaw next, though why not have Cejudo actually defend the title first.  I can understand striking while the iron is hot, but let's be real, Cejudo/Dillashaw isn't exactly a barn-burner of a main event.  Johnson/Dillashaw even wouldn't have sold too many pay-per-view buys.  It's hard to be a draw in MMA these days unless your name is McGregor or St. Pierre, so why not at least give some other flyweight or bantamweight contender a chance to make themselves famous.

Is Demetrious Johnson the best fighter ever?  It's hard to say.  He gets a lot of obvious attention in pound-for-pound discussions, though he's hurt by the relative newness of the flyweight division.  Is he a big fish in a shallow pool, or, could his dominance actually be hurting his reputation?  It sounds weird, but Johnson beating everyone may make the division look weaker than it actually is.  When someone like GSP, Jon Jones, or Anderson Silva was tearing through their respective divisions, they were doing so against more established names, thus making their win streaks seem more impressive.

This has been your regularly-scheduled intermittent UFC report! 

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