You could’ve had this as the finals of the tournament to crown the UFC’s first flyweight champion, oddly enough, as there were a handful more than the four guys good enough to be in the inaugural tournament but only Johnson, Ian McCall, Joseph Benavidez and Urishitani were placed in. Dodson was a guy you could’ve argued to be in Urishitani’s spot, as he’d been considered a Top Five flyweight even before his stint on “The Ultimate Fighter.” He had to be in the mix as soon as they announced the division’s arrival and two wins later, including a stoppage win over Jussier da Silva, we find ourselves in the first flyweight title defense in UFC history.
Now “The Magician” gets his shot at the throne. Does he have enough to make the reign of the first flyweight champion a short one? Or will Johnson show that when you come at the king, you best not miss?
Fight Breakdown: It’s one of the last remaining debates in MMA to be settled in a cage: who’s the fastest fighter in the UFC? Dodson is a whirling dervish … but you can also call Demetrious Johnson by the same descriptor. You have the two fastest fighters in the sport on Fox and a candidate for one of the best fights of 2013.
Johnson’s game is simple enough. He’s got a strong wrestling base supplemented with a crafty boxing game. Johnson doesn’t have a ton of power but he makes up for it in volume. Johnson’s game is an MMA version of Floyd Mayweather’s game; he doesn’t get hit a lot and he wins rounds by out-landing. His footwork is fantastic and he sets up his takedowns with his boxing game as well. The key to all of it is his speed; he can out move anyone in the division and it causes people fits.
Johnson has maximized his abilities as a fighter; he doesn’t have a ton of power but he has blazing speed. It’s why he tends to go to decision more often than not; his early career on the regional circuit is filled with stoppage wins but as he’s progressed up in the ranks he hasn’t finished anyone since choking out Damacio Page in the WEC. His key to staying in the elite of the bantamweight division was using his speed and ability to rack up points instead of going for the kill. He’s taken that same ethos down to flyweight as he still has a considerable speed advantage.
Dodson has one big advantage in this fight: game-changing power. He has better wrestling bona fides, though he doesn’t use them as often as you’d think, and tends to let his opponent dictate the type of fight. He’s fast enough to keep up with Johnson and has the advantage in another area as well: athleticism. Dodson is a freak athlete, maybe the best in the sport, and standing less than 5’4 can dunk a basketball. A foot taller and he’d have had his pick of professional sports to play. He has freak athleticism but has never put it together inside the cage.
The key to the fight will be if Dodson can counter Johnson’s boxing game. Johnson is going to wade in and out, lighting him up, but if Dodson can light him up when he gets in he can finish this. Johnson has good wrestling but Dodson is really tough to get to the ground; look for him to keep this standing and try to outpoint him. He’s going to trade but it has to be on his terms; he can’t throw bombs with Dodson because he doesn’t have the artillery to keep up.
Why It Matters: it’s for the flyweight title, of course, and UFC Gold is still UFC Gold.