The Flyweight division has been a bit of a controversial topic among MMA fans recently. The UFC is clearly pushing to promote the new division with headlining title fights and marquee match-ups slated as main or co-main events. The recent numbers of the Johnson vs. Dodson title fight suggest that fans may be growing more interested, but currently the talent pool for the little guys is by and large the thinnest of any weight class, except for maybe the newly created Women’s 135lb Bantamweight division.
Additionally, the championship fights just don’t seem to generate the same amount of buzz as the other divisions. That’s to be expected considering the youthfulness of this particular weight class. To be fair, not every fight can be an Aldo vs. Edgar type of event. Flyweight fighters just haven’t had enough opportunities to get air time and establish themselves. As mentioned, the lack of depth doesn’t help either, especially compared to the lightweights and welterweights, where there is a logjam of elite fighters to work with in the title picture. Everyone, especially Johny Hendricks, is waiting to see GSP finally face off with Nick Diaz. Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez is basically another superfight between two champions. Plenty of people are excited to see Anderson Silva and Cain Velasquez again, and Jones vs. Sonnen is and will continue to be a hugely hyped event.
But when Demetrious Johnson vs. John Moraga was announced, I get the feeling that all but a few dedicated MMA fans had to ask “John who??” For the Flyweights, the name and reputation recognition just isn’t quite there…yet. It shows in the scheduling of this fight, there’s probably a reason this title fight is headlining the TUF Finale and not it’s own PPV card. That’s a bit of a shame because scheduling and name recognition aside, the Flyweight fighters usually put on a fast paced, action-packed display of MMA. They just need more chances in the limelight to show it.
On the Horizon
- The Matchup: Demetrious Johnson (Champion) vs. John Moraga (Challenger)
Champion: Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson will be making his second title defense after a thrilling comeback victory over John Dodson at UFC on Fox 6. Mighty Mouse has proven to be an elite mix of striking and wrestling with a strong ground game and an endless motor. He uses his famous world-class quickness to keep opponents on the defensive.
Challenger: John Moraga is on an impressive win streak himself, with recent finishes over Chris Cariaso (submission) and Ulysses Gomez (KO). He has legitimate power, but a title shot after only two fights in the UFC (13-1 overall) may be too much too soon, especially against an opponent the caliber of Johnson.
- The Date: TUF Finale, April 13, 2013
- Weight Class: Flyweight (Championship Fight)
- What led to it: Moraga’s win streak combined with finishes in his last few fights probably got him the nod over a rematch with Flyweight mainstay Joseph Benavidez.
- Why it matters: Johnson clearly has the chops to be Flyweight king for a long time to come. He has soundly defeated all of the other elite contenders (Dodson, Benavidez, McCall) in the division at least once, and while all of the contests were competitive, they were won by Johnson’s superior ability. Many thought that Benavidez would be awarded a rematch after his victory over McCall, so this matchup is a bit of a surprise, but apparently Benavidez didn’t show enough in that fight to suggest he would present a greater threat this time around. Another possibility is the fact that there just aren’t many qualified challengers for Johnson to defend against at the moment.
If Johnson wins this fight in dominant fashion, the Flyweight division may start to mirror the division currently owned by The GOAT (Anderson Silva, if you had to ask) where the champion has already decisively beaten all worthy challengers and starts taking fights against guys who aren’t necessarily title contenders – they just happen to be there. The best thing that could happen in this fight for the UFC would be an upset so the whole picture gets shaken up. But guys who get to the top usually end up staying there. They are champions for a reason.
So look for Mighty Mouse to live up to his name and be mighty. One knock on the Flyweight guys is they don’t produce the exciting finishes we see in the heavier weight classes. Whether he likes it or not, there is some extra pressure on Mighty Mouse to not only defend his title, but also to make this fight a memorable one and come up with a finish somewhere in those 5 rounds.