In the second instalment of a series we’re running, I take a look at my top five fighters in UFC history and today that’s Demetrious Johnson. I’ll be assessing their career, listing their achievements, and then hoping to persuade you as to why they belong in this list. It’s going to be a controversial one, but who doesn’t love a bit of drama.
Note: This list will only include fighters that have competed under the UFC banner – so no Fedor.
Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson
Weight Class: Flyweight/Bantamweight
Record: 27-3-1Key Stat:
Most consecutive title defenses in UFC history
Despite being known as the most dominant Flyweight in the history of the weight class, Mighty Mouse actually started his career as a Bantamweight, fighting for AX FC. It was in this promotion that his first three fights took place, winning his very first MMA fight just 17 seconds into the first round, via KO.
After these first three victories, Johnson would rattle off a five fight submission streak, winning via; americana, armbar, and rear naked choke (x3). This would take his fledgling record to 8-0. Reeling off two more knockouts in quick succession (he fought in both January and February 2010). DJ would line himself up for his first shot in the big leagues, securing a contract with WEC.
World Extreme Cagefighting
His first fight in WEC would be against veteran fighter Brad Pickett, and despite showing impressive kickboxing skills throughout the fight, Mighty Mouse was no match for Pickett on the ground, as he was taken down a number of times. During Johnson’s debut, Joe Rogan predicted that the Parkland native would make a dominant fighter at Flyweight if the organisation was to introduce such a division, as he was already a relatively small Bantamweight.
In his next fight, DJ would bounce back from his first career loss by breaking the unbeaten record of Nick Pace, taking the win via unanimous decision. His final fight for the WEC before the UFC takeover would be against Damacio Page, and despite being dominated through the first round, Mighty Mouse was able to secure the win via guillotine in the second round as Page began to tire.
“He was basically drowning, and I was the shark that came up and got him from underneath.” – Demetrious Johnson
UFC setback and move to Flyweight
After WEC was bought out by the UFC, all WEC fighters were transferred to the new organisation. DJ would go on to collect two wins via decision in his first two fights for the UFC, earning him a shot against dominant Bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz.
Johnson never really looked like he had a shot of winning the fight, after Cruz dominated throughout the majority of the bout, only losing one round on one judge’s scorecard. It was the first fight in which DJ had looked truly outclassed, and many fans were unsure as to what would be next for the interesting young fighter.
Johnson was originally expected to take on Eddie Wineland for the UFC’s second event on Fox, however this bout was quickly nixed as Johnson entered the four man Flyweight tournament which would decide and crown the first Flyweight champion in the history of the UFC.
DJ took on Ian McCall in the first round of the Flyweight tournament, it was also the first ever 125 lbs fight in UFC history. The fight went the distance, and it was originally announced to be a unanimous decision victory for Mighty Mouse, however in the post fight press conference it was revealed the scores actually had the fight as a majority decision (28-28, 29-29, 29-28 Johnson).
The rematch was booked to take place three months later, and this time there was no controversy as DJ took a comfortable unanimous decision victory, moving into the final of the tournament to take on a man with whom Johnson would become very familiar.
First Flyweight champion & Benavidez rematch
Mighty Mouse would face off against Joseph Benavidez in the final of the flyweight tournament, a fight which was extremely fast paced and close. It ended in a split decision, in favour of Johnson, as he would go on to be crowned the first ever Flyweight champion in UFC history. Little did we know it would be the start of one of the most dominant title reigns in MMA history.
Johnson would defend the belt twice in the first seven months of 2013, beating John Dodson in a fight of the night performance (DJ was knocked down twice, however went on to dominate the final rounds to secure a UD victory). As well as a submission of the night victory over John Moraga.
It was after these two defenses that a rematch would be set up for previous contender Joseph Benavidez, who since losing to DJ had gone on a dominant three fight winning streak in 2013. The fight did not go at all the way of the first bout, as Mighty Mouse stopped Benavidez via knockout just two minutes into the very first round, and in doing so became the first person to stop the Texan.
Title Defence Streak
After defeating Benavidez for a second time, DJ extended his number of title defenses to three, however he was by no means done there. He would go on to pick up another two title defenses in 2014, with victories over Ali Bagautinov and Chris Cariaso, taking his total up to five.
Mighty Mouse would once again write his name into the UFC history books in his victory over Kyoji Horiguchi, pulling off the latest stoppage in the history of the organisation, as he would submit his opponent with just one second left on the clock in the fifth round.
It was an incredibly impressive stoppage, and still one that is talked about to this day… though somehow it is still not his most impressive submission, but we’ll have more on that a little later.
With his number of title defences now up to six, a rematch was scheduled between DJ and John Dodson for UFC 191 in September 2015. Unlike their first fight, the bout was rather one sided, as Johnson dominated Dodson and taking another unanimous decision victory.
Mighty Mouse would then take on Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo in what was expected to be one of his toughest challenges, however Johnson stopped his challenger in just under three minutes, knocking him out in the first round. This would take his total title defences up to eight, just two away from the record held by former Middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
Breaking the record
In his next fight, Johnson participated in perhaps the most unique spin off of the Ultimate Fighter we’ve seen so far, as the UFC invited reigning Flyweight champions from across the globe to participate in the show, with the winner earning a shot at Mighty Mouse at the end of the tournament.
The eventual winner was Tim Elliott, and despite being a heavy favourite going into the fight, Johnson was taken down for the first time at Flyweight and just managed to avoid being submitted via d’arce choke in the first round. The champion was able to overcome this scare and win the remainder of the rounds in the fight, however it was the closest he had come to losing for a long time.
Johnson went into his next fight knowing that a win would allow him to tie Anderson Silva’s record for consecutive title defenses, and his opponent was to be Wilson Reis, despite a large amount of speculation linking him to a superfight with Bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt. Mighty Mouse would go on to win via submission in the third round, after dominating the fight.
Finally the moment had come, it was something that MMA fans had been tentatively watching out for, for quite some time. Despite not being a huge draw for the company (which is still a travesty), Demetrious Johnson was on the verge of breaking Anderson Silva’s record for the most consecutive title defenses in UFC history. There was once again a large amount of talk for the new Bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw to move down to 125 lbs to try and end Johnson’s streak, however that fight never came through and instead we saw Mighty Mouse take on Ray Borg.
Not only did Johnson win the fight, and break the record, but he pulled off what may be one of the greatest submissions in the history of modern MMA.
There isn’t anything you can say about that, other than Demetrious Johnson can control time. Because I cannot think of any other way it’s possible for a mortal being to do something like that.
Loss to Cejudo and Trade to ONE
After his win over Borg, Johnson was scheduled for rematch with Cejudo. It was a close fight, one which I personally think Mighty Mouse won, however the judges awarded a split decision victory to a very deserving Cejudo (it had been a long time since someone had challenged Johnson as much as Cejudo did).
Many fans felt that DJ would receive an immediate rematch, however not long after the loss rumours began to spread of a ‘trade’ between ONE Fighting Championship and the UFC, something that had never been heard of in MMA before.
Ultimately Johnson moved across to ONE, as Ben Askren moved to the UFC, in a move that may change the landscape of modern MMA going forwards (if we see more of these ‘trades’).
Overall, as with Anderson Silva, it’s almost impossible to list out all of the accolades that Johnson has won. It’s also impossible to explain just how good a fighter he truly is. He may be the best pound for pound fighter on the planet. Even Joseph Benavidez admitted that Mighty Mouse was the reason the Flyweight division ended up in it’s current situation. He was so damn good, that people stopped watching, because it seemed like he wasn’t even being tested.
Realistically, the man was beating some of the best Flyweight fighters on the planet and making it look like he was in the cage with a random guy off the street. He should always be remembered as one of the very best to do it, when he does hang up his gloves, and it’s a big miss not having him around in the UFC anymore.
Accolades and honours:
- UFC Flyweight Champion (inaugural)
- Most successful title defenses in Flyweight history (11)
- Most consecutive title defenses in Flyweight history (11)
- Most consecutive title defenses in Flyweight history (11)
- UFC Flyweight Championship tournament winnner
- Fight of the night (x3)
- Performance of the Night (x4)
- Submission of the Night (x1)
- Knockout of the Night (x1)
- Most wins in Flyweight history (13)
- Longest win streak in Flyweight history (13)
- Only the second fighter to be awarded a bonus in all four possible categories (Fight, Knockout, Performance and Submission of the Night awards)
- Inside MMA 2012 Fighter of the Year
- Sherdog All-Violence First Team (2013)
- Sherdog Submission of the Year (2017)
- EPSY Awards Fighter of the Year (2017)
- Fox Sports Fighter of the Year (2013)
- Fight Matrix Male Fighter of the Year (2013)
- MMA Mania Submission of the Year (2017)
- Bleacher Report Fighter of the Year (2017)
- Bleacher Report Submission of the Year (2017)
- ESPN Submission of the Year (2017)
- Pundit Arena Submission of the Year (2017)
- MMA Fighting Submission of the Year (2017)
- Bloody Elbow Submission of the Year (2017)
- Bloody Elbow Fighter of the Year (2017)
- Wrestling Observer Newsletter Most Outstanding Fighter of the Year (2017)
- Pound for Pound #1 fighter in UFC
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