Demetrious Johnson is the best mixed martial artist on the planet and he’s proven it time and time again. The UFC Flyweight Champion defended his title for a record 11th consecutive time on Saturday, submitting Ray Borg in the co-main event of UFC 216: Ferguson vs. Lee.
He was previously tied with Anderson Silva, also one of the greatest fighters of all time, with 10 consecutive defenses. He was already the most successful flyweight in the sport’s history, and now is the most successful champion the UFC has ever seen.
Johnson, nicknamed “Mighty Mouse,” doesn’t have an unblemished record. He lost to Brad Pickett back in April 2010, and also fell to the much bigger Dominick Cruz in 2011, before settling at his natural weight class, flyweight.
Since a March 2012 majority draw against Ian McCall, Johnson has beaten McCall, Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, John Moraga, Benavidez again, Ali Bagautinov, Chris Cariaso, Kyoji Horiguchi, Dodson again, Henry Cejudo, Tim Elliott, Wilson Reis and now Borg.
There isn’t a gimmie fight on that list and truthfully, Johnson was rarely ever in danger in those bouts. He had occasional fits with Dodson’s power and McCall was, of course, a very tricky fighter. But whether he was scoring a first-round TKO of Cejudo of going the full five rounds without breaking a sweat against a number of other opponents, Johnson has been dominant.
As a flyweight, Johnson is as small as they get as far as UFC weight classes are concerned. He’s not scoring knockouts with regularity and perhaps has gone under the radar as a result. A large percentage of fight fans favor the fighters who score huge knockouts in the first round, and that’s just not who Johnson is.
He’s methodical, lightning fast and an incredible tactician. He’s never been knocked out or submitted. He’s a takedown machine, trailing only behind Georges St-Pierre, Gleison Tibau and Frankie Edgar for number of takedowns in the promotion’s history. He’s managed 10 or more takedowns on three separate occasions.
On Saturday, Johnson out-landed Borg 62 strikes to one in the first round. In the second round, Borg took his back and most fighters would have panicked. Johnson smiled, gave a thumbs up, and dumped Borg off his back and onto the mat, and proceeded to hold dominant control for the remainder of the round.
It wasn’t the most exciting fight, and was mostly one of positional dominance for Johnson. But Borg had virtually no offense at all, while Johnson essentially did whatever he wanted. When he worked strikes, they were effective, and he rarely looked bothered. The toss to armbar in the fifth round was incredible, and an exclamation point on a dominant fight.
Light heavyweight Jon Jones has consistently been the biggest name in the sport, and it’s a shame. Jones has the talent to be in the pound-for-pound discussion, but multiple doping violations and out-of-the-octagon instances make him a terrible face for the sport.
St-Pierre was a great champion, but he’s been gone for some time (though is making a comeback at UFC 2017). Brock Lesnar was the biggest name in the sport for some time and his run through the worst division in the sport was fairly laughable looking back on it.
Johnson is passionate in the octagon and incredibly likable outside of it. He deserves to represent the company as its premiere champion, and he deserves the kind of push that the promotion gives to someone like, say, Conor McGregor. Johnson hasn’t pulled in the kind of pay-per-view numbers that McGregor does, but he’s the best in the sport, and at the end of the day, that’s what should matter for the UFC.