UFC gambles Johnson vs. Dodson will put the flyweights on the map

UFC on FOX 6 officially has a main event, and the flyweight title will be on the line as newly-minted champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson takes on top contender John “The Magician” Dodson in what is already being billed as the fastest fight in UFC history.

But while the fight may be fought at a rapid pace, there’s no guarantee the fans are going to enjoy it. By putting it as the main event of a huge FOX card that will be watched by millions, the UFC is taking a big gamble that they may later come to regret.

Is the risk worth the reward? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure.

Thus far, it’s clear that the fans, especially the casuals (you know, the ones who are going to be watching on FOX), don’t seem to enjoy watching flyweight bouts in the UFC. At UFC 152, the fans at Air Canada Centre in Toronto booed Johnson and Joseph Benavidez throughout their technical, five-round bout. Johnson back pedaled a lot during the bout while the fans didn’t appreciate (although UFC president Dana White praised his footwork), and neither guy seemed to really go for the finish, save for a guillotine choke attempt by Benavidez well into the fight.

Even though White said the fans that booed the fight at the arena should stay home and the ones booing at home shouldn’t buy the pay-per-views, he has to realize the fans, for the most part, didn’t enjoy the fight, and he shouldn’t ignore it.

The same negative crowd reaction happened at UFC on FX 6 when Dodson took on Jussier Formiga. Yes, Dodson did eventually get the TKO stoppage, but before that happened the two did a lot of circling and not a lot of engaging, which caused the fans in Minnesota to boo, prompting UFC heavyweight Pat Barry, who was in attendance, to flip out on one of them.

Really, though, do we have to bully the fans into liking the 125 pounders? How about we just accept that there might be a learning curve with this new division, like we did with the bantamweight and featherweight divisions, and even the lightweight division back in the day?

Let’s face it, guys at 125 pounds have less knockout power and are faster. In a big cage (the old WEC cage would have did wonders for the flyweights), there’s going to be a lot of room to move. Yes, it would have been nice for Johnson and Dodson to engage more in their bouts, but if that’s their style, and if they’re winning fights using it, then why should they change?

Well, it’s because the UFC is counting on them to headline events. And if they can’t provide the excitement that the fans want, then they can’t headline events.

The UFC is taking a risk by putting Johnson vs. Dodson as the main event on FOX because, since it’s FOX, there’s going to be a lot of fans tuning in for the first time. If their first glimpse of the UFC is seeing two little men running around a big cage – and let’s be honest, Johnson and Dodson are going to be doing a lot of moving and the fight is likely going to last the entire 25 minutes – then it’s going to leave a sour taste in their mouths.

Instead of force-feeding the flyweight division to the fans, the UFC should take the time to educate the audience on what they’re about to expect because, if Johnson vs. Benavidez was any indication, the fans expected more from them.

As a hardcore fan of the sport, I am super intrigued by the Johnson vs. Dodson fight, but putting on my outsider’s cap, I can see why booking this bout as a FOX headliner could be a mistake. If there is no finish in this bout, fans are going to complain these guys can’t finish fights. And if the fight only lasts a round with someone getting finished, then the fans are going to say the flyweights suck. 10 weeks out from the bout, it sure seems like a lose-lose situation.

Really, the only way the UFC wins in this one is if these guys stand toe-to-toe for 25 minutes and deliver a slugfest a la Forrest Griffin vs. Stephan Bonnar that helps boost the TV ratings, because a technical, five-round fight won’t. I can’t see casual fans being very excited about two little guys running around a cage for 25 minutes, even if it’s for a title and even if the this title fight is being given away for free.

Putting this fight on FOX is risky. Instead, I would have made Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis a five-round bout and had it headline the card, with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson vs. Glover Teixeira as the co-main event. For now, while the division gets some steam behind it, I would have had Johnson vs. Dodson co-headline another PPV event behind a heavier-weight-division title fight.

Yes, president White, you may have loved Johnson vs. Benavidez, and there were others who did too. But there were others who genuinely despised it.

The UFC should take their time with the flyweight division, but they seem to be rushing it. Remember, Jose Aldo defended the UFC featherweight championship twice as a co-main event before he headlined his own card, and he’s one of the most exciting fighters on the planet. The UFC should have afforded Johnson, Dodson, and the rest of the flyweight division the opportunity to grow, but since they apparently want to rush it, they need to accept the fact the fans might boo at UFC on FOX 6, and they need to brace themselves accordingly.

Is it right for fans to boo two athletes who dedicate their life to the sport of MMA, train hard, and who fight in a cage for 25 minutes? No, it’s not. But it doesn’t matter, because fans expect to be entertained, and if they aren’t entertained, then the UFC isn’t doing its job.

Johnson and Dodson have a lot of pressure on their shoulders to deliver and, should they falter, you know it’s going to stir up another argument about whether or not 125 pounders should be in the UFC at all. But we’ll have to wait until January 26 before we ultimately determine if this was a bad choice by the UFC or not.

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