Demetrious Johnson had quite an assignment on his hands Saturday night (Jan. 26, 2013) in the UFC on Fox 6 main event from the United Center in Chicago, Ill., and he responded as champions do: improvising, adapting and overcoming (watch video highlights here).
And while his unanimous five-round decision over tough challenger John Dodson may not have aroused the excitement of more casual fans, a more important statement was made, and it's that flyweights can carry a main event.
At least on FOX.
Dodson was exceptionally tough in the first two rounds, and after some brilliantly timed haymakers , including several razor-sharp counter left crosses, Johnson looked like he had bitten off more than he could chew. He couldn't wrest Dodson to the mat, nor get the better of the stand up with the hard-punching challenger, whose quickness was the equal of his own.
But, Johnson simply kept pressing, firm in the knowledge that his vastly superior experience in distance bouts against top competition would prove superior. And slowly, surely, it did. It wasn't as though Dodson suddenly came apart and visibly ran out of gas in one camera-perfect moment. He simply lost pieces of his arsenal, bit-by-bit, as Johnson kept making him work, exacting a toll from all sorts of otherwise innocuous positions, especially when tied up against the cage.
By the fifth round, Dodson had hit the wall, eating a series of knee while hopelessly mired and tied up by Johnson, whose reflexes and speed only slightly dropped off over the 25-minute war. That's pretty amazing in itself, and Johnson's conditioning is going to make him dangerous until he's carried out of the Octagon.
Contrast this to most Heavyweight fights -- such as Mike Russow vs. Shawn Jordan on the "Prelims" under card -- where both guys often gas out in less than a round, resembling bull elephant seals and falling all over one another en route to someone landing a bomb and the affair being mercifully settled.
It was a noble performance by a champion in a division that only a few years ago virtually no one paid attention to, and I can't think of a better guy to carry the torch for the Flyweight fighters than "Mighty Mouse."
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst