Has Demetrious Johnson earned your respect yet?
The Flyweight champion successfully defended his championship for the third time this year, knocking out Joseph Benavidez in devastating fashion last night (Sat., Dec. 14, 2013) in Sacramento.
In the main event at UFC on FOX 9, "Mighty Mouse" made short work of Benavidez, proving that the 125-pound division can be as exciting as any other weight class in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) with a first round stoppage.
Indeed, Johnson's knockout (watch full fight video highlights here), which won him the post-fight "Knockout of the Night" bonus, was the fastest in the division's short history.
Johnson makes the case for 2013's "Fighter of the Year," winning all three of his fights on FOX and making it five straight wins in UFC after his controversial draw with Ian McCall in the Flyweight tournament semifinals at the beginning of 2012.
Having defeated a handful of the best in the world in his weight class, 2013 could not have been a better year for "Mighty Mouse." It was surely a fitting end, and Johnson makes a case to be considered as one of the best fighters in the world at the moment, with many already having him in high positions on their unofficial pound-for-pound rankings lists.
For "Mighty Mouse," he crushed doubts about his finishing ability -- it was a perfect way to end the speculation about flyweights and their power. Yet, it was more about Johnson than anything because he showed that sometimes the most shocking events could happen when nobody is expecting them to materialize in such a way.
Johnson reiterated at the post-fight press conference (watch video replay here) that he will keep on going back to the gym, get better and anticipates his next challenge. The question is, who is his next challenge?
Whether or not Johnson wants to admit it, his standing in the division is much higher above the rest. Even though one would assume a champion should earn such a label, he has convincingly beaten the best available fighters in a span of less than two years.
The Flyweight division is growing, and there is no doubt he will have the work cut out for him in the future. Although, for the time being, he could examine his foes comfortably from his throne, with no real sense of urgency to get back into the cage when it comes to a potential booking.
Who could possibly be next?
The No. 2- and No. 3-ranked Flyweights, according to UFC's rankings (or supposedly the media's, for that matter) are John Dodson and Ian McCall, two fighters "Mighty Mouse" has already beaten. Dodson will eventually earn a second title fight in the promotion if he keeps tearing through his opposition, and despite McCall's popularity with the fans, he needs a few more wins to book a third fight with Johnson.
Ironically, both Dodson and McCall were forced off this fight card with injuries, ironically replacing each other, so, it makes sense for them to get a few more wins first, whether it be against one another or not.
Meanwhile, names such as John Lineker and Ali Bagautinov make the most sense. Bagautinov is 12-2 -- and despite only having two fights in the promotion -- he has not lost since March 2011, winning 10 fights after that. Still, Bagautinov should bring home one more victory under his belt and then title talk can begin in earnest.
The problem with Lineker is that besides his four straight victories, which include three stoppages because of punches, he has missed weight three times out of five. Thankfully for him, he keeps on winning fights because he would have been long gone by now.
Indeed, if it were not for him tipping the scales in a bad direction, he would have earned the title fight by now. The company cannot afford to set the example of putting one of their fighters in a championship bout if he constantly fails to follow the rules.
However, does it have a choice?
The division is still thin, so unless there are plans for a Johnson superfight (which there are not), we just laid down all the possibilities. Unless, another rematch is the solution to avoid a bad story line with Lineker.
For now though, Johnson does not have to worry about any of that during his time off. As they keep coming, he stays ready for them, and the champion is without a doubt on the rise.
For UFC on FOX 9: "Johnson vs. Benvidez 2" results and fight coverage click here.