Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) flyweights Demetrious Johnson and Kyoji Horiguchi will battle TONIGHT (April 25, 2015) at UFC 186 inside Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
At this point, Johnson is one of the most dominant champions around. He's currently the number ranked three pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and "Mighty Mouse" shows no signs of slowing down.
Hoping to dethrone Johnson is Japan's "Karate Kid," as the 24-year-old knockout artist has done quite well thus far in his UFC career. Despite his status as a seriously major under dog, Horiguchi does present Johnson with some new challenges.
Let's take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter:
Key Wins: Joe Benavidez (UFC 152, UFC on Fox 9), John Dodson (UFC on Fox 6), Ian McCall (UFC on FX 3)
Key Losses: Dominick Cruz (UFC on Versus 6)
Keys to Victory: Johnson is an incredibly well-rounded athlete. He's an extremely technical striker, explosive wrestler, and his offensive submission ability is becoming more obvious in each fight.
Considering all those skills, Johnson has a few routes to victory he could pursue. While "Mighty Mouse" likely could out-strike his opponent, it would be smarter for Johnson to drag his opponent to the mat.
To do that, Johnson either needs to time a double leg as Horiguchi bursts forward -- which just so happens to be one of his signature techniques -- or force his way into the clinch and work from there. Either way, Johnson's footwork should put him in great position to accomplish either task.
Once on top, Johnson should remain patient. Horiguchi is not a technician from his back; he mostly just waits for an opportunity to explode and kick his opponent off or scramble back to his feet. If Johnson baits Horiguchi into attempting to stand, he should be able to advance position or potentially threaten with a submission.
Plus, this is also an excellent way to tire Horiguchi out. The Japanese fighter has never went five full rounds (though he came fairly close in 2013), and if he's forced to constant grapple with Johnson, it will exhaust him.
Key Wins: Darrell Montague (UFC Fight Night 40), Louis Gaudinot (UFC 182), Dustin Pague (UFC 166)
Key Losses: None
Keys to Victory: Horiguchi is a talented striker with a history in Karate competition and big punching power. By keeping a large amount of distance between himself and his opponent, Horiguchi is able to blitz his opponent or counter their attempts to close the distance.
When largely out-matched on paper -- like Horiguchi admittedly is -- it's important for the underdog to do two things. Firstly, Horiguchi needs to stick to his strengths. If he radically changes up his style of fighting based on a perceived weakness in Johnson's game, he's setting himself up for failure.
Therefore, Horiguchi should be sure to keep his distance and work his usual striking. That's what he's best at, and his style has the side benefit of generally making it difficult to latch onto him.
While Horiguchi has to stick to his style of fighting, he also needs to adapt and build onto whatever small success he's finding. For example, if he's able to quickly bounce in, land his body kick, and get back out of range safely, Horiguchi can then begin feinting with that strike and work from there.
Remaining flexible with his techniques while playing to his strengths is a delicate balance, but it's one that Horiguchi must achieve if he hopes to steal the strap.
Bottom Line: Johnson is on a hell of a streak and is about to pair off with an up-and-coming knockout artist. While this bout may have been made too early, and Horiguchi is a major underdog statistically, it should still provide an interesting challenge and match up for "Mighty Mouse."
There aren't a ton of contenders left in the flyweight division. Johnson has defeated most of the top contenders already, and the ones on the rise -- with the exception of maybe Henry Cejudo -- aren't yet ready for the champion. If Johnson does win this bout, he may want to pursue a super fight with the bantamweight kingpin while his division creates a new contender.
On the other hand, a loss would seriously shake up the division. Johnson would likely get an instant rematch, and it would perhaps be the biggest match in the division's short history.
Horiguchi is firmly in the role of the underdog, which does have it's positive side. Considering the fact that even Horiguchi himself wanted another fight before taking on Johnson, few would hold a loss against "Supernova." He's young, and this is a serious challenge.
Should Horiguchi defy the odds and pull off the victory, it would earn him a permanent place in history, both as one of the biggest upsets in UFC history and as a champion. Additionally, it would likely stir up more interest for the division's future.
At UFC 186, Demetrious Johnson and Kyoji Horiguchi will battle in a championship match up. Which man will leave the Octagon strapped with gold?