Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) flyweights Demetrious Johnson and Kyoji Horiguchi clashed last night (April 25, 2015) at UFC 186 inside the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Johnson was faced with one of the few challenges remaining in his division. Having dismantled a majority of the contenders in his division already, Johnson was simply looking to successfully defend his title a sixth time.
While the Karateka would've preferred another couple fights worth of experience, he was given a major opportunity to dethrone the champion. Despite the odds, Horiguchi was more than motivated to become the UFC's first Japanese champion.
Horiguchi opened the fight with a number of hard kicks. Johnson caught one and transitioned into a deep double leg takedown, but Horiguchi defended nicely and returned to his feet.
Right as it appeared that Horiguchi was gaining some momentum, Johnson punched into the clinch, threw some knees, and dropped down into a double leg takedown. This time, Johnson finished the shot, though he did little with it. Horiguchi managed to get back to his feet and land some nice strikes, but the time ran out before he could get much going.
Very close round to start the title bout.
Johnson started the second round very aggressively, really stepping up his output. Horiguchi countered with his own blitz and then momentarily took Johnson down with a clinch trip. Johnson returned the favor just moments later, though he did very little with his top position before Horiguchi got back to his feet.
Johnson was much more relentless with his takedowns. Each time Horiguchi methodically worked up to his feet, Johnson would threaten with some punches before driving him back to the mat. Overall, Horiguchi spent much of the fight leaning against the fence, trying to get back to his feet.
Johnson made some adjustments, and they worked extremely well.
Horiguchi did a much better job defending takedowns in the second, but Johnson was still successful in eventually dragging his opponent to the mat. It didn't help that Horiguchi was a bit more hesitant on his feet, likely due to a combination of fatigue and the threat of the takedown. When Johnson did get on top, he secured a mounted crucifix, but he ran out of time before doing anything significant.
Another strong round for the champion.
Johnson had fully found his timing by the fourth round. Horiguchi -- whose style absolutely requires a ton of space to be effective -- couldn't keep his opponent off him. Johnson never secured a dominant position, but he was effectively out-grappling him nonetheless and getting the better of his opponent on the feet.
The final round was more of the same. Johnson drove his opponent to the mat with well-timed takedowns and largely kept him there. Whenever Horiguchi worked back to his feet, Johnson gave him little space and the Japanese fighter was soon on his back.
Just as it seemed that the fight was going to end in a decision loss for Johnson, the champion moved into the crucifix once again. After hammering his opponent with punches, Johnson quickly spun around his opponent and locked onto an arm bar, securing the latest finish in UFC history.
This was a pretty stellar performance by Johnson. Horiguchi gave him some trouble early, but Johnson made excellent adjustments and never looked back. Once Johnson began to find success with his wrestling, he kept working in until his timing was perfect.
In addition, Johnson's finishing transition was beautiful. In probably five seconds, Johnson moved into mount, swiveled his hips, fell back on Horiguchi's arm, and cranked. Despite how quick he had to do it, Johnson did the technique perfectly, and Horiguchi had no choice but to submit.
At this point, there are basically three potential title challengers for Johnson. Assuming they win at UFC 187, both John Dodson and Joseph Benavidez would be deserving of a shot, despite their past losses to the champion. Additionally, Henry Cejudo is climbing the ranks in impressive fashion, and that fight would surely draw some interest.
Of course, Johnson could also attempt to dethrone the bantamweight ruler after Dillashaw and Barao collide once again.
Horiguchi had some tools that could threaten Johnson, but he didn't have the complete game to take out "Mighty Mouse." In short, Horiguchi was right that he needed more time to develop before facing Johnson, and it's unfortunate that he was put in this position so early.
Still, the Japanese fighter will be back. He's clearly got a lot of talent, but both his conditioning and wrestling need work if he wants to be the man to knock Johnson from his roost.
At UFC 187, Demetrious Johnson put forth a spectacular performance and secured a late arm bar. How long can "Mighty Mouse" hold onto his belt?
For complete UFC 186 "Johnson vs Horiguchi" results and play-by-play, click HERE.