Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson was forced out of his UFC 201 title fight with Wilson Reis earlier this month, which saw the Brazilian drop to the preliminary card where he will now face Hector Sandoval.
Although the 201 card was obviously weakened by the loss of Johnson, the welterweight title clash at the top of card pitting champion Robbie Lawler against Tyron Woodley has garnered a lot of attention from media and fans alike.
To add to that, Rose Namajunas and Karolina Kowalkiewicz will be vying for a shot at strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk in their co-main event clash. Elsewhere on the main card, welterweight veterans Matt Brown and Jake Ellenberger’s bout seems a dead cert to entertain. Heavy hitting bantamweights Francisco Rivera and Erik Perez rarely disappoint and also feature on the main card. Justin Scoggins and Ian McCall open the main portion of the night in a contest that ‘Uncle Creepy’ has admitted could be his last, which also provides plenty of interest for the watching MMA world.
Perhaps it’s some kind of hangover from the star-studded festivities that we saw earlier in the month at UFC 200, but the absence of ‘Mighty Mouse’ is being felt more than ever ahead of this weekend’s card in Atlanta.
That being said, Johnson’s performances have won him a lot of praise lately. While the flyweight champion struggled to capture the imagination of the fan base in his early capacity as champion, he never shied away from playing the long game in terms of his popularity.
His performance in the pay-per-view market has been scrutinized every step of the way. Just last year, ahead of his meeting with Kyogi Horiguchi, the featherweight champion was sick of answering questions about his failure to sell up until that point.
“I’ve gone through trying to push myself onto people when it comes to sales,” said Johnson. “I’ve been in the retail market before. I’m not saying mixed martial arts is like retail, but my job is to go out there and perform at the highest level of mixed martial arts, keep on winning and keep my belt.
“That’s what I plan on doing April 25. Now, if people don’t want to tune in, that’s their fucking bad. But they’re going to miss a kick-ass fight between me and Kyoji Horiguchi.”
As the champion of the least popular weight division in the UFC, Johnson had his work cut out for him as soon as soon as he became the inaugural UFC flyweight champion back September 2012 with a win over Joseph Benavidez.
At UFC 178, where he masterfully defended his title with a second-round kimura over Chris Cariaso, a lot of the crowd had left before he even took the Octagon, having seen one of the card’s bigger draws, Conor McGregor, dispose of Dustin Poirier in just one round.
Johnson’s plan has always been to let his fighting do that talking for him, and as he has continued to dominant, his stock has grown without the trash talking or glamor associated with UFC’s biggest active draw, McGregor.
His first round domination of Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo really underlined what he is capable of at UFC 197. Yet, it nearly plays against Johnson how much better than his opposition he seems to be. That being said, as he approaches one of the most sought after records the promotion has to offer there seems to be more people heralding the champion than ever before.
Pound for Pound Greatest
Had he successfully defended his title this weekend against Wilson Reis, Johnson would have been just one win away from equaling pound-for-pound great Anderson Silva and his haul of ten title defenses. As he continues to march towards the coveted record, more and more people have begun to recognize the Matt Hume product as one the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world.
Johnson’s stranglehold on his division has led to further talk of him moving back up to bantamweight to meet current champion Dominick Cruz in a super fight.
Still, the only man to defeat ‘Mighty Mouse’ when he claimed a decision over him in a bantamweight title fight back in September 2011, Cruz has campaigned for the contest quite a bit since his return to the sport after a long time on the sidelines with injury.
Until Johnson topples Silva in the title defenses category, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for him to move up a weight division. While his dominance has been off-putting for casual fans, the fact that he keeps knocking down every fighter that is put in his way is beginning to work for him.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and although he is a glaring omission from this weekend’s card, it might make us all the more grateful to see one of the greatest fighters in the world step into the Octagon again whenever he is fit enough to do so.
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