Demetrious Johnson (above), the UFC's first flyweight champion, will make his maiden defense against John Dodson on Jan. 26. (Al Bello/Zuffa LLC)
Election Night was a sensory overload of names and numbers, of blue and red and talking heads. Obama vs. Romney. Rove vs. Mathematics. Johnson vs. Dodson.
That last one was not a race for a seat in Washington. It’s a contest for which the finish line is in Chicago and still far, far away. The starter’s pistol has just sounded, in fact.
I’m talking about Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson, the first defense of the UFC flyweight division belt that “Mighty Mouse” captured back in September by beating Joseph Benavidez in the finale of a four-man tournament. Dodson, winner of the 135-pound tourney in Season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter, earned the first shot at the new 125-pound champion by knocking out Jussier da Silva last month.
So we knew Johnson and Dodson were destined to clash sometime, and the UFC announced Tuesday night on its Fuel TV show, UFC Tonight, that “sometime” will be in the main event of the UFC on Fox card Jan. 26 at the United Center.
How fitting that this fight announcement would come on a night when the country was focused on something other than mixed martial arts (and something far more vicious, at that!). Flying under the radar on Election Night is actually a step up for the flyweight division. It's maddening but true. Johnson vs. Benavidez and Dodson vs. Da Silva were fought at a pace achieved by competitors in the bigger weight classes only when the bouts are viewed on a DVR set at fast-forward. Yet the 125-pounders heard boos from arena crowds presumably more interested in bloodshed than lightning-fast displays of all-around technical mastery.
Hearing fans in Toronto jeer the Johnson-Benavidez title bout embittered UFC president Dana White, who afterward spat out, “If you didn’t like the flyweight fight, please, I’m begging you, don’t ever buy another UFC pay-per-view again. I don’t want your money. You’re a moron. You don’t like fighting. You don’t appreciate talent.”
Sure, Dana is one to bluster, but in this instance he was spot on. I mean, c’mon, people.
Now the UFC is presenting another 125-pound main event. Interestingly, this one is on free TV, not PPV, so maybe name caller Dana is all bark and no bite. Still, watch your step, Windy City.
Even if you can’t appreciate the little guys, though, you’re still in for big entertainment. The co-main event between Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis -- also made official Tuesday night -- could determine the next challenger for the lightweight belt. Erik Koch vs. Ricardo Lamas, a bout that MMAjunkie.com has reported is being moved to this event, could produce the next featherweight title contestant. And then there’s Glover Teixeira vs. Quinton Jackson, a clash between a light heavyweight on the way up and one on the way out.
With a lead-in as potent as all that, the flyweights are really going to have to bring it to justify their place in the spotlight. What else is new?
-- Jeff Wagenheim