Boring. That's what John Moraga had been saying about Demetrious Johnson in the lead-up to their UFC flyweight championship bout.
Boring is not the word that comes to mind, though, after watching the 125-pound champion Johnson's performance against his brash challenger Saturday night in Seattle.
Boring does not accurately describe a fighter who, after winning the first four rounds on all of the judges' scorecards and then being safely on top with less than a minute and a half to go in what appears destined to be a runaway decision victory, risks a reversal of position -- the only turn of events that can rescue his desperate opponent -- in order to go for a submission.
Boring is not a champ who, upon securing an armbar to elicit the tapout with just 1:17 remaining, describes said finish by saying, "I'm an artist and the octagon is my canvas. I just start to paint."
Yes, artist. There's a word worthy of describing Demetrious Johnson.
Dominant. As in 12-for-12 in takedowns against a two-time collegiate All-American wrestler, who managed to put Johnson on his back just once, briefly.
Aggressive. As in 13 guard passes and three submission tries.
Tireless. As in a significant striking differential in the championship rounds to the tune of 19-3 in the fourth and 14-1 in the fifth.
Need I go on? Get me my thesaurus so I can look up every last synonym for "champion."
Johnson, who came in unbeaten in his last four fights but had been taken the distance each time, thoroughly schooled the man who had questioned his ability to entertain fans with a finish. After getting a hometown greeting from the 7,816 at KeyArena -- he grew up in nearby Parkland, Wash., and now fights out of Kirkland -- the man known as "Mighty Mouse" must have found extra satisfaction in shutting up Moraga, wouldn't you think? He insisted otherwise.
"It wasn't important to me at all," said Johnson. "Like I've said, if the finish comes to me, I'm going to take it."
Uh-huh. In becoming just the second fighter in UFC history to score 10 or more takedowns in more than one bout, the 26-year-old Johnson (18-2-1) was in control from start to finish. Moraga's best round was the first, when he actually had a numbers edge in significant strikes, but even then Johnson dictated where (on the mat, with Moraga on his back) and at what pace (fast, fast, fast) this fight would be fought. The challenger never was able to get out of the starting gate.
"I'm disappointed in myself," said the 29-year-old Moraga (13-2), who had a seven-fight win streak snapped. "He put me on the bottom and I never got up. I just lost focus on what I needed to do, so he got the submission."
After getting that sub, "Mighty Mouse" set his sights on new challenges ahead. He's already beaten the flyweight division's apparent top challenger, Joseph Benavidez. He's also defeated both of the guys immediately in line behind Benavidez, John Dodson and Ian McCall. So Johnson talked about a superfight against either bantamweight king Dominick Cruz, the last man to beat him (in 2011, before the 125-pound division was born), or interim champ Renan Barão, whichever injured belt-holder is ready first. "I'm just putting it out there," he said.
And after Saturday night's anything-but-boring performance, we're listening.
Notes from the undercard
All talk: Jake Ellenberger showed Rory MacDonald no respect in the run-up to the welterweight contenders' collision in the co-main event. On fight night, though, Ellenberger showed him way too much respect.
Ellenberger stalked and then stalked some more for three rounds but never really attacked. Which is another way of saying that after he had talked the talk, he did little more than walk.
And take left jabs to the face.
And lose by a lopsided unanimous decision.
With the unusually passive Ellenberger landing significant strikes to the barely audible tune of five in the opening round and four in the second, MacDonald cruised to an efficient if unsatisfying victory. Fans booed but did not sway the native of British Columbia, just north of the border from Seattle. "I obviously look to finish fights, but he's a good fighter, so what can you do?" said MacDonald (15-1), who won his fifth straight bout. "I think I had him worried with the elbows because he didn't want to come near me after that."
There is something the 24-year-old MacDonald wants to get near, though: the UFC championship belt. "That's my goal," he said, "before I turn 25."
One problem. The man who wears that 170-pound belt is Georges St-Pierre, his teammate at Montreal's TriStar Gym as well as his his friend. "I won't fight Georges," said MacDonald.
This is a story that bears watching.