How Ronda Rousey became the face of UFC
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How Ronda Rousey became the face of UFC
Wednesday April 22nd, 2015

Everything you need to know about this weekend's big fight.


“You’re walking down a dark alley,” the inquiry always begins.

You’re talking with friends about toughness or fear or another of those topics that make you lie about yourself, and as a means of keeping the conversation at arm’s length, you invoke the dark alley image. The iconic and emotive image of a frightening figure emerging from the shadows has served as a self-measuring stick since way back when you were standing off to the side and watching grade school buddies scuffle behind the town library.

The scary character you imagine yourself running in to, or running from, in that mythical alleyway never stands 5'3". He never weighs a scant 125 pounds. He never wears a broad smile. So, because Demetrious Johnson embodies every one of those attributes, it’s safe to say he is not a dude whose presence makes your shudder.

Maybe that should be your reaction to him, though. As the UFC flyweight champion, “Mighty Mouse” is one of the greatest fighters on the planet. He can kick your ass.

Not that he would.

“I’m a good person,” Johnson said recently. “I don’t hurt anybody.”

That this gentle man of small stature said this during one of those preview shows the UFC uses to hype its fight cards might give you a hint why Saturday’s UFC 186 in Montreal (10 p.m. ET, PPV) has some hardcore fans grumbling that they might not be paying customers this time. You might or might not buy the Leo Durocher contention that nice guys finish last, but we have evidence to show that in the fight game, nice is not necessarily a selling point.

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Johnson (21-2-1), who stands at No. 6 in the pound-for-pound rankings, will be defending his 125-pound belt for the sixth time when he steps into the octagon for this weekend’s marquee fight. All of his previous defenses have been main events, too, the first three on FOX and the last two on pay-per-view. Those were tough sells. Johnson’s PPV debut, in the UFC 174 main event against Ali Bagautinov last June, sold to just 115,000 homes, according to the Wrestling Observer newsletter. That was the lowest sales total for the UFC in 110 pay events spanning nine years.

The second “Mighty Mouse” PPV, a UFC 178 headliner against Chris Cariaso in September, did considerably better, selling to 205,000 homes, which was well more than the pay show that preceded it and the two that followed. It didn’t hurt that the co-main event was a clash between the spirited Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Eddie Alvarez, and that the main card also featured the inaugural top 10 challenge for Irish dynamo Conor McGregor.

This weekend, Johnson has no such supporting cast. There’s the on again/off again/on again return of Quinton Jackson, the love-him-or-hate-him presence of Michael Bisping and … not much more. Oh, and Johnson’s challenger? That would be Kyoji Horiguchi, a 24-year-old who is 15-1 but still a relative unknown to all but the most diehard among the mixed martial arts fan base. He is a former Shooto champion but has just four UFC fights under his belt. Prior to 18 months ago, he’d never fought in the United States. Horiguchi is not in’s flyweight Top 10 (though he’s No. 7 in the UFC’s media-voted ranking). He is a 10-1 underdog.

So the champion is fighting an overmatched foe, and he’s selling us on the fight with his usual sunny smile. Maybe Johnson should go on Wheel of Fortune and buy a scowl. Or not. Maybe it’s fine that he’s this way. He’s finished three of his last four challengers, and has beaten back the entreaties of all the best 125-ers in the business. He believes that’s his selling point.

“You’re not going to find me out here running my mouth and saying, ‘I’m the greatest fighter in the world,’ ‘I’m fast,’ ‘I’m faster than this dude,’” Johnson said in a UFC-produced fight preview video. “I ain’t got time for all that. I’ll show you in the octagon that I’m faster than you. I’ll show you that you’re too slow for me. That’s just how I see it, and that’s how I approach it.”

In addition to the 10 p.m. ET pay-per-view telecast of the five-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on FOX Sports 1, starting at 8 p.m., and the event’s first three bouts will be available on the UFC Fight Pass online service at 6:30.


The main event was a middleweight title fight between Anderson Silva and Vitor Belfort, the co-main a clash of former champions Forrest Griffin and Rich Franklin. But that wasn’t all of the glitter on this UFC 126 card in Las Vegas back in early 2011. A future champ named Jon Jones would earn his title shot that night. And lower on the bill was another future belt holder making his debut with the promotion.

Demetrious Johnson was part of the WEC roster brought over when the UFC’s parent company bought out the small-man promotion. “Mighty Mouse” was 12-1 and a hot, if undersized, bantamweight prospect, and he faced a stiff test in the aggressive Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto. In the Japanese fighter’s corner that night was a 20-year-old Kyoji Horiguchi.

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Horiguchi watched his idol lose by unanimous decision that night. If he had kept his eye on Johnson from that point on, he would have seen “Mighty Mouse” capture the UFC’s newly created flyweight title a year and a half later. But Horiguchi had a career of his own to focus on in Japan. By March 2013, he was wearing the Shooto bantamweight belt.

Horiguchi defended his title once before being courted by the UFC. And after making his U.S. debut later in 2013, he dropped from bantam to fly and set his sights once again upon Johnson. Three wins later he was 15-1 and set to challenge for the UFC title.

Too much, too fast? Maybe so, but Johnson has cleaned out the top of the contenders list: He’s beaten’s No. 2, Joseph Benavidez, twice; No. 3 John Dodson; No. 4 Ian McCall; No. 6 Ali Bagautinov; and No. 8 John Moraga. No. 5 Jussier da Silva might have a claim at a title shot, if not for K.O. losses to Dodson and Benavidez. No. 7 John Lineker would be a challenge but can’t be relied upon to make weight. No. 9 Zach Makovsky is coming off a loss. No. 10 Henry Cejudo is 8-0, which is to say he’s excellent but not so seasoned. Give him time.

The same might be said for the 24-year-old Horiguchi. But his time is now. Ready or not.

Last five fights

9/27/14 Chris Cariaso W Sub 2
6/14/14 Ali Bagautinov W UD 5
12/14/13 Joseph Benavidez W KO 1
7/27/13 John Moraga W Sub 5
1/26/13 John Dodson W UD 5

1//3/15 Louis Gaudinot W UD 3
9/20/14 Jon de los Reyes W TKO 1
5/10/14 Darrell Montague W UD 3
10/19/13 Dustin Pague W TKO 2
6/22/13 Shintaro Ishiwatari W TKO 5

Tale of the tape


Aug. 13, 1986

BIRTH DATE Oct. 12, 1990

Madisonville, Ky.


Takasaki, Japan

Parkland, Wash.


Takasaki, Japan













* Official weights announced at the weigh-in (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 2)

Other numbers to count on

41: Takedowns landed by Johnson, eighth-most in UFC history, according to FightMetric.

27-6: Striking differential in Johnson’s last fight, in which the champ outlanded Chris Cariaso by a more than 4-to-1 margin before finishing him in the second round. Johnson has more than doubled the strikes of every challenger except Joseph Benavidez, whom “Mighty Mouse” KO’d in two minutes. 

9: Consecutive victories for Horiguchi, four of them coming in the UFC. Johnson has won seven in a row, the last five being defenses of his flyweight belt.

Greatest hits

Demetrious Johnson’s most recent title defense:

Kyoji Horiguchi’s most dominant UFC KO:


Johnson is too fast and fluid to figure out, but Horiguchi has a grasp on distance and possesses power in his hands. If he can stay on his feet long enough to utilize those weapons, he might not look like a 10-1 ’dog by night’s end.

To that end, Horiguchi has been training at American Kickboxing Academy, with Daniel Cormier as his wrestling coach. So he’s surely learned some tricks for staying on his feet. But what will come in even more handy are any tricks Cormier taught him for getting back to his feet after being taken down. There’s no one at AKA with the quickness to mimic a “Mighty Mouse” blast. So the Japanese fighter is going to be taken down, no doubt about it.

For Johnson, the usual game plan of mixing and matching his arsenal should be effective against a fighter who’s never been in with anyone on his level. That’s the big difference here: Horiguchi has high-level attributes, but Johnson has seen them before. Kyoji is quick, but the champ has fought a guy just as quick, if not quicker, in John Dodson. The Japanese fighter packs a punch, but Johnson has fought a guy just as powerful, if not more so, in Joseph Benavidez.

The champ has the tools, both physical and mental, to make this the mismatch it’s expected to be.

The odds

Johnson is an enormous betting favorite, with a money line ranging from -900 (bet $900 to win $100) to -1,000 (bet $1,000 to win $100) at various sportsbooks. The line on Horiguchi ranges from +550 (bet $100 to win $550) to +704 (bet $100 to win $704).


Horiguchi is not a bad fighter. He’s just not yet seasoned enough to contend with the likes of Johnson. The challenger is quick and unpredictable and thunder-fisted enough to pull off the upset, but it’d be a shocker. “Mighty Mouse” has too much going for him to slip up here. Johnson by KO.

Fighting Words

“Styles make fights. Horiguchi has a different style than D.J. has faced. It’s an interesting challenge because he’s very fast; he jumps across the distance. He’s got a good wrestling base. So we’re going to take that as a huge challenge. And we’re going to figure out a way for D.J. to meet the fans’ expectations in this fight.”

— Matt Hume, head trainer for Johnson, during a UFC preview video

“I’m going to block his takedowns and go on the offensive. And of course, I’m planning to win by knockout.”

— Horiguchi during the same UFC preview

The Rest Of The Card

Quinton Jackson vs. Fabio Maldonado, catchweight (215 pounds); Michael Bisping vs. C.B. Dollaway, middleweight; John Makdessi vs. Shane Campbell, catchweight (160 pounds); Yves Jabouin vs. Thomas Almeida, men’s bantamweight.

Preliminary card (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): Patrick Côté vs. Joe Riggs, welterweight; Alexis Davis vs. Sarah Kaufman, women’s bantamweight; Chad Laprise vs. Bryan Barberena, lightweight; Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. David Michaud, lightweight.

Online prelims (6:30 p.m., UFC Fight Pass): Nordine Taleb vs. Chris Clements, welterweight; Jessica Rakoczy vs. Valérie Létourneau, strawweight; Aisling Daly vs. Randa Markos, strawweight.

Programming Notes

Mike Goldberg will handle blow-by-blow and Joe Rogan analysis for the main card telecast on pay-per-view, as well as the prelims on FOX Sports 1 and the UFC Fight Pass. An hour-long postfight show begins at 1:30 a.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

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