Everything you need to know about this weekend's big fight
If there were no such thing as championship rounds, John Dodson would be a champion.
That’s an absurd presumption, of course, because the whole reason MMA acolytes attach “championship” to the fourth and fifth rounds in an title fight is that those added 10 minutes are what separate the champions from the mere contenders.
Back in January 2013 in Chicago, Dodson had the veneer of a champion for the first two rounds of his challenge of Demetrious Johnson for the UFC flyweight belt. He was officially credited with only one knockdown, but three times he sent “Mighty Mouse” to the canvas. He got the champion chasing him, deftly avoided his advances, and effectively counterpunched. He won both rounds on two of the three judges’ scorecards.
But Johnson kept coming. He reined in his aggression, started landing punches and kicks with consistency, pressured with clinches and takedowns, and took over the fight. As time wore on, Dodson became less able to stem the tide and gradually lost steam. And when the decision was announced—“Mighty Mouse” by unanimous decision—Dodson could do nothing but stand there and applaud his conqueror.
This Saturday night, the man known as “The Magician” gets another chance to perform an astounding trick.
When Dodson (17-6), a 30-year-old who trains at the Greg Jackson-Mike Winkeljohn gym in his Albuquerque hometown, goes for the belt in the main event of UFC 191 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, it will be his second bout back after undergoing ACL surgery. Dodson defeated Zach Makovsky by unanimous decision in May but looked rusty. He still got this title shot, though, because he has threatened Johnson more than any other challenger. He’s No. 3 in the SI.com flyweight rankings.
Johnson (22-2-1), who won the belt by earning a decision over Joseph Benavidez in the UFC’s first 125-pound title bout back in 2012 and has remained champion through six title defenses since then, is ranked No. 4 in SI.com’s pound-for-pound tally. The 29-year-old, who trains in Kirkland, Wash., under Matt Hume, has finished four of his last five opponents, with his most recent defense, in April, ending with one second remaining in the fifth round when the champ armbarred Kyoji Horiguchi.
In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of Saturday night’s seven-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on Fox Sports 1, starting at 8 p.m. ET, and the event’s first two bouts will be available on the UFC Fight Pass online service at 7.
Dodson had already arrived in Las Vegas and was fitting in interviews and other promotional responsibilities around his training when his phone rang on Monday evening. Back in Albuquerque, his girlfriend, Chelsea, had just gone into labor with the couple’s first child. The fighter used every bit of his quickness to get to the airport and onto a flight home.
In the middle of the night, Dodson took to Twitter with an update: “She’s here! At 2:45 a.m. Delilah sees me.”
The challenger/dad was headed back to Vegas by midweek to get back to business … and to go shopping for a gift for his family’s new addition. Babies love shiny objects, and nothing shines like a championship belt.
Last five fights
4/25/15 Kyoji Horiguchi W Sub. 5
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
5/23/15 Zach Makovsky W UD 3
6/7/14 John Moraga W TKO 2
10/19/13 Darrell Montague W KO 1
1/26/13 Demetrious Johnson L UD 5
10/5/12 Jussier Formiga W TKO 2
Tale of the Tape
|Tale of the Tape|
|Aug. 13, 1986||Birthdate||Sept. 26, 1984|
|Madisonville, Ky.||Birthplace||Albuquerque, N.M.|
|Parkland, Wash.||Residence||Albuquerque, N.M.|
* Official weights announced at the weigh-in (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 2)
Other Numbers to Count On
1: Number of champions in the UFC flyweight division’s 3 1/2-year history (Demetrious Johnson). Also, number of UFC fighters to appear on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior.
6: Title defenses by Johnson, tying him with Ronda Rousey for the most consecutive among current UFC champions.
39: Takedowns by Johnson, most in UFC history among flyweights. Conversely, in Dodson’s last fight, he had 17 takedown attempts stuffed by Zach Makovsky.
The first time these two tangled:
Speed kills. Or gets killed.
Demetrious Johnson is generally considered the speediest fighter in MMA, but in his first fight with Dodson, the challenger was just quick enough to get out of the way of any “Mighty Mouse” advances. And he made Johnson pay, catching the overextended aggressor with short punches that stopped him in his tracks. For two rounds, “The Magician” was “The Matador.”
But then Johnson said, “That’s bull.” He became more measured in his attacks, and his relentlessness eventually turned Dodson into a china shop. The champ owned the last three rounds, shattering the challenger’s game.
So, in preparing for the rematch, has Johnson drilled patience?
That would be a wise strategy. His skills are superior to Dodson’s; he just has to maintain the poise necessary for them to be the difference in this fight. Johnson took a while to figure that out last time. This time, will he fight that way from the get-go?
Johnson is the favorite, with a money line ranging from -470 (bet $470 to win $100) to -550 (bet $550 to win $100) at various sportsbooks. The line on Dodson ranges from +350 (bet $100 to win $350) to +425 (bet $100 to win $425).
Dodson did give Johnson his toughest challenge, but his successes were relatively few, and they evaporated before their fight was three rounds old. “Mighty Mouse” got better as the fight wore on, his diverse skillset leaving his challenger besieged. Dodson does have a punch that could be a game changer—or could mean game over—but if he doesn’t take out Johnson, he’s not beating him. Johnson by decision.
“You know when you walk through a neighborhood and someone has a chihuahua that keeps on barking? And you turn around and it turns back to the porch, and you finally get the chance to kick the chihuahua back to its porch. Then everybody else in the whole neighborhood goes, ‘Thank you so much.’”
-- Demetrious Johnson on John Dodson, during a meeting with reporters in Los Angeles last month
The Rest of the Card
Andrei Arlovski vs. Frank Mir, heavyweight; Anthony Johnson vs. Jimi Manuwa, light heavyweight; Jan Blachowicz vs. Corey Anderson, light heavyweight; Paige VanZant vs. Alex Chambers, strawweight.
Preliminary card (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1):
Ross Pearson vs. Paul Felder, lightweight; Francisco Rivera vs. John Lineker, bantamweight; Jessica Andrade vs. Raquel Pennington, women’s bantamweight; Clay Collard vs. Tiago Trator, featherweight.
Online prelims (7 p.m., UFC Fight Pass):
Joe Riggs vs. Ron Stallings, middleweight; Joaquim Silva vs. Nazareno Malegarie, lightweight.
Mike Goldberg will handle blow-by-blow and Joe Rogan analysis for the main-card telecast on pay-per-view as well as prelims on Fox Sports 1 and the UFC Fight Pass. There will be an hour-long postfight show on Fox Sports 2, starting at 1 a.m. ET.