UFC 174 Crash Course: Johnson vs. Bagautinov

Wednesday June 11th, 2014

Reigning flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson will defend his title for the fourth time Saturday.
Rich Lam/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Image/SI

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


Demetrious Johnson used to just be fast. That was what we saw in him because, man, the guy just flew around the cage.

When he got the better of Joseph Benavidez down on the canvas to win the UFC flyweight championship a couple of years ago, and his takedowns and top control helped fortify him through two defenses of the belt, we added "strong wrestling" to his resume.

Then last December, in his most recent title defense, "Mighty Mouse" knocked out Benavidez two minutes into their rematch. We once again had to redefine the man.

Let's just call him champion and leave it at that. Unless Ali Bagautinov takes that away from us this weekend.

On Saturday night, in the main event of UFC 174 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia (10 p.m. ET, PPV), Johnson will make the fourth defense of his 125-pound strap, taking on Bagautinov, the combat sambo world champion from Dagestan who trains MMA at Greg Jackson's gym in Albuquerque.

Tale of the Tape
Aug. 13, 1986
Birth Date
June 10, 1985
Madisonville, Ky.
Kizlyar, Dagestan
Kirkland, Wash.
Moscow, Russia
*Official weights announced at the weigh-in (Friday, 7 p.m. ET, Audience)

The 27-year-old Johnson (19-2-1 overall, 7-1-1 in the UFC) stands at No. 5 in the SI.com pound-for-pound fighter rankings, moving up the ladder on the strength of his first-round KO of the world's second-best flyweight, Benavidez, a performance that put on display a powerful punch many didn't think "Mighty Mouse" possessed.

Bagautinov (13-2, 3-0) is on an 11-fight win streak, and his most recent win was most impressive. His February bout with John Lineker was thought to be a showcase for the Brazilian's ascent in the rankings, but instead "The Punch King" took it to him. Bagautinov, 28, is No. 6 in the SI.com flyweight rankings.

In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of the five-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on FX (not the usual Fox Sports 1), starting at 8 p.m. ET, and the card's other two bouts will stream on the UFC Fight Pass digital subscription service (7 p.m.).


Johnson has twice beaten the No. 2 man at flyweight, Benavidez, and he also owns victories over Nos. 3 (Ian McCall), 4 (Dodson) and 5 (Moraga). Bagautinov is next in line.

The Dagestani won the 2012 World Sambo Championship and also has a background in freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling. But you can't drill speed, and that's the first ingredient in the mixture of challenges that Johnson presents.

With just three UFC bouts under his belt, Bagautinov might be taking on too much too soon. But Johnson is getting better every time we see him, so waiting for your shot at him might not be a prudent plan.

Last five fights

12/14/13 Joseph Benavidez W KO 1
7/27/13 John Moraga W Sub 5
1/26/13 John Dodson W UD 5
9/22/12 Benavidez W SD 5
6/8/12 Ian McCall W UD 5
2/1/14 John Lineker W UD 3
11/16/13 Tim Elliott W UD 3
9/4/13 Marcos Vinicius W TKO 3
4/20/13 Seiji Ozuka W TKO 1
12/16/12 Andreas Bernhard W TKO 1

Other numbers to count on

443: Significant strikes landed by Demetrious Johnson, by far the most among UFC flyweights, according to FightMetric statistics. The 54.7 percent striking accuracy of "Mighty Mouse" also is the best among 125-pounders.

67.5: Johnson's success rate at avoiding opponents' significant strikes, also the best among flyweights.

24: Takedowns landed by Johnson, by far the most among 125-pounders. His 80.6 success rate at avoiding opponents' takedown attempts is second to only John Dodson among flyweights.

Greatest hits

"Mighty Mouse" with a mighty fine KO

Bagautinov's octagon debut packs punch


Bagautinov will be well-prepared for this challenge of "Mighty Mouse." He trains at Greg Jackson's gym in Albuquerque with fellow flyweight bigwig John Dodson, who is perhaps the second-fastest guy in the division and packs even a bigger punch. Dodson gave Johnson his toughest fight for the belt.

But will all that high-level gym work make this fight slow down enough for Bagautinov to catch up to Johnson? The Dagestani has the kind of punching power that could end the fight in a flash, and his wrestling chops are formidable. But fighting "Mighty Mouse" is hit-and-miss. That is, you try to hit him but you often miss.

Johnson is crisper in every area. If Bagautinov's relentlessness doesn't wear him down, he will be tough to beat. In fact, with Ali not having gone five rounds before, he could be the one who sags in the long run.

The odds

Johnson is the betting favorite, with a money line of -550 (bet $100 to win $18.18). The line on Bagautinov is +420 (bet $100 to win $420).


You can't catch what you can't see. And even though Bagautinov trains with the fleet-footed, heavy-handed Dodson, this one is for real. It's under the bright lights, the main event. We know Johnson can perform there. We've seen it. Prepare to see it again. Johnson by TKO.

Must-see photo

Demetrious Johnson made quick work of Joseph Benavidez in defending the title in December 2013.
Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Fighting Words

"I love being the champion. I love being No. 1 in my sport. But the belt is just a relic. That's all it is. All it takes is one person to come beat me, and the next thing you know, I'm just another fighter. Just because I'm the champion doesn't mean I'm a different person. I know all this can be gone tomorrow."

-- Demetrious Johnson, speaking in a UFC promotional interview

"For me, the title of UFC champion is my whole life. I must win this title."

-- Ali Bagautinov, speaking in the same UFC preview

The Tweet Beat

Join the conversation about Johnson vs. Bagautinov on Twitter. Track the hashtags #JohnsonBagautinov and #UFC174 to see who's tweeting what about Saturday's fight.

@MightyMouseUFC (Demetrious Johnson, champion)

@AliPuncherKing (Ali Bagautinov, challenger)

@JacksonsMMA (Jackson's MMA, Bagautinov's training team)

@ufc (Ultimate Fighting Championship)

@danawhite (UFC president Dana White)

@jeffwagenheim (SI.com's Jeff Wagenheim)

@lorettahuntmma (SI.com's Loretta Hunt)

@chuckmindenhall (Chuck Mindenhall, MMAfighting.com writer)

@arielhelwani (Ariel Helwani, Fox Sports 1/MMAfighting.com interviewer)

@LukeThomasMMA (Luke Thomas, MMAfighting.com writer)

@MikeChiappetta (Mike Chiappetta, FoxSports.com MMA writer)

@benfowlkesMMA (Ben Fowlkes, USA Today/MMAjunkie.com writer)

@kevini (Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports MMA/boxing writer)

@bokamotoESPN (Brett Okamoto, ESPN.com MMA writer)

@davedoylemma (Dave Doyle, MMAfighting.com writer)

@MMAjunkieJohn (John Morgan, USAToday/MMAjunkie.com writer)

The rest of the card

Rory MacDonald vs. Tyron Woodley, welterweight
Ryan Bader vs. Rafael Cavalcante, light heavyweight
Andrei Arlovski vs. Brendan Schaub, heavyweight
Ryan Jimmo vs. Ovince St. Preux, light heavyweight

Preliminary card (8 p.m. ET, FX): Daniel Sarafian vs. Kiichi Kunimoto, welterweight; Valerie Letourneau vs. Elizabeth Phillips, women's bantamweight; Yves Jabouin vs. Mike Easton, bantamweight; Kajan Johnson vs. Tae Hyun Bang, lightweight.

Online prelims (7 p.m. ET, UFC Fight Pass): Roland Delorme vs. Michinori Tanaka, bantamweight; Jason Saggo vs. Josh Shockley, lightweight.

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 prelims on FX (not the usual Fox Sports 1) and the UFC Fight Pass. An hour-long postfight show begins at 1 a.m. ET on Fox Sports 2.

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