When Demetrious Johnson and Ultimate Fighter winner John Dodson collided at UFC on Fox 6 Saturday night in the United Center in Chicago, the flyweight title was hanging in the balance. It was the first time that the newly established championship would be defended by the inaugural kingpin, and the action headlined an exciting evening of fights.
After five rounds of action, Johnson was awarded a unanimous decision victory, despite some scary moments caused by his opponent in the early goings.
The action began quickly with the two flyweights utilizing tremendous movement while trying to establish their range. Shooting in for quick one- or two-punch attacks, the two didn't seem to have much success in doing damage.
Ninety seconds into the opening frame, Dodson countered Johnson's attack with a two-punch combo that sent Johnson to his knees. Now that Johnson felt the power of his challenger, he knew what he was up against.
Shortly afterward, Johnson threw a head kick in hopes of returning the favor; however, Dodson was able to elevate Mighty Mouse after the failed attempt and slam him to the ground.
Much of the action centered around Johnson pushing forward while Dodson back-peddled, each man throwing strikes along the way. While Johnson was more active, it is Dodson whose strikes were more accurate and did the most damage.
Johnson looked to close the distance by throwing longer punches while charging forward. Slower opponents would be in a lot of danger from this attack, but Dodson was able to match the pace and avoid damage while landing counter shots of his own.
Round 1 continued to frustrate Johnson as Dodson brilliantly used his upper body strength to avoid being taken down. When Mighty Mouse shot in and gained control of the hips, Dodson found himself able to post one or both of his hands under and was able to scoot out of his opponent's grasp.
The two men did some jockeying for position while clinched against the cage, while each man scored some short shots to score points before the first horn sounded.
When Round 2 began, the pace continued with Johnson pushing forward, but more respectful of his opponent's punches. Early in the round, DJ used a single collar tie to back Dodson against the cage, before dropping down and securing a double leg.
Dodson found himself seated against the cage with Johnson holding on to his legs. With his back against the cage, Dodson posted one hand on the mat, while pushing off of Johnson's back with his other. This allowed him to use his strength advantage to avoid DJ's top game.
After returning to his feet, Dodson continued circling away from the lunging shots from Johnson.
About two minutes into the second round, Dodson had done a good job of timing Johnson's attacks. The moment that he saw DJ move forward, the challenger unleashed a four-punch combination: a pair of hooks to the body, a right uppercut to the chin and a short left hook.
This was the most significant attack of the fight, as Johnson immediately dropped.
Johnson wasn't out, but a slow reaction time from Dodson was more than enough opportunity for Mighty Mouse to scoot backward and create some distance while recovering.
Shortly after, Dodson slipped a right hand from Johnson and then slipped a left before unleashing a left cross that put Mighty Mouse down for the third time in this fight.
Once again, Johnson was quick to his feet, although Dodson did try to charge in for the kill this time around.
After feeling the power that The Magician has, Johnson shot in for another takedown, although is was unsuccessful.
The two men shadowboxed a bit, as if they could not find their range, and Dodson countered another attack with a left hand that frustrated the champion.
At this point, Johnson began opening his combinations with a push kick or outside leg kick as a way to mix up the attack and hopefully give Dodson more trouble in countering. It proved somewhat effective, although it was a second round scored for Dodson, who sat ahead on the scorecards 20-18.
Round 3 opened with the fighters looking to deliver low kicks. Johnson fired out a quick sweeping kick, but Dodson caught it and threw a counterstrike to make him pay for it.
In hopes of getting the fight down, Johnson circled left and showed a double jab as a way to disguise his single-leg takedown, but Dodson wasn't fooled. The Magician landed an interceptor knee to the upper chest of Mighty Mouse, but the champion held on to the knee in hopes of finishing the takedown.
Dodson escaped the attempt by spinning around and putting his knee down on the canvas, with Johnson kneeling next to him while wrapped onto the leg. Dodson used his hand to push off of Johnson's neck before scooting away and freeing himself.
The escape saw Dodson hop away up against the fence and Johnson pursued a clinch. Unfortunately, a low knee caused a temporary break to the action.
After the action resumed, Johnson began adding volume to his combinations in hopes that the final strikes would have more success than the early ones which were being avoided.
Mighty Mouse found some confidence in his hands after scoring a right hook, left hook combo—which he followed up with a front kick.
Johnson scored an important takedown with about 90 seconds left in the third frame. Unlike previous attempts, Johnson was able to keep top position and avoid Dodson powering his way back to his feet.
After 45 seconds of control, Dodson was able to escape, although Johnson landed a quick series of strikes to make him pay for it. It was a round that I likely would have scored for Dodson, although Johnson turned up the heat in the final 90 seconds to steal this one.
The score was 29-28 after three rounds, and John Dodson was breathing heavily between rounds. It was here that it became obvious that Demetrious Johnson's condition was superior.
Round 4 saw Johnson score an early takedown, but Dodson quickly returned to his feet. Johnson had control of the head and neck and looked to throw knees.
Dodson got a hand down to make himself a "downed opponent," although Johnson apparently didn't see it before he unloaded an illegal knee.
After the apology, they get back into it, and Dodson quickly catches a low kick and fires a counterstrike to throw Johnson off balance.
Two minutes into the fourth round and the total strike count is 104-to-71 in favor of the champion, according to on-screen statistics.
Mighty Mouse continued to have trouble securing his takedowns, but Johnson adopts a Muay Thai clinch and delivers a beautiful knee to the face. Once again, Dodson puts a hand on the canvas to prevent eating knees to the head.
In a brilliant move, Johnson began throwing knees to the shoulder and legs of Dodson whenever his hand was down. As soon as Dodson lifted his hand in hopes of improving position, Johnson redirected his attack and threw several knees to the face and head of Dodson.
Had Dodson spun out or dropped to the ground, he could have avoided taking those vicious knees. Instead, he attempted to throw a back elbow to his opponent's midsection in hopes of getting the maneuver to end by force.
That game continued for most of the final 90 seconds of the round, and Johnson did tremendous damage with those knees.
Heading into the final round, the score sits at 38-38 and Johnson looks like he has a lot more gas in the tank than Dodson.
Wasting little time with striking, Johnson scores a takedown that sees The Magician sitting against the cage, in hopes of posting and returning to his feet. After being controlled a bit, Dodson was successful in getting up.
Dodson used pressure to back Johnson up against the cage and he looked to hold Mighty Mouse there. At this point, Johnson used the pressure to his advantage as he slightly jumped up and allowed Dodson to hold him in an elevated position against the cage.
From that position, Johnson grabbed the Muay Thai plum and delivered short elbows to Dodson's head that caused the challenger to give up his position.
With three minutes left on the clock, Johnson recognizes his success with the clinch and hunted for it when the action moved to close quarters.
Dodson began hunting for takedowns of his own in the final round in hopes of securing a third round on the scorecard. Halfway through the final round, he scored one, but Johnson was quick to return to his feet, and he remained the more aggressive fighter on the feet.
Less than 100 ticks on the clock and Johnson goes back to the clinch for some knees. Dodson tries to get away, and Johnson lands a series of uppercuts against the cage.
With his face bleeding, Dodson is having a lot of trouble getting away from the high volume of power strikes that are coming his way. Johnson would land three more knees to the face before a pair of hooks found their home on John's face.
Thirty seconds are left on the clock, and Dodson looks like he is simply trying to survive. Johnson refuses to release the Muay Thai clinch, and he continues to throw knees until the final horn sounds.
Two judges agree with the 48-47 score that I gave to Demetrious Johnson, while one saw it 49-46 in favor of the champion.
The undying cardiovascular conditioning of Mighty Mouse is ultimately what made the difference in this contest, and the utilization of the Muay Thai clinch did more damage than anything else in this five-round slugfest.