Johnson vs. Moraga: Mighty Mouse Needs Dominant Win to Become Pay-Per-View Draw
Quick, name the only UFC champion that hasn't headlined a pay-per-view.
If you said Demetrious Johnson, congratulations. The headline may have been a strong hint, but you got it.
It's true. The promotion's lightest champion has yet to be the main attraction for a pay-per-view—partially due to the fact that fighters from the smaller weight divisions rarely draw the buy rates that the UFC desperately seeks.
According to MMA Payout Blue Book, only one card headlined by fighters weighing 135 pounds or less has topped 300,000 buys—UFC 132 headlined by Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz.
Can Demetrious Johnson become a pay-per-view headliner?
But Johnson is partially to blame for his lack of drawing power.
For those who love the technical aspects of the game, Johnson is a joy to watch. His footwork, quickness and wrestling ability truly make him the best in his division. He's taken on explosive technical opponents in Joseph Benavidez, Ian McCall and John Dodson and topped them all.
However, those aren't the qualities of a fighter that make a draw.
No, the average fan not only wants to see a champion win but a champion win impressively—preferably by finishing his opponent.
Since dropping down to his current division, Johnson has gone 3-0-1 on his way to winning the inaugural tournament, including a majority draw against McCall and a split decision against Benavidez.
While the FightMetric stats for those bouts wouldn't indicate that "Mighty Mouse" was not on the receiving end of any egregious decisions, it still doesn't do anything to combat the perception that he's a "boring" champion.
So what can Johnson do to sell himself as a more marketable champion?
Finishing John Moraga at UFC on Fox 8 would be a great start.
Unfortunately, Johnson will be in the precarious position of fighting an opponent whose skill set is much farther along than his notoriety. Moraga has just one loss on his record (to John Dodson 2010) and has finished Ulysses Gomez and Chris Cariaso since joining the UFC.
His first fight against Gomez opened up the FX preliminaries for UFC on Fox 4, and his second fight was buried on the Facebook prelims of UFC 155. In essence, there's a strong possibility that many fans will be seeing Moraga fight for the first time Saturday.
Johnson cannot afford to have a close fight with someone with as little exposure as Moraga if he wants to become a bigger draw.
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